Saturday, August 2, 2008

Secular Friends

It's time to revise that hip tag line to my blog. "How do I fold my post-modern thinking into the new truths of faith."

As I ramble along in my Catholic journey, my view of my past has started to shift. I used to think, "Wow, that Catholic church is so lucky to have me." A former Protestant. A big-shot feminist. Someone who had choices in her life and yet "picked" that Catholic faith.

Now my past life isn't simply 'the past'. My past is filled with mistakes, and sin, and a misery that was so vast the slime coated your skin.

I sat in the wading pool with a cradle Catholic, each of us watching the unsteady legs of our third child. "Was it hard for you to give up your job and transfer to stay-at-home motherhood. I imagine it was hard. I imagine you must miss it some days?"

I look at her sincere face. How could I explain that her question doesn't even make sense to me anymore. The life that I had as a lawyer, and not even a big shot corporate lawyer, but as a humble one who serviced the poor of Appalachia as a legal aid attorney, that life hurt every day. Each day that I put on my Ann Taylor stripped suit and dragged legal precedence out to indifferent Judge, I begged to be a tool for God. I begged to make a difference. I begged to be important. I begged to change a life.

The experience that I had (since poverty is actually a theological virtue) was of doors being slammed in my face, of client's disappointing me, of judges saying no. I felt stripped down and exhausted each day. When I prayed, God seemed inscrutable and aloof.

Now, I'm hanging out in the kiddie pool, passing out pool toys, watching for misplaced goggles, checking on swim diapers-- every movement of mine is as important as asking the right question in a high stakes deposition. God is nearby, handing out graces, pointing out directions, washing my feet.

No matter how hard my days are as a stay-at-home mother, there is no "missing" my old life.

I'm finding the gap growing wider and wider as I start to shed more parts of my old self. I don't like the same movies. I don't read the same books. I don't look at the same art pictures.

And I don't hang out with the same friends. For the past two years I've been in the unintentional cocoon. Having three babies and three major moves in four years is bound to affect my social life.

Now that my youngest is starting to sleep at night, I'm peeking outside more. The landscape has altered.

I've been out of touch with most college friends for 3 years. I'm not sure how many "secular" friendships are going to get restarted.

This future priest had an interesting thought on this subject.

Maybe the point of radical change isn't so much that I'm bringing new insight into the Catholic church (what hubris I held during RICA). Maybe the pointed is to become fully transformed into the orthodoxy of my new faith. Maybe my radical change will point an arrow to many hip, secular friends who normally wouldn't get to experience a Catholic up close.


  1. What a beautiful post.

    (Like you, I am a lawyer who no longer practices, and I do not miss it! Give me Catholic motherhood any day.)

  2. "I'm finding the gap growing wider and wider as I start to shed more parts of my old self. I don't like the same movies. I don't read the same books. I don't look at the same art pictures."

    I know exactly how you feel. I often feel so out of step with the greater culture I’m not sure I recognize the landscape I once lived in.

  3. Great post, Abigail (as usual). I too was struck by the same line Anne Marie mentioned. My reading has changed entirely and my movie watching has dwindled off to hardly anything. This has proved rather challenging in my life though, as I still live rather close the secular world. I'm just about the only Christian on either side of the family, and the only Catholic anywhere in the family. My husband is not Christian either. I used to trade books with my mom all the time, but now I can't bear to read what she reads, and she doesn't find my reading interesting. I don't watch movies with my husband anymore, because there's generally too much in them that makes my heart hurt. I'm thankful that we don't have a TV though, because if we did I'm sure it would be a bigger problem between us.

    My conversion has been a source of curiosity occasionally, but generally it is treated as a strange personally quirk that is best not discussed in polite conversation. I sometimes find it a strange way to live - a small bubble of Catholicism embedded in a vast sea of the secular world around me. I often wonder what my children will make of it as they grow older... and how to make sure they develop and maintain a strong Catholic identity.

  4. I love your post. I, too, am now a stay-at-home mom after having been totally into my career (collegiate teaching). When I first left my job at a state school to marry and live in the same town as my husband I felt like me right arm had been cut off - I so missed teaching. But since becoming a mom I am so grateful that I don't have to go back to teaching full time. I find being a mom so much more rewarding than I ever thought possible!

  5. I love your thoughts about what the Catholic church can give to you - not what you bring to Her. I, too, am a convert - 4/10/04 - and thought I was a pretty righteous Protestant. I find myself - even today - saying that I am a 'baby Catholic' as I have so much to learn.

    Thanks for a great post!