Here I stand, once again, at a precipice, a very deep hole on one hand seems like an inappropriate description, but on the other, quite an apt one. I have been to this place before, I have taken the “dive” before and I have climbed up and out onto the rim more than once. This cavernous opening to me is the Catholic Church. Do I dive into her again and start plumbing her depths, but what will be different this time? All of us who have fallen away and doubted our faith have been here, some managed to walk away, I wonder if they are truly fulfilled or if they have just given up and others, like me, keep going back. I do want to feel her embrace again, I have said it before, like a Mother holding her child. Am I, once again, the prodigal daughter returning home after a gluttonous self-indulged journey, spiritually spent and realizing home wasn’t as bad as I thought, “Mother” was smarter than I thought? Have I wrestled the demons long enough that I can keep them in line this time? I have prayed for strength, for a wall to be drawn so I am not tempted anymore to give service to the shadows that tempt me. Is this time different? Is the yearning to go home different? I don’t want to go back and then leave again.
I have studied “discernment”, I guess I have studied everything just about – to one degree or another. The study doesn’t help, I know faith is experiential, but experience is so fallible, so subjective. Faith is a choice I guess, backed by grace and I actually hate to say that, it seems like a cop-out. I have to pray for the grace to be faithful…I can, I believe rightly, assume God wants me to be faithful, so it shouldn’t be too hard. I do want to know and believe truth…that’s were the divide begins. I know that truth is, the question becomes, does truth reside in the Church? Greater minds than mine think so, but that doesn’t help my little mind, sadly. What would make me faithful, what would make me choose to be faithful? We have miracles old and new, Eucharistic miracles, sanctioned visions of Mary and hard-headed people like me still can’t stay faithful. History – Apostolic succession – helps a little I guess, a proven track record, lots to point to, lots of scholarly study, but also lots of twisting to fit personal agendas. History is fraught with that – how can one help but think that Constantine wasn’t just a little influential in picking the books of the Bible back in 325 AD that would help him grow his Empire? or the Medici’s, long feeders of the papacy, had just a little more than holiness in mind? Just two easy examples, so where does the truth come in?
Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom and told him to build His Church, the Church feels a little more Paul like to me than Peter. Or are things going as Jesus wants them to? I think that could be it, the Church is unfolding like a beautiful flower and sometimes flowers get attacked by bugs and molds and other untoward obstacles that impede her perfect blooming. Maybe Christ is alive as the eternal gardener, cleaning up after the people he left in charge, but still hoping they step up and get it right. Maybe he gives us room to grow and to make our way, maybe it takes a lot of fertilizer to grow a perfect flower. But I still want to know what I can do to be more faithful besides waiting and praying and wrestling demons.
Maybe the demons are more clever than I give them credit, it could be they are the sweet talkers that tell me the grass is greener somewhere else. A good priest once told me that the demons won’t appear as demons because no one would follow them then. I have always resisted the temptation to personalize demons or evil spirits, just as I resisted the temptation to personalize God. I think I have managed to see God with perfect personal attributes more than just energy and if so, I suppose the dark side can be personalized too. It seems so complicated tho…I am not tempted by anything I would consider “evil”, Buddhism is not evil, Hinduism is not evil. I do believe Christ is the one to follow, but through the Catholic Church? The devil is in the Church to be sure, so do I just have to have faith that Jesus has all of this under control?
The Church gives us so many tools, sacramentals, prayers, ceremony, an open door, saints…maybe that is part of it, maybe we have lost a sense of the sacred. And maybe that is a big loss. I remember going into our local seminary, the chapel was beautiful white marble, 500 year old angels greeted you holding holy water. Relics of saints and popes stood as if holding homage to the one they knew was contained there, it was always quiet and well, holy there, you didn’t want to disturb the silence. Maybe we have lost our reverence and in doing so have given up a sense of the sacred that belongs to God, that identifies God and reminds us He is something we are not. Yes, He is present in the world, but hidden or maybe just overlooked. Maybe we need to spend more time at these places, which seem to be disappearing, and regain that particular connection. If Christ was/is pure beauty, pure truth manifested in a corrupt world and remained uncorrupted, maybe we need to go to these places to remember.
“Be still and know that I am God.” I am trying, but I’m not there yet.