Friday, April 25, 2014

The Absurdity of "Decluttering Catholicism"

My friend is attending a class on life after a divorce. She is Catholic. She loves the faith and simply wants to heal and be whole for Christ and His Church. She lives in fidelity to the faith she has received.

Her counselor suggested that she attend the post-divorce class which is held in a non-denominational church in the area.

My friend doesn’t know if she will go back.

On the night of the first class, she walked down the hall and read the signs on the doors as she looked for the class on healing after divorce. The sign on one door said De-cluttering Catholicism.

It felt like someone had punched my friend in the stomach.

She felt the blow both physically and spiritually. And the one thought she had was how much she loves her faith – and how little they must understand about the faith she holds so dear.

She kept on walking and eventually found the class on divorce, but the blow against her faith and her Church stayed with her.

When she shared the story with me, I felt the anguish, too. Oh, Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are saying.

I do not want to de-clutter any part of this beautiful faith. It is a treasure. And nobody throws open the Kingdom’s treasure chests in order to toss out all that is beautiful and precious.

Nobody raids the coffers in order to cast the treasures aside.

How precious the intercession of saints.

How dear the gift of the Blessed Mother.

How sacred the Chrism, the bells, the incense that rises to the heavens.

How lovely the holy cards and statues and icons. Mosaics. Stained glass. Sculptures. Paintings. Paten.
Chalice. Ciborium.

How holy the Body of Our Lord. The Most Precious Blood.

How full of grace the Sacraments, the open door to the Confessional, the steps that lead down the
aisle to the Eucharistic Lord of Life.

How healing the touch of Christ through the hands of the priest, the anointing of the Bishop, the blessing that comes down to us through the Pope, through St. Peter and apostolic lineage.

How sweet the feel of smooth rosary beads, the voices of those beside me praying, the cares and intercessions lifted by each one kneeling.

What joy is found in the holy water font, the cool water touching the forehead, the smell of Chrism on a baby’s head.

What a treasure the family baptismal gown, a grandmother’s prayer book with its weathered pages.

What meaning comes with the flowing stream of the liturgical calendar, the readings each day and each hour, the colors, the altar, the Tabernacle and lit candle.

The Stations line the walls. The kneelers wait to be lowered. The book is opened and ready.

No. Do not de-clutter my precious faith.

Do not reduce it to something too small.

Do not suggest that it is better to have a faith that is summed up in five bullet points and one passage from Scripture.

I. Want. It. All.

I need it all.

I thirst for these streams of running water. It is life. It is strength. It is all a venue for grace.

One would never enter the King’s palace in order to de-clutter the rooms and toss out the treasures.

And so it is with the Faith.

It is a deposit worthy to be kept sacred. Worthy to be passed down to our children.

It is rich, so very rich, and the divine life infuses all of it.

No. You cannot purge the most holy, most beautiful, most precious of all that serves to bring us into the holy, the beautiful, the precious.

It is a treasure worthy of our treasuring.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sense of An Ending . . . and a beginning

I read something yesterday in Fr. James Martin’s Jesus: A Pilgrimage. It made me think of conversion and Lent and even a little something from my days as a graduate student at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.

“The ancient Greeks had two words for time: chronos, the tick-tock chronological time that we are more familiar with; and kairos, the right or opportune moment. We also know what these kairos moments are like: tired and dissatisfied with our lives, we’re waiting for someone to say that it is okay to change. For the fishermen on the shore, this was their kairos moment” (Martin 140).

All the talk of chronos and kairos reminded me of The Sense of an Ending - required reading for M.A. comps. Not that I wrote anything profound that awful, awful day. I received a B on my comprehensive exams though I had trended toward A’s throughout graduate school. I choose to blame my performance on the migraine that rendered the experience a nightmarish blur. No hyperbole. I began the day with a shot of Imitrex which worked no better than a couple of Tic Tacs.

I remember three writers from the long list of required reading. Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot. The Writing Life and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. And Frank Kermode’s The Sense of an Ending.

I might have known that I was headed for a massive conversion –for I forgot most of the other things I read in the months of preparation for comps, but the things that remained and took up residency in my long term memory were Annie Dillard, T.S.  Eliot and Frank Kermode. If you took Pilgrim, Writing Life, Four Quartets and Sense of an Ending and ground them up with a mortar and pestle, you might end up with words like Catholic and mystery and contemplative and writer.

It is where I was headed – though I, myself, had no idea.

But there is something about the notion of kairos. A time for each thing. A season. A changing over and rendering up. Dropping nets to follow. Or abandoning the now for the unexpected call. The sense of an ending. And of a beginning.

When you talk about such things, others stare. They don’t get it. Aren’t privy to the crook of God’s finger. The hook of the Shepherd’s staff. My walking papers. My mandate to go. To follow. To pick up a pen. Or a cross. Or both.

There is something beautiful-and painful-in accepting the call one receives in these kairos moments.

You try to get others to understand, but there is no way they truly can– not being in your skin.
Not having walked in your moccasins.

The most one can hope for is for one’s spiritual director to affirm the call.
It’s enough. A nod from him and a nod from grace– that’ll do.

Kairos. The changing time.

A blank page.

It’s not that anything is possible. It is only that His Will awaits. And somehow, you know it. You begin to perceive it.

The words on the blank page are written in invisible ink – the kind of ink that fills God’s pen. And your spirit is the secret decoder that unlocks the hidden script. You see the words.

And you get to say–

Ok. Let’s do it.

So be it. Amen.

You drop your nets and walk away from what was to embrace what is to come.

It is the moment you are ready for God’s plan for you.