Separation of Church and State . . . but . . .?

I work part-time as a Teen Services Librarian, and as part of my job, I travel to schools around the area to let teens know what the library has to offer them. Last week, I went to speak at the Catholic school in town.

Although I attended a Catholic college, I went to public school as a kid. When I made my visit last week, I was somewhat surprised by how comforting it was to be in a Catholic school — where there were crucifixes on the walls, banners about God’s goodness in the halls; where kids prayed together before their lunch, and where those caught being disobedient were required to offer a prayer or a tithe for those less fortunate.

I believe strongly in the separation of Church and State in the public sector, but being in a Catholic school for a few hours reminded me that our own selves can’t be separated out quite so neatly. We are spiritual beings when we are at school, at work. We are citizens of a secular government when we are at church. We have the right to believe as we please in both these settings, which is a great privilege.

I don’t take issue with people who advocate removing “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, or “In God We Trust” from our currency. Yet, I wonder if there is a way that we can still honor our spiritual selves in secular environments, without forcing others to profess to believe the things that we do. In some ways, I think Lent gives us this opportunity to bring our spiritual selves into every aspect of our lives. Although it makes me feel like a fourth-grader, I’ve given up candy in yet another attempt to create more space in my body for wholesomeness. But tying the practice to Lent brings Lent into every aspect of my life, as I quietly refrain from candy offered at work, as I tuck away sweet gifts brought from friends, as I bypass whole aisles in the grocery store. Each offers me a fleeting reminder of my spirit. My hope this season of Lent, as in every season, will be that the practice of remembering my spirit will endure no matter what setting I’m in.

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About Lacey Louwagie

I'm a feminist, a writer, an editor, and a seeker. I co-edited "Hungering and Thirsting for Justice: Real-Life Stories by Young Adult Catholics" (ACTA 2012) and authored "Where I First Met God" in "Unruly Catholic Women Writers II" (SUNY Press 2013). You can learn more about me at

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