Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Two people pass each other in the doorway of the Church. One is entering for ever thinking, “Finally I have found the Church that speaks with legitimate authority. Faith is handed on here. Truth is passed down through the centuries and like a rock it never changes. Here is a place where I can be told about God.”

He passes shoulders with the man walking out of the Church for ever thinking, “Finally I am leaving this Church that tries to speak with such authority. I have no say in faith and morals. So called truth is pushed down my throat like a rock that I must swallow. I feel stifled at being told who my God is.”

As Mom used to say, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” Sometimes the very things that make the Church attractive to one person makes it a turn off for another. Proper authority is one of those things, you might presume, that attracts me to the Church. After all I knelt down before the bishop, placed my folded hands into his before a cathedral full of people and promised proper obedience to him and his successors.

Why would this be attractive? For me it was seeing the fractioning of the rest of Christianity. It was seeing denominations voting on believe so that by popular vote (as well informed as it may be) a particular denomination now says God wants us to believe X instead of Y. Another area that causes me to pause is the practice of individual congregations picking pastors that teach God the way they want Him taught. So if a particular minister was too Roman, or too fundamental, or used Scripture to show that pigs should only marry pigs and not intermarry with hedgehogs and the congregation did not like it, they could fire him and get someone else who would teach that God says that it is Okay for pigs and hedgehogs to marry.

The possibility here is that God becomes a mirror of the worshipper. Garrison Keeler once said, “They loved God, but only because God agreed with them.” There is the chance that God becomes simply a higher form of ourselves, our beliefs, our comforts, our hopes, and this is very attractive to some people. But if this is the case, who ultimately are we worshipping?

It can be challenging, difficult, disturbing, even humiliating to confront a God that is not a grander copy of our own hopes and desires. Through the Catholic Church He asks us to freely kneel down, place our hands in His, and vow obedience to Him in saecula saeculorum. For those for whom this is attractive this quote from Chesterton makes perfect sense:

“We don’t really want a religion that I right where we are right. What we want is a religion that is right where we are wrong. . . They say they want a religion to be social, when they would be social without any religion. They say they want a religion to be practical, when they would be practical without any religion. They say they want a religion acceptable to science, when they would accept the science even if they did not accept religion. They say they want a religion like this because they are like this already. They say they want it, when they mean that they could do without it.”
(Did anybody get the title of this post?)


Matt W said...

Everybody wants a good leader, but nobody seems interesting in being a good follower.

The post's title sent me back to my Riverside Shakespeare: Much Ado II.3 Something to ruminate on.

Carol said...

Exactly, Matt.

Maybe it's due to my location, the one Cleveland's Bishop was uber-blessed to be mined out to you Ohioans from, but I know a number of ex-Catholics-- I'm afraid I may know more of them every day. Apparently, some prefer an amalgam of spiritualities, and it would seem others want a downright enabler of personal fascism, which can only consistently be Self. Ex-Catholic counselors, ex-Catholic nurses, ex-Catholic parents, ex-Catholic offspring.. I fully understand that our Family is dysfunctional.. but Blood doesn't give up--it hangs in there. Bottomline, however, what the heck is better than Jesus our Eucharistic Lord?? And exactly what of one's earthly self isn't worth trading off in return for that true life? We'd be wiser to take Peter's humble stance and say, "Well, then, Lord --not just my feet, but my head and hands, TOO!"

The Angel still asks, "Why do you seek Him among the dead? He is alive!" Some folks seem to think He is incarnated wherever and however they choose, and that they'll glean a greater portion of Him by attending Mass at Easter, attending Temple when it's pc, attending Reiki to help their others, attending angel-card readings so as to wink with assumed authority, "There ya go! You're gonna be ok!" or attending mega-churches where the pastor is riveting (and good-lookin'), seems reasonable, and only asks them to suffer to a certain degree in this life--to love, suffer and die only for the lovable. Christ went a step more redeeming, tho', and we know the way.

Thankfully, many Catholics eventually come back home, and not to one bit of crowing, but to fatted calves and precious rings of joy.

Warren said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Warren said...

Oh dear, I think it's Shakespeare.


Anonymous said...

As a young man ending my first year in formation for religious life the beauty and providence of the vow of obedience takes on more significance each day. Thank you for this post.