hen I heard about the community talk “Pints with a Priest: Why The Church?” at a local Denver church I knew I had to be there and I knew I had to write about it. The sole fact that this question is being asked by a priest to his parish, and the Church is encouraging people to join the conversation (and luring them with beer and BBQ!) told me we must be evolving.
Ten years ago this event would have never taken place. Questioning the role of the Church in our modern, changing world was taboo and probably religiously illegal—not to mention drinking alcohol other than the conservative sip of “the blood of christ” during mass. This was an event not to be missed.
A Fallen Catholic
I was raised Catholic. Like really Catholic. I knew the entire mass by heart, in Spanish and English, by the age of 8. I was in Sunday school for most of my childhood and was also confirmed at 8 years old—the name I took for my confirmation was, of course, Mary Magdalene. I loved religion. Entranced by the mysticism, lured by the fear, and saved by the promise of the pearly gates—if I behaved, of course.
Although I do not subscribe to any one religion now, I was a devout Catholic until the age of about 16. It was then that I started asking questions that could not be logically answered. Wondering how all these magical tales could be true and scratching my head at how to turn tap water into wine for Friday’s houseparty, I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. My heart was receding from the “love of God.”
It just didn’t add up.
There was so much fear, so much segregation, so many “ifs,” that I had to wonder: Does God really love us all when there is so much destruction, death, and pain in the world?
And that whole hell thing. WTF is up with hell? An all loving God is going to send me to the fiery depths of hell if I make a mistake? Nah. I didn’t like that one bit. So I quietly backed away from the Church when I graduated from high school and moved out of my parents house.
There were a few years after that where I felt empty inside. Ridden with guilt and orphaned from something that once filled me with love and hope. Unable to discuss it with my extremely religious parents, I went rogue.
I floated in a religious hangover for a couple years before I found yoga, which changed my life. The connection of the body and mind was profound. The constant discovery of myself and the world around me gave me solace. The mindfulness that I didn’t even realize was mindfulness wiped the fear of hell away and solidified the fact that I’d made the right decision to leave the Church.
I can’t deny the part of me that will always be Catholic, however. And when a dear, and religious, friend invited me to join her to this enthralling Pints with a Priest event, I knew I had to go. Partly for the free food and beer, and partly to see what the Church was up to these days if this was the conversation it was encouraging people to openly have.
Mingling after Pints with a Priest talk in Denver
Pints with a Priest: Why the Church?
As my friend Sarah and I walked up to the courtyard of the Church my heart was pounding. I felt like a little girl again. In awe, in fear, in anticipation. Afraid everyone would know I’d “fallen” and I’d burst into flames from the myriad of sins I’d collected over the past decade and a half.
We went straight to the beer table (liquid courage, amiright?), showed our IDs, and got our promised free beers. I was shaking. Sweating in 65 degree weather. Nervous, excited, and feeling so much that I had repressed for so long. We took our seats and waited for the event to begin. A handsome priest, hereby referred to as The Handsome Priest, about 35 years old, walked on the stage of the gorgeous grotto in the lawn, holding a beer and wearing Birkenstocks, telling us we’d be starting soon. He cracked a couple witty God jokes, which surprised me.
I glanced behind me to see how much the crowd had grown and there were at least 300 people there. All white. Mostly young. Holding beers and babies and eager to be enlightened.
The Handsome Priest began by explaining the context of the question, “Why the Church?” He said, “We are living in a time when Christianity is in decline. And while that is a little scary to say, what I mean by that is we are moving from Christendom back to the Apostolic age. We are not living in a Christian culture.”
Immediately I thought, “Holy shit (no pun intended) this guy knows that his beloved religion is no longer the beloved religion of many who once subscribed. He knows Christianity and Catholicism are slipping through our smartphone-laden hands. Wow!” I was enthralled.
He continued to say, “Culturally we’ve moved away from the faith. And the number one object of hatred is precisely what I’ve devoted my entire life to study…the evil Catholic church. Which the world hates. But when you read Friedrich Nietzsche you see that he is fascinated with Jesus. And we realize that many who have moved away from the Church still hold this fascination for Jesus.”
