Have had an interesting week. We are in the process of moving and I'm nesting pretty bad and only a few weeks away from having this baby, so I'm pretty tired, hormonal and overwhelmed. In fact, can't remember the last time I was this tired. But I'm realizing the importance of staying positive, remaining optimistic even in rather dire and irritating circumstances, and giving myself space to just relax and not get bent out of shape when things seem absolutely impossible. In the end, God's will be done.
I wrote a letter to the Parish liturgist at the beginning of the week about some of the things which can be construed as liturgical abuses and some of the things which result from just plain sloppiness that seem to be a norm in our parish, which is something I had never done before. I don't like to "Stir the pot" in my public life and I am not one to think that I'll change much by talking about stuff. In it, I tried to lay a foundation for the message I was bringing by giving my testimony-- explaining why, for this protestant-turned-Catholic, it was crucial that we not lose sight of tradition and our Holy foundations, that we not turn away from the three things which make us different from protestants... Unity, Authority, and the Sacraments.
I haven't gotten a response from him yet, but I did CC the Pastor. I then typed it up on facebook and tagged some friends who I knew would be interested, which turned out to cause a HUGE ruckus because there were so many of the Parish's members who shared a friends list with my friends and who, as a result, read my note and were outraged. I say "outraged" because in true liberal manner they didn't hesitate to open their mouths and tell me what they thought about the issues raised in my private letter, as if I had asked, and continued by insinuating all kinds of wierd things about me.... like I was disrespectful (of who? God? by requesting that we be less sloppy about mass? of priests? By requesting that we give them the honor due their position?)
Anyways, what a hullaballoo, and now I see that all sorts of people are "talking" about it in the Parish setting. So here's the thing. This is the first church we've been at where we didn't feel compelled to try to "climb the social ranks" and impress anybody. We have a priest, we don't need to impress him, and thusfar in our Catholic experience, our priests have been like family to us.
Outside of the men in black, we have a circle of intimate friends whom we share our life with-- people who GET what being a Catholic is all about and who diligently strive to receive all that God has to give on a daily basis. Outside of that, we have focused our ministry as a family and learned to exert whatever energy we have left on that, leaving not much room for Church potlucks and fundraisers. That's not our scene, never has been, and quite honestly, it's refreshing that, for the first time in our lives, it doesn't have to be. The authority in our Church comes not from the social elite but from the Vatican, and thus we are in good, safe, and wise hands. I am fine with the fact that people are bent out of shape, and I"m fine with the fact that I said what I thought. I do believe I spoke the truth in love, and when I later second guessed myself and went Church-document hunting to see if I had said anything inappropriate, I discovered that my CLAIMS, as far as what constitutes liturgical abuse, were perfectly accurate according to the Vatican.
But all the drama has caused me to stop and think. I know that my letter will not change a thing as far as the liturgist's heart and mind goes. I also know that he is FULLY aware of the direction he takes in the choices he makes, and that he makes these choices with a purpose in mind-- the exaltation of the laity and the squashing of the clergy, thus removing those three pesky things I mentioned above which keep us Catholic and not protestant: Unity, Authority, and the Sacraments.
This has made me all the more determined to pray for priests and to respond to the needs of our priests in every way that I can. And I find that the more I'm willing to do that, the more opportunities God sends my way (and my husband and children's way) to minister to priests, who need it!
I was given one such opportunity today when a visiting priest and I had the opportunity to grab lunch. We had wanted to get together because he had studied in Rome as a seminarian and specialized in Carmelite Spirituality, which gave us an instant bond, and he was, as he said "trying to get it from his head to his heart." Boy, do I relate to that. But in the process of our lunchtime conversation, I ended up being on the receiving end of some of the most profound spiritual direction I have ever received.
With regards to this particular letter, he simply reminded me ever so gently that at the end of the day ALL I HAVE IS PEACE. I could not let anyone steal that from me.
It is only by-- as I always say-- being the change we want to see that anything gets done. He reminded me of the need to recognize that change is a SLOW process- sometimes taking entire decades, and that there is much healing and reconciliation required always to mend rifts where Satan has had success.
He also brought up the many Carmelite saints who recommended that even if we suffer a terrible injustice, we should bear it-- as Christ said, turning the other cheek-- because who knew what injustice we had caused in another? Thus he brought me back over and over to the central point which so many people often miss: God calls us to find UNION with Him, and does not require perfection for that union. In other words, I can respond to His great love for me without first being completely spotless, and it is in that response that I will change. And as I change, I affect those around me who also start to respond to that Love which is for them.
It was so good to be reminded of these things, and good to remember the wisdom of St John of the Cross who says how great it is to be still, and silent, and not to worry about what others are saying and doing but only to listen for the voice of God always. Thus we cultivate that inner peace that comes only from the soul who has learned to trust God because it feels God's tangible love and is overwhelmed by it's strength and honesty.
So in your own comings and goings, perhaps there is some area in which God has called you to silently bear an injustice or frustration which He SEES and will respond to, but which He asks you to stop in the midst of and receive His love, which accomplishes all things. I know that in my own life, I'm seeing time and again where I need to stop, sit, and shut my mouth. And pray.
I shared with him something which I rarely say to people-- that I am often afraid of simply disappearing. I say this because as a secular person in the world and even as a protestant, the measure of my success was the impact that I had and the visibility of said impact. How much was I published? Which prestigious papers had I worked at? How BIG was my ministry? How famous?
The Catholic way is so different. Father reminded me today that, in a particularly Carmelite fashion, we must become "little nothings."
It teaches us to grow smaller and smaller--- As scripture says, I must decrease so He can increase-- and to allow ourselves to hide in His wings. There, resting, we find so much love that we realize we have not vanished but actually become One with the breath of life that flows through everything. And this-- THIS-- is Union and perfection. Nothing less.
Praise be to Jesus Christ, as the Carmelites say. I know where to find perfect love!