This is a neat and tidy explanation. And like most such neat and tidy explanations, it couldn’t be more wrong. Audrey fits into a category that Robert C. Fuller, a professor of religious studies at Bradley University in Illinois, describes as a seeker. We have entered a time, he says, when people are willing to explore the religious marketplace. Americans, he emphasizes, have always been religiously diverse. Now they are even more so. Audrey, in fact, is actually attracted to Chestnut Street Community by what she sees as its liberalizing elements. For one thing, Pastor Art Snow’s ministry relies heavily on his wife. She is a strong presence in the congregation, making announcements and warmly greeting newcomers.

I have wondered if I’ve failed to communicate the beauty that I feel Catholicism has to offer. I wonder if all the grumblings I had brought home about the Church—grumblings that are a natural part of my role as a religious journalist—had an impact on her. In our household, the scandals of the Church that were thrust in front of the public in the late 90s were old news by then. I had a tendency to tell tales (details and names omitted) of what was happening behind the scenes—churchy gossip that inflates those who indulge in it and at the same time can deflate those hearing it for the first time. On some level, I wondered if I had failed. How traditional of me, I think to myself, who as a true Blue Stater usually lives by the creed of letting people decide vital moral and religious issues in their own way. I always wanted to give my daughter space, and she has taken it.

Yet at the same time I can’t help thinking that these are good people at Chestnut Street Church. They study the same Bible, much more intensely than many Catholics. They believe in a Jesus that works in their lives today. You can hear it as they repeat the mantra in that hymn. Jesus is their companion along the way, not an abstract Palestinian prophet in the history books. He is as concerned for them as he was for those who touched his garment and for those he healed back when he walked the earth. It is the kind of Jesus the great mystics in the Catholic tradition know, but relatively few Catholics in the pew feel comfortable talking about, even if they may feel his presence.

I wonder, then, if my daughter hasn’t managed to find the same divine beauty and power I cherished from Catholicism.

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