OH MY I can't calm down. I find myself so dead, too dead, to even care about those things for which I used to SCREAM and GET RILED. I am a passive, more gentile person, but also a bit of a bland oaf.
THIS is what I care about. This matters to me.
It occurs to me I should give a brief personal opinion - an explanation, if you will, of what makes me, a skeptic and a cynic, a) a believer in any God at all and b) so interested in Catholic Dogma and such seemingly far-fetched Catholic stories/traditions/beliefs as Medjugorje.
a) "PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE"
An admittedly simple concept, this is one I could never grasp as a child and teenager raised strictly in (and often in fear of) the Catholic Church. Like most Irish Catholic families, mine never really read the Bible. Jesus and his story were forcible, required folklore, and other Biblical stories, even the most "crucial," were vaguely outlined but requisite TRUTHS.
I never bothered to question - I was terrified of my Father and this looming notion of "DAMNATION."
I was Catholic. But only incidentally.
When I was seventeen I moved to San Francisco, a ginormous (sic, shut up), intimidating city, and I felt really alone. I developed neuroses that made me beyond miserable and the only thing I knew to make such things go away (my mother!) was obviously not only an obsolete option but also a recognizably ineffectual one.
Church - the ritualism I always detested, the formality that seemed SO feigned, the archaic ceremony of it all - it unconsciously slipped into my mind. After a few months of refusing to go simply because my father wanted me to, I wanted to go. At the time, the desire seemed so out-of-place, so arbitrary, and so distanced from what I "needed" or "should do" that I was actually willing to do it.
And I fell in love.
( My childhood churchCollapse )
St. Cecilia, the neighborhood Cathedral I miss SO THOROUGHLY these days, reminded me of the ULTRA-MEGA-CREEPY, ancient Catholic missions my father rather abusively insisted we attend whenever possible. I was SCARED of kneeling, of chest-thumping, of LATIN. But without the implicit terror imposed by my familial insistence, I sort of loved it all - the almost cult-like ceremonialism, the poignant beauty of the unification in prayer, the endearing modern cling to old customs, the simple but profoundly TRUE repetitions.
Of course, no small part in the equation was the permeating beauty of a REAL church, something I'd barely known as a child.
All of this was nice for me at the time. It was a tremendous comfort. But I still doubted God beyond belief, and though I loved the images and the folklore of Catholicism, I didn't really believe in much of anything.
By (almost) chance, I ended up transferring as a student to St. Mary's college. It was complete happenstance; I didn't even really want to go there. Circumstantially, it was perfect. Religiously, I worried about the legitimacy of a Politics degree from a religious campus.
I could not have been more fortunate. St. Mary's was not only exactly what I needed academically; it renewed, or perhaps established for the first time EVER, a true faith in God.
I took an introductory Biblical Literature class during my second semester at SMC. The instructor, she clearly announced, was NOT Catholic. Her objective was primarily historical: she wanted us to understand each chapter of the Bible in its proper CONTEXT. Her secular approach to this subject could not have been more spiritually enlightening for me.
ANCIENT ISRAEL, I learned, awestruck by the simplest of concepts, was responsible for the material contained within the Old Testament. Though quite arguably DIVINELY INSPIRED, the BIBLE in its entirety is composed by hundreds of authors, each with a distinct HISTORICAL, SOCIAL and PERSONAL perspective.
OH MY. I had never stopped to consider this.
Ancient Israel had ANCIENT ISRAELI laws. This, a seemingly tiny revelation, had DIVINE implications for me. Ancient Israel's authors wrote their divine experiences, including LAWS as they applied to THEM and their culture. Just because ANCIENT ISRAEL believed, for example, that wearing blended fabrics was a damnable sin does not mean that in our time the same applies (meaning polyester pants are not damnable, even if they should be). I realized that cultural relevance HAD to apply to even the HOLIEST of texts, because
PEOPLE ARE NOT GOD AND CANNOT SPEAK FOR GOD.
These revelations continued in various parts of my life, boiling down to an obsession with language and this eventual conclusion:
IF GOD EXISTS (and I believe "He" does), HE IS BEYOND ACCURATE, FINITE HUMAN DESCRIPTION. How can something divine be quantified by some contrived series of sounds and vocal vibrations? Or the haphazard formations of characters we call "letters"?
PRIESTS who behave badly are, in MY opinion, entirely damnable. But THEY ARE NOT GOD.
The authors of the Bible, though perhaps/likely divinely inspired, DO NOT SPEAK FOR GOD DIRECTLY.
I can go on, on, on about this (and if, for whatever masochistic reason, you want to hear more, comment and I will email you).
It comes to this, a conclusion you might chose to see as a copout, but one I see as my most significant and life-altering realization:
I UNDERSTAND THAT I CANNOT EVEN BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND "GOD."
This gets me past the old man on the cloud, the ominous image of a sinister Satan upon a cloud of smoke waving every time I tell a lie.
This stops me from abandoning this concept of "God" as even feasible just because I can't intellectually accept that Jonah was literally eaten by a whale.
This allowed me to realize, for the first time EVER, that people were INTELLIGENT before the approach of the 21st century; that writers even 983247893289324 years ago understood the significance of METAPHOR and LINGUISTICS.
b) CATHOLIC FAITH accepts and pronounces the aforementioned concepts like no other Christian faith does.
Additionally, Catholicism is the most ancient, archaic and traditional Christian faith.
The first point is incredibly important to me. Catholics are seemingly under constant scrutiny, accused of "worshipping" Mary, of "idolizing" Saints. Though both conceptions of the faith are off-base, I find even the overly simplified perceptions vaguely endearing.
First, Catholics do not worship Mary. Please read this, as it explains things far better than I ever could.
The same, or SIMILAR, goes for the veneration and adoration of Saints. (these links mean the world to me.)
I LOVE learning about and understanding the Saints. I do not pray to them SAINTS are PEOPLE, but PEOPLE to be held in high esteem - each has accomplished many admirable deeds. I do not pray to them, but occasionally ask their intercession - as I might a podiatrist in the matter of a foot ailment. Most Saints devoted their lives to something in service of that which is DIVINE. I have not achieved this. While I do not consider Saints GODS, I consider them experts (for lack of a better word) on their particular divine service. I am NO divine servant and can respect deeds in fellow humans - in fact, these are easier to comprehend than elusive divine concepts).
As for Medjugorje, my opinion will be brief: I am no visionary but believe so strongly in the Divine Motherly influence in my OWN life that I have to keep my mind open, at least for curiosity's sake, to the possibility of a feminine Divine Intervention.
Mary comforts me - I DO feel Her presence, but even on a mere superficial level: In the intensive care unit, literally on my death bed, the thought of an ever-present mother (and all of the comfort and care that word implies) helped me VISIBLY improve.