my mother, 83 years ago

my mother, 83 years ago

I picked up the book, Dying to Be Me, yesterday and read the words, “...our feelings about ourselves are actually the most important barometer for determining the condition of our lives!”* If this is true, and I have come to believe that it is, then what can I do (or think) to feel better about who and what I am? How can I really love myself? were my next thoughts.

As I sat with these questions, I realized that the most loving thing that I could say to someone (including an animal) would be, “You will always be loved, cared for, and have all of your needs met. It is my heart’s desire to see you live the most wonderful life.”

So what words could I then say to myself?…. The words that came to mind were ones that I have said many times to myself, but suddenly, they seemed like Truth. They were, “You have always been taken care of, in the most wonderful way, and you always will be”.

Faith. This thought is about faith.

Growing up I had faith, but it was faith in a God that was outside of me; a God that was judging and testing me to see if I was good enough. This God was not friendly and would only “help me” if I proved worthy of that help, and that meant hard work, struggle, going without, not asking for much, and above all, not thinking too highly of myself.

I heard just a snippet of an interview on NPR yesterday. The woman interviewed was talking about being a 4th generation atheist. This sounded interesting, but within minutes she telling a story about how a priest had once asked for money to give last rites to her great-grandfather, and that her grandmother had witnessed this (they didn’t have the money so the priest didn’t come) and how several years later her grandmother (who was a young woman) was dying, and the priest came, put a crucifix on her chest, and her grandmother threw it across the room. The woman being interviewed then basically said, “This is why I am an atheist …to remain loyal to this brave act of my grandmother.”

I thought, “What does her grandmother’s refusal to have anything to do with ‘the church” have to do with a belief in God/Spirit/Universal Good? So, she didn’t want to be a Catholic. So? Do you think that the larger dimension of who you are cares at all what you call yourself? Whether you attend church or not?” It sounded like the proverbial throwing the baby out with the bath water.

It also reminded me of when I was in my 20’s and made the decision not to raise my sons in the Catholic church. I was so ignorant of any larger spiritual truth that it seemed to me I had 2 options, 1. Remain a Catholic and raise my sons in a church which only seemed to fill me with guilt, remorse, and self-loathing, for not being good enough, or 2. Leave the church and become an atheist. I chose the latter. Leaving the church didn’t make me an atheist. It helped me to leave behind a limited concept of both myself and of God. It gave me a mental break so I could truly begin to think for myself. I left behind someone else’s conception of God so the truth could, eventually, emerge.

So back to faith.

My upbringing was not one where I found comfort in religion or God. I was scared of God, afraid that I would never be good enough, tortured by thoughts of hell that would surely be the end result of my poorly lived life.  I had faith that I would eventually be punished for every single bad thing that I had done or thought. The focus was on human sin, folly, mistakes and penance. It was a backward approach to becoming awake spiritually; looking for what was wrong and weeding it out so that the good would be all that was left. But this approach to life never works. If we continually look for what is wrong/bad, wrong is what we tend to see, and wrong is what we tend to get.

It is nearly impossible to find our goodness, our strength, our magnificence, our true nature as loving beings, in any system that believes we are sinful and wrong.

In the years following my decision to leave “religion”, I began to search for the meaning of life and eventually found my way to the expanded teachings of people like Emerson, Emmet Fox, Carl Jung, Meister Eckhart, Matthew Fox, Teilhard, and others who led me back to myself….back to a concept that I had always known (in my heart), but had never been taught: We are all One. We are ‘The growing tips of God’, as one spiritual teacher put it, We are each a unique point of Divine Consciousness, Love is God, God is Love, I am pure Love at my center, Pure Love is me, there is no need for spiritual hierarchy, no person is closer to God than another (although some are more aware of their true nature), no school, church or organized religion can truly place any other person above the rest of humanity, we all have direct and equal access to the larger dimension of ourselves (no matter what we choose to call it) and we do not need intermediaries (even though we can be of great assistance to each other). It took a lot of years for me to begin to believe this way…but it eventually became my truth.

I now believe that I am taken care of, directed, guided, loved beyond words and at the same time I am that Love. I believe that I am helped, assisted and supported every moment of my life. I’m not saying that I remember this at all times, but when I forget it, I notice that I begin to feel off, and when I feel off, I know that I have moved away from my own center, and this gentle thought brings me back…back to faith in Love, faith in Goodness, faith in All.

So back to the thought that prompted this post; the idea that how I feel about myself is the most important determinate of my life experience. How do I (in practical terms) begin to love and honor myself?

