Ironically, as my life becomes more and more peaceful and settled, or perhaps because of it, God has seen fit to disturb my calm and shake things up. It is nothing of great import in the sense of urgency or some major life change. It is more a growing sense that God and I are off on another adventure. As usual, I have no clue where that will lead.
Let me say that my experience since leaving the Episcopal Church and returning to “Mother” Church has not been very successful. It has gotten worse (which utterly surprised me) since we moved here to Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Here, let me just say, tradition is applauded, and conservatism prevails. I’ve been a back-bencher, biting my tongue at the recurring invitations to “pray that government recognize and protect religious freedom”, some slap at the Obama Administration and it’s attempts to insure that women who want contraceptive care can actually get it from their employers. You can extrapolate from there to all the other “issues”.
At my church, most homilies involve chastising me as a Catholic for not going to confession enough, not going to church enough, not reading the bible enough. After having visited several in the area, the message seems universal. This suggests that the trouble is not with individual priests but with a seminary system that pushes this kind of message as “pastoral”.
At the same time, I’ve been reading a lot of Matthew Fox and other things that speak to the evolution of the Christ Consciousness, which arguable is the future of “religion” in all its guises. It is definitely not about my faith being “better” than yours, or my salvation more assured than yours. In fact, it focuses entirely on something quite different: what would Jesus do.
Yes, that trite phrase, so bandied about is in fact the reality of what we should be as Christians, indeed as God-lovers. Jesus is but the universal term for God-love. Buddha, Krishna, or a host of other terms would do as well.
And I get nothing of that in church. I found it most ironic that our parish priest some weeks ago offered five suggestions on what individuals and families might do with the summer “vacation” to enhance their faith lives. While I can’t recall all five, they were things like, “attend mass during the week”, attend a family retreat”, organize family weekend drives somehow around faith”. It had everything to do with improving one’s “faith”, thus improving one’s salvation.
There was NO suggestion to, as a family, collect food from neighbors for the food pantry. There was NO suggestion to collect used children’s books for families who can’t afford such luxuries. I could go on, but you get the point.
So my “going to mass” has been a thing to do, not a joyful experience.
All the while I’m just starting a Self-Realization program offered by the foundation started by the Yogi Paramahansa Yogananda. It is a melding of Christian principles, i.e., the Christ Consciousness with Hindu meditation practices.
I am more interested in my small time each week at the food pantry. I’m more interested in setting up a small “free library” for the tent city behind it, where so many homeless veterans live. I’m more interested in “doing”.
I see Matthew 25 as THE call, not just a reminder to offer to serve Thanksgiving dinner once a year to those “less fortunate.”
Surely I’m not alone. Surely that is why the pews are so empty each week. People are not being fed by their churches for the most part. They are not celebrating love. They aren’t sharing it either.
I ponder looking at one of the local Episcopal churches here. One is decidedly not for me, plastering its website with words like “Anglican tradition”, “traditional”, and “word of God”. I know where they are coming from. The other is quieter. If I choose that route, I shall speak with the rector and I will lay my cards out, and hope that I get honest answers not designed to “get me in the door” rather than meet my needs.
For church is supposed to meet my needs, not their own. The more I read of Matthew Fox’s history with the Roman Church, the more sickened I am by the damage done by the past two popes. I have hopes for Pope Francis, but I fear he will not do nearly enough. Part of the reason is that I don’t think he’s inclined to actually believe he should.
My church is simply wrong, as wrong as it can be in its stance on birth control, women’s role in the church, and gay rights. I am not sure Francis sees that. My church talks a good game against poverty, and the uneven distribution of wealth in this world, all the while continuing to be bloated with all the gaudy trappings of extreme wealth itself. It continues to belittle the efforts of liberation theologies and wars against the best scholars of our day, pushing them out of the church as it to Matthew Fox or marginalizing them as it did to Jon Sobrino and others like him. It threatens women religious because they, unlike their male counterparts, do march, do feed the hungry, heal the sick, comfort those who are marginalized.
Through all this, the one sadness (for I am peaceful, serene, and feeling renewed regardless of how my words may sound) is that I can find no one to walk this walk with me. Try as I might, I cannot seem to locate a spiritual director to guide me through this labyrinth. There are no Franciscans or Dominicans here, religious that I have come to trust.
So I wander a bit in the dark.
But that may be what is best, it is hard to say. I know it shall all work out for the best. But I know I would meet less dead ends with the help of a professional. Perhaps that too is part of my journey. God is fond of confounding my expectations and asking for me to trust. This seems one of those times.
Here, I will chronicle that journey, not with the idea that this serves the needs of another. Each and every journey is utterly unique, started form its own place, and traveling at its own pace and along its own path. Perhaps you will recognize a stop along the way. Perhaps you will then be able to offer me a bit of advice to get around this or that obstacle. Perhaps I might comfort you once in a while, with a recognition that you’re not alone on that problem confronting you.
But that is where we stand, or I stand today.
Again, if this sounds sad, morose, or defeatist in any way, it is not meant to be. I feel free, gloriously at peace, and eager to see where all this leads. My inner work is renewed and feels fresh and alive. God is close, and life is marvelously new and beckoning.
Blessings to you all, and please offer every advice that comes to mind. Surely we are community.