Last week I listened to an interview with author Anna Quindlen on NPR’s “Fresh Air.” The interview focused on her new memoir:
According to the description on Amazon:
In this irresistible memoir, the New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Pulitzer Prize Anna Quindlen writes about looking back and ahead—and celebrating it all—as she considers marriage, girlfriends, our mothers, faith, loss, all the stuff in our closets, and more.
As she did in her beloved New York Times columns, and in A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Quindlen says for us here what we may wish we could have said ourselves. Using her past, present, and future to explore what matters most to women at different ages, Quindlen talks about marriage … girlfriends … stuff … our bodies … parenting …
All in all, it sounds like she has some interesting perspectives, some of which I agree with and others of which I don’t.
This part of the interview, on “leaving the Catholic church,” really struck me:
“I think not going anymore made me realize how much of the good had been imprinted deep inside me, and how much of the rest I didn’t need,” she says. “I don’t have to listen to the Gospel on Sunday to know the stories of the New Testament. They inform so much of what I write that they’re practically like a news scrim that goes through my brain 24/7. And I don’t have to listen to a sermon to know what to think or feel about them. It’s almost as if I absorbed completely what mattered most to me, and the rest could go.”
As her words sunk in, I think I started feeling sorry for her.
One of my favorite parts of going to church is hearing the readings from the Bible. Like Anna, I grew up hearing the same stories, but I still find something new in them. Sure, I can recount the stories by heart as you might find them re-told in a children’s Bible, but the rich language of the Bible (even in the more “modern” translations) really is like a good book that you find new meaning in each time you read it.
While the words may be the same year in and year out, I am not the same person from day-to-day. The stories I heard as a child take on a whole new meaning from an adult perspective. The Psalm I read when I am lonely strikes a different chord when I am feeling blessed. The serious Gospel story I know by heart catches my sense of humor when I’m in a snarky mood. I would be missing out on all of these insights if I decided that I don’t need to read the Bible any more because I know what it says.
I also enjoy the sermons, but I probably wouldn’t if they were trying to tell me what to think or feel. To the extent that my priests’ sermons even address the “meaning” of a Gospel reading, they are more likely to offer alternative interpretations–one more lens through which we can read the Word. I usually come away with a new understanding, a challenge to apply my faith more sincerely in my life, and a new appreciation of the magnitude of God’s love for us. (Both of my priests post their sermons in their blogs.)
I don’t blame or judge Anna Quindlen for her decision to leave the Catholic church. Clearly her experience with her church was vastly different from mine. (I’m Episcopalian, not Catholic, but I’m sure that there are former Episcopalians who feel the same way she does.) But it does make me sad that Anna–and others like her–might be missing out on an opportunity to deepen their faith and their relationship with God because of their jaded views of “the church.”
Do you attend any religious services regularly?
If you do, what is your favorite part?