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Fighting for Ourselves as Catholics

Dear Catholics:

Fighting for ourselves as Catholics (in RC and out) is a significant battle. We need to take it to its origins and take full-out stands against our earliest distresses. This is not the kind of clienting we do in one session, or a dozen. We need to prioritize it, and do it again and again, so that we can see how the recording to “erase” ourselves (as the highest good)—to not need, not want, not fight for ourselves—has been a part of our history.

I want to place this in a larger context: class society. Every liberation movement that has challenged class society has been first threatened and then co-opted. Our religion began as a full-out challenge to slave society. Then it was taken over and merged almost completely with the interests of the ruling forces. A theology that held out selflessness was useful to feudalism, especially if it endorsed giving up a fight in the present (for oneself, the right things) and offered instead something later (heaven) as the hopeful option.

A religion that tried to hold on to the highest ideals of human caring and “all for one” was manipulated and turned into a religion of resignation. Catholic reformers, saints, inspirational leaders of principle, across the centuries, tried valiantly to hold on to the human aspects of Catholicism, but the impetus of the recordings was tremendous. We Catholics need sessions in which we over and over again fight our earliest battles for ourselves, even though the feelings torture us by saying that we’re “selfish” and our hearts break as others fall, die, suffer, while we struggle for ourselves. Doing this can be particularly difficult when we understand that doing even one more thing for someone else who needs us can make a profound difference.

Caring deeply about human beings is a human impulse that we need not abandon, and I do not want to minimize the battle to retain it in a capitalist society that sells vain self-preoccupation to us as the highest good. Often we turn away from that in disgust and turn back to fighting the battles for others because that seems (and can be) the most human thing to do in the situation. However, sacrificing for others must be a choice. If it is not a choice, if it is only a rigid habit—a recording, an addiction, that leaves us out as human beings—it needs to be challenged.

Choosing to prioritize ourselves can feel like a torture chamber, but we must, in Co-Counseling sessions, consider putting others aside and face every ounce of heartbreak, loss, and oppression. And we must go back for those precious young people (us) who gave up and put their own needs aside, when it was the only option they could think of at the time. We can wage full-out battles for ourselves with the same resource, commitment, and love we have marshaled in our fights for others.

Doing this is hard work in today’s society, because the society tries to confuse us. The contradiction to selflessness is not self absorption, nor isolation, nor protection. It must be sought out, in our sessions, in the memories of ourselves as the little ones who were left alone or without a voice, or seen as less than fully significant, fully human, fully wanted. It requires us becoming fierce fighters for our humanity. Tim1 has modeled this for us and leads us on it resolutely, and we must take it up2 as central to our liberation as Catholics. We can start by discharging on every image, prayer, family member, group, sermon, that gave us the message that we should leave out our own needs. Even if you never heard a prayer or went to church, your family still absorbed and modeled the recordings. They are still part of your Catholic struggle in a class society that wants you to “serve”—to sacrifice, to give up, to exhaust yourself (in some cases until death).

It is possible to take on3 this battle. Not alone. It works best with others.

As we pull out of the selfless end of the pattern, it is easy to get lost in figuring out how to “take care of ourselves.” I got a bunch of Catholics laughing at the pretense of  “taking care of ourselves” to contradict obligation patterns. The clearest picture I could offer was of disappearing Catholics: “I won’t organize workshops anymore because I am taking care of myself.” “I am dropping out of RC class because I have to take care of myself.” “I cannot lead because I have to take care of myself.” The isolation that steps in can leave people preoccupied with the appearance of a change, which is often just flipping to the other end of the pattern: “comfort,” and addictive pulls not to re-emerge.

So I think, as Catholics, we have to honestly work on both ends of the pattern: the addictive pull to give up on ourselves, and the pseudo-contradictions of “comfort.” This will mean working on early distress and understanding that it’s in the interest of class society to confuse us with both ends. What we want is our full human selves, connected with all other human beings.

You are invited to do this work—with me, us, everyone!

Joanne Bray
International Liberation Reference Person for Catholics
Greenwich, Connecticut, USA
Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of Catholics 

1 Tim Jackins
2 Take it up means undertake it.
3 Take on means engage in.

Last modified: 2014-09-17 18:12:46+00