I can begin by changing my thoughts; by noticing when I am thinking a critical, unhappy or judgemental thought about myself and I can change it. I can refuse to be critical of others, I can look for only the good in myself and I can celebrate that good. I can honor my accomplishments and I can be easy on myself when I slip into anything less than this.

We can begin where we are, right now….no matter what our upbringing, no matter what negative messages we believed about ourselves in the past. This moment is the moment of change, of the new. Begin today to remember that you could not be more worthy of love, happiness, peace, support, and assistance of all kinds. Begin to look for evidence of this support (that has been there all along) and you will begin to see it. And the more you see it, the more it will show up.

Today is the day to begin truly loving ourselves, and since Love is who you truly are, who I truly am, I have faith that we will be able to see ourselves through loving eyes the moment we decide to look for it.


* pp 157, Dying to Be Me: My Journey from cancer, to near death, to true healing,  by Anita Moorjani

38 thoughts on “faith

  1. WOW ! Mary, this posting this morning is like sitting down to an intellectual and spiritual banquet. I’m going to have to think about this one. Aside from the fact that I was raised in both the Anglican and the United Church in Canada and had strong ties growing up through Sunday School, later, taking over the Kindergarten section of the Sunday School, being a church usher, being in charge of the Christmas Pageant, I still reached the point of not being able to repeat the Nicene Creed. At Art College I studied many religious and spiritual beliefs and my ‘religion of sorts’ is spiritual and not tied into any man-formed religious belief. I think to be raised Catholic was to be raised with guilt, but that has been my experience with friends raised in this faith, in seeing how the Catholic priests influenced the French Canadian women in our cottage area to have babies year after year, that this was their pathway to heaven, large and very poor families were born and yet, many of those large families of descendants exist still in our former cottage area and there is something to be said about large French Canadian families. The poor women who bore ten and twelve children because the priest encouraged them to do this…and of course, birth control was simply not a choice in those days either. Man-made religion I do not like. To be made to feel guilty, to confess our sins continually, this is not what Christianity, Buddhism or Mohammed espoused, I don’t believe. Love is at the centre of any spiritual belief and that, in itself, when dealing with angry people is one of the hardest of all to do…is to love the unlovable.
    Sandy P…you’ve given me much to think about this morning…Mary..and I’m not checking this for spelling mistakes…so if there are any, please overlook them.

  2. Loved this post Mary…i think i did the Lutheran version of this…but somehow I came back to my own gentler/kinder version…I read Madelaine L’Engle over the many years and just felt wow it’s ok to be religious/spiritual/mystical/fairytale-ish…it feels so good to be connected 🙂

  3. Thank you, Mary, for this post. I always feel so much better about myself, after reading your heartfelt thoughts.

  4. I too grew up in the Catholic Church, Mary. I couldn’t agree more with your assessment….the focus was all together on the negative rather than the positive. This can cause us to carry such thoughts with as in life as they became ingrained. I am learning to ‘re-wire” my thinking to be more positive about everything and to find that inner peace that has eluded me for so long.

  5. This was exactly what I always felt but could not express 12 years in Catholic schools proved to be a lot of fear based teachings… confession at the age of six why? For me after a long time away…the church is a place I can go to pray with others when I need to go I go..I light a candle and take a minute to reflect I ignore so much of the “doctrine”..I look at the stained glass windows and see the light from within despite the darkness in this world…
    God is love…. my three children know this without all the doctrine of the church…. thank you for this post so helpful to know I am not alone!

  6. Good things to remember today and always.

    Got to get back to center, been paddling my boat in the choppy water.


    Sent from my iPad

  7. Dear Mary, thank you for such an uplifting and vital post today. My heart, soul and mind really needed this! You helped me remember to trust in myself, and to have faith that I am always supported. I am in the midst of contemplating some important changes and your words are most supportive. Many blessings to you.

  8. I just wanted to take a moment to let you know how much your blog means to me. To let you know how much it helps me everyday, how much you help me everyday. To let you know how special you are and to thank you for making me aware that I am special too. I read them faithfully and look forward to the next one. I don’t often respond but for some reason, this one spoke so loudly to me. Thank you again Mary!

  9. Mary, The fullness of your Truth leaps off the page. Thanks for the encouragement to keep cleaning up my thoughts, to elevate my self assessment. Very expansive and uplifting post.

  10. There are posts that you have written that are so much like my own thoughts. This one really hit home. So much quilt being raised Catholic.

