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Legalism VS. Moralism VS. Nun Life

April 9, 2014

Sitting across from three fellow Ursuline alumi and Massachusetts natives, listening to them joke about how they were sharing a ‘jacuzzi suite in hell’, reminded me of the religious culture that I spent a majority of my young adult life in.  They decided they would all hang out during happy hour at the bar their suites were closest to, probably the bar that one of the women’s 7 yr old daughters had written about in a recent school report.

Driving home from an event for my high school (Ursuline Academy in Dedham, Massachusetts), held in Alexandria, I realized both how thankful I am for the high school that I attended, because in many ways it contributed to my personality and character, but also how frustrated I am at how it was damaging to my faith at a young age.  Attending Catholic school for six years led me to believe that Jesus was only someone who wanted me to do things for others, and that faith could only be achieved properly through the sacraments.  While a few of my classmates were able to connect with their faith through these two major aspects of the Catholic faith, as a protestant attending a Catholic school, I saw a major discrepancy.  During the week I was taught that works and sacraments were the path to Jesus, and on Sundays at the Methodist church I grew up in, I was taught morality was the way to go.  These conflicting schools of thought confused me and left me feeling like there were just different gods.  The Catholic God.  The Methodist God. … The God who gave me a distant and unstable mother.

Starting college I put Jesus on the back burner and didn’t go back to church until my second semester.  I church hopped for a bit and went because I felt obligated, and at times to win my grandmother’s approval.  It wasn’t until I met my friend Kathleen that I realized Jesus wasn’t someone who wanted me to do something and He wasn’t someone who moralized everything, but rather a God just wanted to be with me.  The way Kathleen wanted to be with me as my friend.

Seeing how Kathleen walked with Jesus showed me that I could have something more with a relationship with God, than I could have with anyone or anything else. Since then I think I’ve been searching for a community to do that in.  For a while it was Young Life, and leading at Courtland and Stafford taught me a lot about the Person of Christ.  And now it’s Common Ground.  As I’ve been learning that Jesus is about relationships and not legalism, I have come to look down a lot of aspects of both the rigidity of the Catholic faith and the sweeping evangelism of Southern Baptists.  I think there are good and helpful tools that both can offer, but at the end of the day, I think Jesus is about discipleship and relationships, not rules or works and ‘getting people to heaven’.

Catholics would have you believe that you must do works to complete your faith.  Evangelicals would argue you must simply ‘put your faith in Jesus’ or ‘take Jesus as your savior’.  While both of these are true, I believe that Jesus died for us so that we could have a relationship with God, not so that we could have more rules to follow, or boxes to check.

In a big way, I like the idea of the “Nun Life” because it’s allowing me to say that I live my life for Jesus, without saying, “I’m Catholic,” or “I’m Baptist” … plus, it’s way easier to start a conversation with someone by saying, “Hey, did you know I’m a nun …”

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