I've been thinking about my years as a Catholic, and realizing that the things I probably appreciated most about that tradition were three: one, all the beautiful places for contemplation that I experienced as a Catholic. Beautiful gardens, alcoves, chapels, fountains, grottoes. The odd thing is that these were probably traditionally derived from Islamic spirituality. In the Middle Ages, Christianity was deeply impressed and influenced by Moorish culture and spirituality. The Moors were much admired and imitated and studied by the medieval christians, and a great deal of their culture was absorbed.
I think we could all be more aware of the fact that religions are not and have never been hermetically sealed vessels. There has always been a lot of sharing and blending among religious traditions within a cultural context. Divisions and factions have been fomented for political reasons by individuals and groups of people who stood to gain, and warfare has been carried out for generations afterward by people who stood to gain very little. It's really a trick of the mind that leads us to think there are 'different religions.' I've just been reading a book about early Scotland that remarks on a portrait of a Scottish Bishop who is 'flanked by a crescent moon and a six-pointed start. Our interpretation is that all three faiths - Christian, Jewish, Muslim - were tolerated and practiced in the diocese of St. Andrew's.' So this phenomenon was hardly unique to medieval Spain, and according to travelers I have met, still exists in Eastern Europe.
When I studied theology in the nineteen-eighties, one of the main points they wanted to bring home to us is that Christianity emerged from a large pan-Mediterranean gnostic culture, in which many different 'religions' flourished, all sharing a basic gnostic orientation. The history, development and interrelationship of the 'Big Three' - Christianity, Judaism and Islam - is very interesting, not from the political and land-grab perspective, but in terms of human spiritual evolution.
The second thing I appreciated about my time in Catholicism are some of the wonderful people I met who had such an optimistic, positive orientation. Obviously, not everyone shared this, but I'm focusing on those who really brightened my day, and brightened the world for me, for that matter. It is possible to find a very positive orientation in Catholicism, but it can sometimes verge on the 'pollyanna' side, and I guess I found at some point that it was not adequate for me. This may also be because it was not really thriving as a living spiritual tradition in my locale. Or if it was, I didn't have access to it.
Lastly, I appreciated the ritual aspects of the worship at the time I was involved there. I no longer feel moved by that particular ritual and have found another I find more nourishing to my soul and spirit at the present time. But I realize that in the Western world, there is rather a dearth of that kind of ceremonial ritual which is so richly patterned deep within the human soul, so what little we still have has to be acknowledged and appreciated.