Editor’s note: Our parent organization, American Public Media (APM), is a large and diverse organization. Maria is the manager of software development for the company. She’s a fan of SOF who travels extensively and is planning an introspective journey to myriad spiritual sites around the world. We invited her to contribute to SOF Observed on occasion and reflect as she listens to Krista’s interviews and works with us on upcoming projects.

As SOF staff pore over hundreds of responses to the audience query about Catholic identity and we IT folks try to envision a way to capture that diversity in an online space, I thought about my own relationship with the Catholic Church. How would I answer that query? Has the archdiocese’s cracking down on my small community (The Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul recently issued letters to area parishes forbidding practices such as communal penance as a sacrament and allowing lay people to preach during Mass. My parish, St. Frances Cabrini Church, was among them.) tainted my relationship with the Church? Why do I still show up?

A few weeks ago I returned from gallivanting around that splendid place of my ancestry — Italy. My Italian companions and I toured through Tuscany and quickly came to understand the three essential components of a Tuscan village: hill, wall, church. Just as my pores exude of garlic after some crostini con pancetta, so too does Italy’s rich art, architecture, and traditions of the Catholic Church.

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(photo: Maria Montello)

Despite my friends’ vitriolic commentaries about the Church as an institution, it was in the churches that we spent hours — our necks craned back to witness salvation history played out in frescoes dating from the fifteenth century.

In The Spirituality of Parenting, last week’s SOF guest, Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, spoke of religion as a container for spiritual experience. What better place, for me, than a church — the physical manifestation of this container — to hearken back to that original experience in one of the best ways we know how: through art.

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(photo: Maria Montello)

As we stood together marveling at the vaulted ceilings, Corinthian pillars and walls of light, I’d like to think we shared a similar sentiment: “I’m glad to have shown up.”


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4Reflections

Reflections

Beautiful post, Maria. I must admit I've often struggled with my own containers. My spiritual Jell-O can't make up its mind...

In ministry, many people say (quoting, I believe, Woody Allen) that just showing up is 90% of the work. Ten percent is what we bring in person, talent and spiritual gifts. One hundred percent is covered by God's grace. Regarding the container (the church buildings so wonderfully expressed in Tuscany), the structure is limited by its physical boundaries but it is also enhanced by beautiful images held in frescos and stained glass, statues and directional architecture. This container made sacred (by worship and prayer) is a place that transends infinate space and time. The container may capture human logic but its existence reminds and/or reveals to the visitor of what was, what is and what will be. The message transcends the institution. What a blessing for you who "showed up."

MARIA, THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR SPIRITUAL JOURNEY. IT IS MY EXPERIENCE THAT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IS NOT CATHOLIC IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. IT IS MY HOPE THAT THE VISIT OF BENEDICT XVI WILL CHANGE SOME OF THAT. BEING CATHOLIC IS BELIEVING THAT CHRIST'S MESSAGE IS FOR ALL MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDEREN OF ALL TIMES, OF ALL CULTURES AND PLACES. ABOUT YOUR CRACK-DOWN IN YOUR PARISH - IMAGINE IF THERE HAD BEEN A CRACK DOWN IN ITALY - THE ITALIANS WOULD NOT HAVE TOLERATED IT. MOTHER FRANCES IS AN EXAMPLE. SHE WANTED TO BE A NUN , BUT THE BUREAUCRACY TOLD HER NO. SO, SHE WENT AND FOUNDED HER OWN COMMUNITY. SHE WANTED TO GO TO CHINA, AND BISCHOP SCALLABRINI TOLD HER TO GO TO ALBANY. SHE SETTLED ON THE DOCKS OF NEW YORK INSTEAD. YES, I AM VERY DISAPPOINTED IN SOME CRAZY PEOPLE THAT CALLED THEMSELVES ROMAN CATHOLICS...THE ONLY ROMAN CATHOLICS ARE THOSE THAT BELONG TO THE DIOCESE OF ROME. ONE CANNOT FOOL AROUND WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT - IF ONE DOES NOT DO HIS WILL, HE WILL CLOSE OFF YOUR PATH AND FORCE YOU TO GET INTO HIS WAYS. IT ALWAYS HAS BEEN THAT WAY... THANK YOU, MARIA!

 Carrie Underwood Sings How Great Thou Art. Posted on May 16,
2011 by Christine Sine. Back from Connecticut and feeling a little
overwhelmed by all I need to accomplish before heading to Australia in 2
weeks. Stopped to listen to this .