I need to be honest and unload about my experience so far, and I don't know who else to turn to!
I love my program so far, I really do. I'm learning so much about how to be a good teacher, and I'm definitely having a lot of fun with my new friends. But this is the first time I've ever felt that my faith, beliefs, and morals have really been challenged. And I'm IN A CATHOLIC PROGRAM. I didn't expect everyone to be Catholic, nor did I expect all the Catholics to be super devout. But I NEVER thought this would be an environment where I don't feel supported to live or grow in my faith. It's like there is so much emphasis on the fact that people AREN'T Catholic or AREN'T devout that it's like...wrong for some of us to be devout Catholics. Like, being inclusive means that I need to change the way I practice my faith because it might make someone else feel excluded or uncomfortable.
I understand this to a certain extent. For example, I had a Life Teen Mass at my home parish in Hershey, and a lot of times we would clap during an upbeat song. I definitely like to worship that way. But when I went to my friend's uber-traditional, conservative parish up in Connecticut, I didn't try clapping. It wasn't part of the culture or tradition at their parish. Furthermore, it probably would have taken away from others' ability to worship because it would be so weird and distracting and uncomfortable for them.
I guess I bring this up because, well, I have several problems and causes for sadness with the state of the Church in LA. But the biggest one I have is that many parishes don't kneel during the Liturgy of the Eucharist or during the "I am not worthy to receive you..." It's REALLY been bothering me, so I've started kneeling even if I'm the only one. I searched my conscious on this one, and I just feel like it's not something that can be compromised on. But it's SO TOUGH, especially during our community Masses...I feel like I'm being judged. I feel ashamed to be kneeling. I only look up when the priest holds up the Body and/or Blood of Christ...because I love the Lord SO MUCH and I know you can read it on my face and I don't feel comfortable revealing that in front of people. It's like...I feel like people are already watching and judging me because I'm kneeling...I don't even want to know what will happen if they see my face.
So, it's tough. And I'm struggling. And I'm sure sometimes I do not fight as hard as I should, and I let fear rule my faith. But while I don't want to make assumptions, I think this may be part of the reason I am here. If God has given me a mission to try and bring back tradition and proper practices to the Church in LA, then I want to do that. But I don't want any feelings of entitlement or pride or vanity. I want to change people's hearts and practices in a Franciscan way: "Preach the Gospel at all times; if necessary, use words."
I also realize I need to take it one step at a time. I'm starting with the kneeling issue. I'll continue to kneel at the times I've been taught, at the times that the official General Instruction on the Roman Missal state that I should. But I'll continue to research this - I've heard that Cardinal Mahony out here has said that it's ok to stand. This doesn't make sense to me, so I want to find out the truth. And if I find that the Church law is truly to "kneel beginning after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus until after the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer, except when prevented on occasion by reasons of health, lack of space, the large number of people present, or some other good reason" (cite - USCCB!) then I am going to have to be brave enough to use words. I'll have to speak with my program director, my local parish pastor, etc. It's just what I feel I have to do.
Anyway, I really appreciate any prayers, thoughts, advice, encouragement, etc. And please pray for the Archdiocese of LA as a whole! I love you all and miss you bunches!