By Christina Hannon
I didn’t go to church today. My excuse was that I was too busy, but really I just didn’t want to go. I didn’t make it a priority today. Since I live on my own and typically go to mass on my own, no one asked if I went to church and I didn’t offer. I was also feeling ashamed because I didn’t go to mass last week either.
So the question is, will I go next week?
Yes, because I will choose grace over disgrace, I will choose love over shame. Almost every time I go to confession (which admittedly is not that often), I leave with an overwhelming feeling of love and compassion and I cry a couple tears of joy and gratitude for that mercy. But one time in confession three years ago, I confessed that I had missed Sunday mass a couple times over the previous six months. The priest went into a thorough explanation of why weekly mass is so important, and that our excuses don’t matter. I agreed that my excuses weren’t valid, but I couldn’t help but feel incredibly judged and shamed. I cried for a half hour after leaving the confessional, and this time, tears of misery.
I let my shame consume me.
The result was that I started missing mass more. I know this is ironic and it doesn’t make logical sense but the shame became a huge internal mountain keeping me from God’s love.
I had been a cradle Catholic. Faith, service, and justice had always been central in my life but the shame became so great that I considered leaving the faith completely. I think shame keeps a lot of people away from God, the very God who offers abundant mercy and acceptance. I still miss mass some weeks, and I still feel ashamed. But I refuse to let that shame build on itself and keep me away from the amazing community and mercy that I know exists in church.
I am not advocating a lazy faith, or not feeling sorry for your sins but shame should not be part of the equation. A contrite heart turns towards a merciful Savior. An ashamed heart hides and turns away mercy.
Don’t let your issues or anything you are ashamed of keep you from knowing how insanely precious you are. Our church, religion, rules, and commandments are all there to lead us closer to Christ and closer to perfect love.
They are not there to induce shame.
Want people to come back to God? Begin and end every conversation with love, not shame. Including the conversations with yourself.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christina works for Coalition with Young Adults, which supports Catholic ministries for 20- and 30-somethings in Northeast Ohio. She is also an obnoxious Notre Dame fan and proud Cleveland native. Like many other unique millennials, her goals include inner peace and world travel.