Well. Like a character in Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited", after some life complications, and an ensuing attempted reversion to Anglicanism/Protestantism I've come back to Rome. My intellectual reasons / escape route from the Roman church fell apart, and God sent me a word that Pope Benedict XVI was my shepherd. Personal revelation is so embarrasing. I was thinking about it the other day. The reason I don't like Fatima or Lourdes, is because I wasn't there, it was PRIVATE revelation. But sitting in the break room at work and 'hearing' God tell me that Papa Benny is to be my shepherd, is intensely existential as an experience. I can't make anyone believe that it happened, or have them feel the significance, but personally, it was very convincing.
My Catholic chaplain gave me a book of St. Therese of Lisieux's prayers and reflections to help me find a gracious Catholicism (besides Hans Urs Von Balthasar). She is a Doctor of the Church and has been teaching me alot. Reading her today brought me to tears for about 5 minutes.
"Ever since I have been given the grace to understand also the love of the heart of Jesus, I admit that it has expelled all fear from my heart. The remembrance of my faults humbles me, draws me never to depend on my strength which is only weakness, but this remembrance speaks to me of mercy and love even more. When we cast our faults with entire filial confidence into the devouring fir of love, how would these not be consumed beyond return?"
"I cannot conceive of a greater immensity of love than the one that it has pleased you to pour out so lavishly on me, without any merit on my part"
The gentleness, and the childlike confidence of St. Therese gives me peace. I want this to be the Catholicism I pass onto others. The dogmatic declarations of Scholasticism and post-Reformation Thomism are fine for the theology student, but the heart of a saint is infinitely warmer and more inspiring than a system. As Papa Benny reminds us, our religion is primarily about a person, not a system.
It has been difficult being Catholic, and I now know what they speak of when they say "Catholic guilt". I know how Protestants could so easily evangelize us in the past with their gospel. But I am trying to find the path of gracious Catholicism, a joyful and hopeful Catholic faith.
At a personal note, I am struggling with my relationship, as my partner is not of the Roman confession. Artificial contraception, even views on abortion and the inerrancy of Scripture are sources of debate (my Baptist parents are pround that even though their son is a Catholic, he still has a Biblicist twinge).
I was despairing over the scenario and seemingly endless deadlock, about all the problems in my life that have come from Catholicism. A big 'proof' for me of the truth of the Roman claim, is that it is universally detested, it reminded me of Christ's claim that "if the world hates ye, remember that it hated me first" in St. John's Gospel (ch. 15). A huge portion of my problems would be solved if I were simply an Anglican. But I've realized that something of the Catholic spirit has permeated my soul. In moments of deep affection for Jesus, I kiss my little crucifix and tell him I love him. I will always make the sign of the cross when I am scared. And even in my temporary reversion to Anglicanism, when we almost got in a car accident, I began frantically muttering the Ave Maria in Latin.
I hope to love Jesus as best as I am able, and to have a childlike and possibly foolish hope that he will work out my seemingly impossible failings and problems into something for good. That is all I have. I hope to be a good Catholic, this is the struggle of my life, and may I die still in the struggle, or by God's grace, with a little peace and some victory.
There is no victory story, I should never have strayed, there is nothing glorious about my story. My Protestant friends are disappointed, my Anglican priest wants to meet up next week and probably either yell at me or try to re-convert me. My Catholic friends are confused over the whole situation. I have learned Christian humiliation, and hopefully I will learn from the experience that the story of my life is not one of my greatness, but of God's patient forbearance.
This picture was taken on a trip while I was a Baptist at Bible school and on an adventure in Ireland.
I was thinking about it today, and wondering if perhaps the Blessed Virgin hasn't been watching over me all this time. It's a comforting thought. Cardinal Newman said that while not every soul who is saved asked for the intercession of Mary, no soul was ever saved without it. May Our Lady always watch over this wandering sin-sick soul, and may the Sacred Heart of Jesus beat as the rhythm of my life.