I remember something Mark Shea said at one of the talks he was in town a little while back. He was talking about falling in love as something that hits you like a bolt out of the blue, and then you spend the rest of your life trying to figure out what the heck happened. (I can’t recall his exact words, but that was the gist of it.)
At the time, I thought, “That’s sort of how I feel about my re-conversion to Catholicism, and falling back in love with God and the Church.”
Lately, I’ve been having these moments of near-panic when I stop and take a few harried breaths and ask myself, “Oh good heavens, what am I doing here?! And who is this person I’ve become? Are you kidding me? How on earth did I come to this?”
Now let me tell you what all of this does NOT mean: it does not mean that I am having second thoughts about being Catholic, or that there is anything I would rather be. Or at least–it means that even if there is something I would rather be, I’m not going to give in to it.
I’ll be honest. Sometimes I’d rather be comfortable. Sometimes I’d rather be super popular and maybe famous. Sometimes I’d rather be selfish. Sometimes I’d rather float along with the mainstream.
But I can’t and I won’t. Because I have met Truth, Goodness, and Beauty–I’ve met Love, Mercy, and Devotion. I’ve met them, and I’ve been compelled, consumed, and radically transformed by them. And that’s–for lack of a better word–bewildering.
It’s bewildering that I believe that bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. It’s bewildering that I believe that this same Jesus Christ is both God and man and suffered and died for the sin of Adam and all of us and then rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven… and yet still unites Himself intimately with us when we eat the transubstantiated bread.
I know it’s true. I don’t doubt for an instant that it’s true. But it takes me aback all the same!
If you’d told me about 4 years ago that I’d believe these things, I would have said you were out of your ****ing mind. Only a lunatic could believe such hocus pocus drivel.
But the glorious mysteries of Catholic doctrine and divine Truth aren’t the only bewildering thing.
Lately, I’ve been feeling a strong isolation wrapping itself in around me. Isolation from our world. Isolation from our society and culture. Isolation from people I care about. Even isolation from parts of myself. My faith, my beliefs, my values… these have been cutting a great swathe between me and other people and things. A great feeling of aloneness and distance has come over me. A kind of separation. Not anything negative–not hatred nor anger nor any such thing. Not loneliness, either (which is not the same thing as aloneness).
It’s really hard to describe, and while I greatly dislike being vague, a lot of it is too personal to air publicly.
I mentioned some of the issues to a friend, who replied with Matthew 10:34-40:
Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword. For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s enemies shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for me, shall find it. He that receiveth you, receiveth me: and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me.
I have read and heard this verse. I’ve thought on it and assented to it. But now I feel like, for the first time, I am being called to live it. Intellectually, I was pretty sure that this time would come. And now it has. And that is something altogether different.
What am I doing here?!
I could harrumph and turn the other way. I could just pick and choose what I’m going to believe and how I am going to live my life. I could choose the smoother, wider path. I could define Catholicism however I wish. I could do all that and more. So many other people have.
But I keep seeing the face of Christ, His eyes gazing directly into mine, and I hear his His voice: “Will you also go away?”
I see Him, my Lord and King… my God who humbled Himself to be a man and to pour forth His own blood til death… my Lord who strangely, wonderfully remains close not only in spirit but in flesh… He who created and maintains the universe, He who governs and provides, He who alone is supreme and sovereign… and He asks me whether I will go or stay!
And I realize there is only one right answer. What can I really do or say, except to echo St. Peter: “Lord, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life; and I have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God.”
Who is this person I’ve become?
A Catholic, a Christian, a disciple, a subject, a devotee… Bewildering.
Oh. All of these seemingly self-evident and non-surprising realizations. All coming about at once. I feel like I am at a threshold, a turning point, a break-through, a spot where the rubber hits the road. I don’t feel trepidation about it. I assume it’s just “one of those Catholic things” that comes along in all our lives. Just part of growing and becoming a more mature Catholic. Gosh, I feel a little like an adolescent again!
I’m sure that in another four years, I’ll probably look back at this and snicker at how dumbstruck I was and how it was really nothing compared to what would come about afterward. Who knows what I have to look forward to?
The important thing to take along with me is this: As long as I am at my Lord’s side, I am where I want to be and who I want to be. Without Him, I am nothing, and nothing matters. I would rather be in a desert with Him than in luxury without Him. I’d rather walk in His footsteps than sit pretty on a worldly throne.