  11. Thank you for putting these thoughts out here today, Mary. They speak about the issues that are going around in my mind these days. I have to add, it’s not just those who were raised Catholic who struggle. I was immersed in a fundamentalist Protestant religion for many years and thankfully came to a place pretty recently where I could see its untruth. I wish I could go back and raise my kids differently, but I thought I was doing the right thing then.

  12. I was very fortunate to be raised by parents of a Catholic-Methodist marriage (my mom eventually converted to Catholicism) who were grounded in their own beliefs and in the distinctions between faith and ‘the church.’ My dad was greatly influenced by Teilhard de Chardin, who showed how faith and philosophy could co-exist. As an adult and parent (after a long dormant period), I have felt comfortable becoming active in my own parish, while making up my own mind about issues confronting the Catholic church today (and frequently disagreeing). Faith is a hugely personal experience — clearly the same path isn’t right for all of us — and I have a healthy curiosity about other people’s spiritual journeys. Mary, your second point — that leaving the Catholic church didn’t make you an atheist, but it freed you from limits — is so beautifully stated and fits many other people that I know. Thank you for putting it so clearly and eloquently. Faith should bring us closer to God, not set up barriers that discourage us and make us feel bad about ourselves.

  13. What an awesome post today, Mary! You spoke the truth for so many of us, in such an honest way.

    I am, what some call, a “recovering Catholic.” Spent twelve years in their schools, back in the late 40’s and 50’s. Literally COULD NOT WAIT to become of age so that I could decide for myself what to believe and how to live my spiritual life. The only good thing I got from the Catholic life was a spot-on example of what NOT to follow.

    Thanks for this post. Really hit the spot! 🙂

  14. This message was exactly what I needed today. Although your entire post spoke to me and described my own feelings about religion, there was one paragraph that grabbed my attention:

    “You have always been taken care of, in the most wonderful way, and you always will be”.”

    I needed to hear this today, as I found myself in an intimidating situation. Instead of focusing on feelings of inadequacy, I kept those words in mind, and noticed how much better I felt. Thanks so very much for this gift –


  15. I love everyone and everyone loves me. Your own quote from a post a while back that has helped me immensely. thank you for this fantastic post today!

  16. I needed to re- read this profound writing several times… I was just so grateful to hear the truth and honest sharing of your words, the experiences you’ve had very closely parallel my own.
    It wasn’t until mid -adulthood, though that I found the courage , and simply had to break away and truly think on my own terms about
    Unfortunately leaving the “religious ” environment I was in meant being shunned thereafter by family members. (One of the most hurtful forms of control ever invented). I so needed to hear your words today. Because it is easy for me to forget that I am still loved. But no one , no one – has the right to interfere with and be an intermediary between us and our true nature of love, being loved and being a good person. How anyone presumes that the only way to be good is to be in bondage to the interpretations, judgements and dictates of others , and not using your own intellect, ethic and moral sense just goes beyond my sense of justice and reason. The most haunting experience I had as a young girl was the day I realized that people actually hated each other because they belonged to different churches and belief systems. How could that be ?
    What you have brought out just breathes wind back into my sometimes flagging sails! Every thoughtful, heart felt paragraph written I can only empathize and agree with more.
    Just because we don’t ” belong” doesn’t mean that we are separated from the source our true nature of Love. And the only way, as you brought out , is to begin by loving ourselves after the confusing, and painful experience of not being encouraged toward truly loving and looking for the good in ourselves and others for so much of our younger years.
    Paying attention to what is going right, to the good that enters our lives -that’s where our eyes should be lifted. Where healing begins and continues.
    Again, very moved by the wisdom you share about your life . The authors you paraphrase and quote always seem to add just the right emphasis and clarity.
    Love to you all, Bobbie

    • Bobbie,
      The Amish & Mennonites shun as well, as may other religious sects but I’ve never understood, even as a child, why there are differences in races, cultures, colour and religion. I remember growing up where Jewish people were not allowed to join certain clubs in Toronto, where I lived. Instinctively it never made sense to me, but to be shunned by family must have felt heartbreaking for you. I keep reminding myself that not all people are on the same path in this journey through life but when family turns on you, as I’ve experienced with one of my own children, I don’t think anything cuts as deeply as that and the constant need to remind myself that forgiveness and letting go is all that I can do now.
      Sandy P in Canada

      • Sandy P, fellow Aussie lover- I thank you for your kind words of understanding I do so appreciate your outspoken nature and input to this remarkable blog. It was very hard, as you know , to move on and claim my life. And you are right, the constant need for overcoming fear and letting go is there. To hold my own place in this world has been the gift , though. And I am thankful daily for the open minded, courageous and kind people I meet along life’s way , who speak with clarity and freedom such as Mary does . With best regards to you, from a mountainous town in CO where finally it is spring.

