(Catholic by Grace column for March 2011 - appearing this month in diocesan newspapers across the U.S.)
I tell people that I’m a contemplative by nature. And there’s actually some truth to that. It is also true that I am a bit agoraphobic. I am more comfortable at home than I am anywhere else.
One of the hardest things about being
Catholic is the simple fact that we do not have a private faith. We may have a private prayer life. Conversion may begin as a quiet, hidden movement of the Spirit. But when we receive the Eucharist, we are sent out to do something about it. Our faith gets turned inside out.
not hide from our neighbors. We can not hide from work. We can not hide from making friends and trying new things.
As much as I would like to receive Our Eucharistic Lord and then head home until next Sunday, I can’t do it.
I grew up in a pastor’s home, and for a couple of years I was even a pastor’s wife. For a reason I never quite understood, the parishioners enjoyed getting the inside scoop on life in the parsonage (Protestant equivalent of the rectory). Those years in the pastor’s fishbowl had an impact on me. The once-outgoing-girl is
now a slightly anti-social grown-up.
no place like home. Indeed!
Reclusive writer. Sign me up!
not great at chit-chat. I’d rather take an on-line class than become part of a Bible study. One of the best inventions was the telephone answering machine. I just don’t do crowds, shopping, or socializing.
Some people thrive on meeting and greeting the world. I’m just
not one of them.
Like it or
not, as a Catholic, I’m under the microscope even more than I was as a preacher’s daughter or preacher’s wife. The laity doesn’t have an eye on me any more. But the non-Catholic world is watching – and the world is watching you. The world wants to k now whether or not Catholics really live what they profess. They are fascinated by our weaknesses, though they often ig nore our strengths. We’re under a microscope, and that complicates things.
I don’t k
now about you, but that makes me want to hide. If I keep to myself, I can control what gets judged. And I like it that way.
The saints set the record straight. We are meant to engage the world. Clothe yourself in Christ and get out there. The saints are like the friendly coach who pats his JV kid on the back and says go get ‘um. The coach watches from the sidelines, k
nowing all too well that the kid is afraid of the ball, afraid he might miss a shot or afraid of getting creamed by some oversized opponent.
If I could have a chat with my guardian angel, I suppose he would have a bit of wisdom for me. He’d probably say what angels have always said when they greet someone. “Don’t be afraid.”
I’m glad my little phobia is just that – little. It is something I can wrestle with and overcome through the gift of God’s grace. It only has the upper hand if I let it. When I manage to set aside the fear of looking like a weak specimen of the faith, then it’s
not so overwhelming.
That’s when I get out there and strike up conversations and let those conversations touch on the things that matter most.
Oh, I’d still prefer the life of a reclusive writer to that of an active Christian. I’d still prefer to be on my knees after receiving the Eucharist rather than out in that very challenging world where anger and fear and pride hit me at every turn. But this faith isn’t an either/or kind of faith. It is a both/and faith. Eucharist and society. Contemplation and action. Prayer and participation.
I’d still rather call myself a contemplative than admit that I have social anxiety.
Sure, I could spin it. I could even deceive myself and keep the world at arm’s length. And then I might miss the opportunity to share the Gospel in word or deed. I might miss the chance to connect with someone who might teach me a thing or two about this journey to God.
So, I listen to the wisdom of the saints and my guardian angel. I leave the fear on the bench, and I go get ‘em.
Father, may I overcome fear by faith so I can sow bountifully and reap bountifully (2 Cor 9:6)