And I was like, whaaatttt? Homeboy just dropped a rad philosophical-lit reference about Jesus? And then took a sip of his beer? This is gonna be good.
He then began to talk about the importance of mediation. I look over to Sarah sitting next to me and she’s Googled mediation on her phone, and this is the definition that came up: “intervention in a process or relationship; intercession. ‘They are offering sacrifice and mediation between God and man.’” My eyes grew wide and I was hit with the realization that this is all connected…the Church is absolutely everywhere, even in the dictionary!
“Does God talk to you? Does he directly talk to you?” the handsome priest asked. “No. Me neither. But he communicates with us through mediation. No one can claim to have an unmediated relationship with God. None of us have access to God. I don’t have access to God. God himself is so far transcendent and so far beyond us. God mediates himself into history and humanity.”
There are two paths of mediation according to The Handsome Priest: humanity and the Church. “The Church is Christ poured forth and communicated. And no one can call God the Father unless they called the Church the Mother.” Whoa.
Enter the Divine Feminine. I don’t know if it was the beer, The Handsome Priest, or repressed religion rising from within, but I was extremely engaged. “The Church is the bride, the spouse, and in a mystical, profound way, the vehicle we use to connect with God.”
The Handsome Priest then dropped a bomb that I didn’t even know I’d been waiting for. He told us that he is living in Rome specifically to study the role of Mary in the Church. Fuck yes. “Mary and the Church have been separated in the past 500-600 years. Mary became this transcendent goddess entity that totally freaked everyone out. And the Church became a cold institution in Rome run by a bunch of sexually-frustrated men.” Baahahahaa. That one was a crowd pleaser.
The point of this is that The Handsome Priest wants to create a resurgence of the Divine Feminine in the Church, in the religion, and in the world in general. The mother has a role of mediating relationship. She nurtures and loves and opens the heart and soothes the soul.
It hit me then that this man, The Handsome Priest, is on a mission to remind us of the importance of the feminine and the divine nature of her love. “We are stumbling towards heaven together and Mary holds our hand along the way. We aren’t meant to go it alone.”
He finished his 20-minute talk and beer and opened the floor for questions. So, of course, I set my beer down, put my journalist hat on and asked, “If the Church is feminine, how can we integrate the femininity of the Church into the patriarchy of our modern world?” That one took his breath away, made his eyes bug out, and I’m pretty sure I saw a Birkenstock slip off.
He took a deep breath, laughed a bit nervously, and said, “Whew. Well, that’s a loaded question. Ok. We are in a gender crisis. The loss of sexual complementarity leads to the collapse of identity. The Church is instituted by Jesus. The Church is hierarchical. If we are going to refocus on the feminine, we can’t throw out the rest of it. It is all one and dependant on one another. There’s only one dimension of the Church that is all encompassing, that is the feminine maternal life of Mary. She embodies in her person everything that is the Church. We need to create a harmony amongst all aspects of the Church and get comfortable with inviting the Divine Feminine into our lives. Thank you for your question. That’s all the time we have, thank you all for coming. Enjoy the food and beer.”
While this answer felt less than satisfying, I knew that it required much more discussion than the minute and a half The Handsome Priest had to answer it.
Moral of the story?
We are in the midst of an evolution. An evolution that increasingly is not being ignored by the Church but embraced by the younger generation at the wheel.
We are living through an incredibly interesting time where what we once knew is dissolving and alchemizing, and that which we are moving towards is extremely uncharted territory.
While this free-beer fueled experience did not motivate me to “go back to the Church” (and neither did my childish crush on The Handsome Priest), it did give me hope that the people who will be running the Church for the future are at least, more and more, coming from a mindset and heart space of love—as opposed to the harsh nature and exclusivity of the sexually-frustrated grey hairs currently in control. With the exception of Pope Francis, of course, who is killing the “all-loving God” game.
Bottom line: Ask questions. Stay curious. Channel the Divine Feminine. Bless up.
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