Letters to a Growing Catholic #3
By far the most comprehensive and clear explanation of Faith I've ever seen. I know we've landed on different conclusions faith-wise, but this was definitely an important piece that I'll probably revisit. Loving each installment!
Thank you for a moving and compelling witness! I hope it was not nearly as painful to write about your experience as to go through it.
It happened that this morning on Facebook I saw a post from a society dedicated to the thought of Bertrand Russell (why they send these to me I don't know). It was a dismissive and simple-minded comment about faith, claiming it has no place in intelligent people's lives: If you already know something is true, you just know it. If you know it isn't, don't believe it. And if you're not sure, suspend judgment. I checked to see if he followed this in his own relationships. Married four times, divorced three times, multiple adulteries. Yes, never kept faith with anyone, never deserved the faith of any woman. A consistent man.
I once read that in Eastern Orthodoxy there is no word for "religion" -- it's Faith. Of course, there's "faith" and then there's "Faith", just like there is "love" and then there's "Love". You might "love" pizza or beer, but you "Love" your daughter. And if you really sat down to innumerate why you Love her, you'd probably find that -- despite your fluency with the English language -- there are feelings deep inside you that defy your ability to put them into words. Both Faith and Love are (hopefully) constantly changing and growing. Your Faith today is not what it was five, or ten, or twenty years ago. As much as you may have Loved your girlfriend when you proposed to her, your Love for her was stronger -- deeper -- when your daughter was born. And how about today... tomorrow...?
I am not an astute writer, and -- being in my fourth quartile on this journey called "Life" -- my thoughts and my fingers work at much different speeds! But I am a "cradle Catholic" who grew up in NYC and haven't really moved very far away from where I was raised. I went to Mass regularly, even as an adult. I met my wife of forty years at a Parish Council meeting. Our sons all grew up as altar boys, attended our parochial school, and became "volun-tolds" in the various Parish activities. In fact, for the past ten years I've been semi-retired and functioning as our Parish Business Manager. Somewhere along the line I stopped "going" to Mass -- and realized that I've been "coming" to Mass all along. I was there, not because I decided to go or felt like going, but because I was responding to that tiny whisper... that sense that I needed to be there in order to be WHOLE. My roles in life (my "creds") define "what" I am; my Faith defines "WHO" I am.
My formative years were in a minor seminary, though what were later recognized as being learning disabilities led me to feel like a VW Bug in an Indy 500 race. And the harder I tried, the further behind I fell. My Spiritual Advisor at the time recommended I take a sabbatical -- which ultimately proved to be permanent. I accepted this as "God's Calling", but my Faith -- though a bit shaky -- weathered the storm. Like yourself, I had an extremely difficult time trying to wade through the muck of the clergy abuses, made worse by the fact that several in my diocese had been my teachers and one had been a close friend. And the hardest part was trying to wrap my head around the fact that, while the Church was circling the wagons and preparing for an onslaught, WHAT ABOUT THE VICTIMS???
It took a long time to recognize that my Faith was in Catholicism -- whether it be trusting the Papacy, the Magisterium, or the Doctrines and Dogmas of The Church and the Fathers and Doctors of The Church -- and not the actions of the men running the day-to-day functions.
In reading your three letters to your daughter, you consistently use the word "Belief" -- not Knowledge. To me, "knowledge" is what I know at any given time and based on whatever information might be available to me up to that time. But science is continually unraveling new mysteries, and I am constantly finding new sources of information, and therefore many of the things I once thought I knew have either been clarified or disproved. But my Faith is central to my WHO -- not my "What" -- and that gives me comfort, and contentment, and reassurance in something MORE: my Belief in The Blessed Trinity. And I remember a verse from Isaiah 55: "... For your thoughts are not My Thoughts, nor are your ways My Ways, says the Lord. For as far as the heavens are above the earth, so surpassing are My Ways over your ways and My Thoughts over your thoughts."
And THAT'S what gives me Courage...