  17. Thanks for reminding me………..To be able to love, I must first be able to love myself. We have to recognize that religion is man made!!!!!!!!!

  18. My French Canadian Catholic mother and father were not very content with their lives and raised two very confused children. It has taken me a lifetime to sort out the spiritual mess that eventually became a monetary mess. The guilt has given way to acceptance and gratitude for my life. Your blog and all the people that comment have also helped me along the way. Thank you.

  19. I have been informed I will not survive my brain cancer much longer (according to statistics). Each day God’s mercies are new, however, my faith has been tested all my life and I am worn out. You write in an unabashed, honest blurting out of topics I cannot utter and have anyone understand. I appreciate you very much for writing this blog. From someone who wants to have some bliss in the land of the living.

    • I am overwhelmed by your reply, Carol. I sense such an underlying strength in you, your weariness not withstanding.
      I have not yet walked in the shoes you are currently wearing but it is with great humility that I wish for you the very highest and best of life. I send you prayers, blessings and peace.

      • Carol G – Along with Suzanne’s eloquent reply , I hope you find comfort and peace in that which is dearest to you, hold and draw it close to you.

    • Carol, it is a privilege to have you share this here with this forum and to be able to speak out so freely about what you are facing. May your be given the strength and grace to deal with the days ahead. I cannot imagine how you will cope or are coping but I suspect the strength is already there for you. My heartfelt prayers for you. Sandy P in canada

    • How can one respond to your post? One can think, send and be LOVE. Without you sharing what you did, you would not be the recipient of the tender feelings we all extend to you. Thank you.

  20. Now I know some angels by name. Thank you, Mary and all who spoke to me.
    It remains forever true that well timed comfort and encouragement is priceless and renews the spirit. Bless you all.

    • And I would like to add one more post. 60 Minutes tonight had a lengthy report and focus on Pope Francis. He is breathing some much needed fresh air into the Catholic faith and yet, still, there is an inequality between men and women and I cannot subscribe to that and never have. Most of us have grown up in different times and in different faiths. When I ran our Christmas pageant for our church one year, we had to set the staging up in the narthex the week before so that the children could practice on stage in their designated places. Our minister who was an inspiring orator became upset that he would have to preach from his pulpit on the stage that Sunday and gave us/me a very hard time about his narthex being disturbed. I told him that I would listen to him standing on a street corner preaching but that was the beginning of my disillusion. When I wanted to ask questions, I was told to believe like a child and accept what was being told. I could not do that. It was the beginning of the end of the faith that I grew up to believe in. I’ve had to find my own since then and Mary’s blog, the goodness of others here, the people that I’ve went walking a different path have all influenced. The church as not. I have to say that I feel most of us would like to believe that there is someone or some place from which we could gather strength when we need it, as in Carol’s case now, facing a grim future and yet, with faith or belief that there is support for her here, support perhaps from family and friends, that is where our faith in humankind begins and ends to me…a spiritual faith of no man-made rules but of treating others as I would want to be treated myself. And this does not always happen. Stay with us, Carol,
      SandyP in S. Ontario, Canada

      • Goodness, “the people I’ve met walking different path have all influenced me. The church has not”……..where is my brain tonight…….but listening to the rain pelting down on the skylights of my studio roof, I guess.

    • ***** A Candle For Carol***
      My heart took a dip
      When I read your post
      Words did not come freely.
      What could I say
      With the brunt of your truth
      How bravely you are dealing.
      So I lit a candle instead
      And wished you sweet peace
      Yearned for the mystery of faith.
      When the next portal opens
      Draw near to the light
      Let joy relieve you that weight.


      • [Thank you, Suzanne. And Sandy P., I guess my last name should be cooper because the only places you’ll ever read the ‘word-soup’ I write is on a handful of blogs that inspire me.]

      • Cheryl, Your expression of caring is so meaningful. I’m so glad you are posting again. You add so much the community. Words that most of us do not to know how express and you do it with such tenderness and and softness.

  21. Carol, thank you for sharing your story (or one of your stories) with us. It is a privilege. You know that we will all be thinking of you and praying for you (or whatever way each of us chooses). Cheryl P’s poem is so beautiful — I echo her wish for sweet peace.

  22. Mary, Please read, and re-read, all the comments posted above and know how timely and truly appreciated your messages are in our lives !!! – and now I am going to go outside, take my unruly hair, tilt my head back and wallow in the power of the wind and community of support you have created, Mary B.

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