turn, turn, turn
There is a season
turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven.”
A number of images, a number of verses, both in scripture and in song come to mind.
This is a difficult, perhaps one of the most difficult, posts I’ve ever written, but one that was destined to be written, and I’ve known that for some time.
This summer has been a hard one, but not in any way that should bring cries of “not fair” or “my sympathies” or anything so dramatic. It’s just been hard. Weather and bad lanes, cars breaking down in more ways than one, finances stretched more than one would like, all this and then some. Not nearly as awful as people who are truly suffering from financial ruin, or awful illness, or just plain lousy never-ending bad luck. Just the kind that makes a person say, “I’m glad that week, month, season, or year is OVER!”
What it has meant to me is that I’ve been hermited in the meadow for long stretches. And that played havoc with my church attendance. At first there was great sadness, anger, and furious shaking of fists at “fate.” Then there was reflection and a digging away at the surface “reasons” for these emotions, and yes, picking off of old not-yet-healed scabs.
Painful, but increasingly necessary as I uncovered things I had not dreamt of. Things I had buried deep, and thought were dead and gone. But as we all know, that seldom happens.
I realized that my church had become very important to me, mostly for the social aspects. I had found a home of like-minded individuals, like-minded theologically but also politically. I could speak my piece and find nodding heads.
What heady stuff is that? Heady indeed I can tell you. From clergy on down, I found such a collection of genuinely nice, intelligent, educated, spirit-driven, mission-motivated people as could ever be found in one place.
For those of you who don’t know the story, I shant go into it in-depth, but in general the story goes:
I was a life-long Catholic wannabe. I finally figured out I could become one, and did so at age 43. I nearly entered the convent. I didn’t, and met and fell in love with a gorgeously warm and loving man. I married him.
He, had been married before and divorced. Holy Mother Church frowns upon that. Much much later, I realized that. No one ever turned me away as a mortal sinner (which they would claim I am), but I felt the rejection. Ironic wouldn’t you say?
I contrived to be a “spiritual” person without a church until someone pointed me in the direction of the Episcopal Church. I went, I saw, I adopted “Catholic lite.” I was happy, as I said.
Until, as I also said, I had to work through my sorrow at not being there. My “works” were my new identity, I was someone who was “in the know” a “go to” person somewhat. People knew who I was. I basked in my own sense of importance. Was I important? Not so very, but I felt it, and that was what mattered.
Digging down through the layers, I uncovered a still deep-searing pain at my Catholic loss. The Episcopal church liturgically met my needs precisely because it was “most” Catholic.
I looked back over the two years and saw that I had tried to be “tsk tsk” about Catholic short-comings and failings. I had always freely criticized Her when an active participant and I had continued, though most thought it was out of anger and hurt, though mostly it was not. But of course such criticism falls on deaf ears when you are a “former” Catholic.
The germ of longing seemed to grow, even as I fought it. I truly did fight it. I have no desire to be a thorn among the roses. I don’t relish being in the minority. I don’t desire to feel like a back-bencher. But that is what I would be, will be. I’ve written a bit about this on another blog called rather appropriately I think, Walking in the Shadows.
I found myself, even almost against my will, digging out the old Missal, the old Christian Prayer book with the Daily Office. A quick stop at the USCCB, located me as to week and Mass readings. I have been praying a rosary every day for weeks now. It is all too familiar, and, frankly it became deeply comforting to me.
Last Sunday, I returned to the Mass. It was as it always was. Comfort food for the soul I guess. Mine at least.
I am not sure where I will land. Whether I enter into a specific parish or not remains to be seen, but I sense I may not, being more content to be a traveler, seeking the better homilist this week, the more awe-inspiring interior the next. I truly don’t know.
The Contrarian remains confused at all this, a great sounding board, but not offering advice. He is puzzled why I would leave a user-friendly place to wander alone in the wilderness so to speak. I cannot answer, except to say that I am so thoroughly Catholic that I must. As odd as it may seem to one not a “cradle” Catholic, I am defined by it, and I suspect I always will be.
Nothing much has changed. I still rail at its inadequacies, its horrific failings, its out-of-touch dogmas. But I can do so as a “Catholic” now and not a Protestant.
I owe so much to the Episcopal church. To all the fine people there, I owe such a debt of gratitude. They are, en mass the finest group I have ever known. I can say quite literally that I never met anyone there I disliked.
They taught me that Protestants are often more right in dogma than Catholics on a few things.
They taught me that one can disagree without being disagreeable and that serious and important differences don’t have interfere in a coming together at the table.
They taught me the inherent goodness of all faiths. Where I had believed it on the surface before, I now KNOW it to be true.
They taught me that the truest message of Christ is service to others, and not personal salvation. In fact, the first leads to the second without effort.
They taught me that I will work for and support women’s ordination in the Roman church with unswerving dedication, for I was blessed with such role models in the Episcopal church. (That’s generally true online as well, as I know a few women priests here.)
I know that many, perhaps most will not understand. I don’t expect that. What I have come to see is that each of us is a unique spiritual gift and we all are nourished in different ways. What is of deepest importance to me, is of no consequence to you perhaps. That, I am convinced, is the way things are meant to be. Our relationship to God is uniquely our own.
A weight lifts from me. I look forward to the adventure. Parker, God bless him, bit his tongue, when I said I was finally going to write this. I smiled and said, “I know what you want to say. Perhaps I should keep silent, for in six months, I may change my mind again? Is that about it.”
He smiled. “uhuh, just about.”
And I may, but I doubt it. They say that about Catholics you know. That once you are one, you are always one. It’s just a matter of whether you are home or away. I think that might be true. It is for me I think.
I can only follow as best I can. So far? I don’t know. Perhaps this was the journey I was intended to make, returning to Catholicism with a more mature sense of what it and I am. Time will tell.