Eliminating the Middleman.
Sharing a bale of hay with Chip touring MEA’s Rising Circle Ranch outside Santa Fe, I asked if “reverent” was one of the five Ranch words. No, it was Sunmount’s, in-town campus. Thinking of the Blessed Mother statue in the courtyard, the Chapel’s mosaic façade and the envisioned Library, I agreed.
Yet reverence was what I was feeling in the expansive beauty in front of me on the hayride. I told Chip I had “eliminated the middleman” in my spiritual journey. I had stopped going to church. I see God all day, every day, especially in nature. I was filled with awe and gratitude on the ranch.
Raised “Irish Catholic”, I think of it as my nationality/original culture. I'm a 6th generation New Yorker, 99% Irish ancestry. After spending a year in Chile as a teenager, I became Chilean at heart. As an international studies major, I saw myself as a global citizen, as well as a grateful American. In hindsight, I see “global citizen” a spiritual as well as political belief. During college, I was the treasurer and president of our local Pax Christi. I became a peace and justice advocate; a highlight was dinner with activist Daniel Berrigan.
Years later, engaged to a divorced man with three children, I was unable to get married in the Catholic Church. For 35 years I was Irish Catholic. I wanted Jesus at my wedding! Luckily, I was welcomed to marry in a beautiful Episcopal church in NYC. We moved to Colorado to be near my stepchildren, and I was involved with the church as the coordinator of MOPS, on the search committee for the new Pastor and taught Sunday and vacation Bible school.
When I relocated to the midwest, my son was 13 years old and the priest told me I needed to bring my son to church; that “No one would love him as much as the church.” I thought, “Who says that to a mother?” I never went back. They were planning a “lock-in” (overnight events held at a church with activities through the night until the sun rises the next day) for the middle and high school youth groups. I didn’t believe they had earned my trust and thought they had no business hosting “lock-ins.”
Ironically, when I made the decision to not go back to church, I moved into the most spiritual phase of my life. I eliminated the middleman (religious organizations and man-made rules) and sought through prayer, meditation, spiritual book clubs and meetings a direct relationship with the God of my understanding.
My mom raised me to think of Jesus as my best friend, someone who always had my back. I believe most, if not all of us, will end up in the same place via different spiritual and/or religious paths. Mine is as intangible and just as possible as everyone else’s. I believe in everyone’s right to decide their own faith/path. Faith is a belief. It’s a choice. I respect other people’s choices and don’t believe any is better. I believe we’re all created exactly how God wants. I’m not a fan of “bad othering,” especially by religions. I would go with you to your church and enjoy it. I don’t need organizations to be spiritually fit. I have a daily spiritual practice.
I look at a gorgeous sunset, an incredible sky, a powerful wave, a soulful tree, majestic mountains, into a new or old friend’s eyes, listen to music, admire art and I see and feel God’s grace and say, “Thank you! Thank you for loving me so much, for giving me this, and allowing me to be a part of it at this very moment.”
Joan McNally is re-connecting with her former self. The first part of her adulthood was in International business working in NYC, Toronto, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and London. The next 25 years were dedicated to being a wife, stepmother, and mom. Coming out of a divorce, followed by the pandemic, Joan is super excited to be thriving again! She’s thoroughly enjoyed 4 weeks in Baja, 2 trips to Santa Fe, one online course, and many fireside chats with MEA this past year.