I don't suffer well. I rarely suffer alone. Suffering in silence for someone like me is virtually unheard of but that is what has been happening for over a month now.
The silence is deafening and ABOUT TO END.
I love Jesus Christ. I accept Him as my personal Lord and my Savior. More importantly, I accept the teachings of the Church He founded. I do not try to change anything to suit me. As a result I have lost friends and family because I made the decision that what is in the Bible is the Truth - Jesus is Yahweh moving among us, He founded a Church and He gave that Church His Authority. It is guided by the Holy Spirit.
I have weathered the sexual abuse scandals. I have watched perfectly lovely people walk away from the Eucharist because the Church told them stuff they did not want to hear about how to live life and I have watched otherwise good Catholics twist themselves into moral pretzels to support political campaigns that fly in the face of Catholic Teaching.
The past two years have been an amazing technicolor dream show of Catholic infighting and name calling - the "I am a better Catholic than all of you because" wars have been hilarious and sad. Through it all I have stood my ground and refused to jump on any one person's bandwagon. I believe Jesus and He said The Church will withstand the onslaught of demons and political intrigue and people who are more Catholic than the Pope.
Through it all my parish in the Central Valley has been an oasis of peace in many ways. Oh look, we are not perfect. We have goof balls and slackers and people who think they know everything here too just like any other group of humans. However, I have been seriously in awe of the kind of love and support I have received here. Outside of my 12 Step program I have never seen an organization like my Parish. We are One. We are Holy. We are Catholic and we are Apostolic.
And then there is that one guy.......or gal.....
You know the one....This is the parishioner who knows everything, can spot a liturgical abuse from 150 yards in the dark on a foggy night and answers any and all questions with a twenty page paper complete with quotes and footnotes from obscure Vatican documents written by Popes in the 12th Century. This is the woman who won't talk to someone who admits to be post-abortive because she is unsure if they have done proper penance. This is the man who calls every woman, "dear" in that condescending tone that makes your skin craw. It is the old lady who scowls at the woman holding a crying baby and the old man who freaks out a young girl wearing spaghetti straps in the summer while he wears Bermuda shorts with sandals and white socks to Sunday Mass. It's the pursed lips and the shaking heads and the people who otherwise make it seem that being a Catholic means towing to the letter of the law rather than loving Jesus Christ and the Church He founded.
I am a Rules Girl. I love knowing what to do and then doing it....and I love being able to poke fun at my love of rules and regulations. I am a Liturgy Girl. I love a well Sacrificed Mass with a beautiful Choir and perfect participation. I will never be a Charismatic type waving my hands in the air and shouting out 'AMEN' when the priest says something during the homily I like - though an occasional, "damn straight, father" has been known to escape my lips at the wrong moment.
Because I am an Alcoholic in Recovery I know how dangerous it can be to become too caught up in the minutia. We can never forget why we are sober in the first place. If we do we are in danger of losing our sobriety.
I can see that kind of 'only the details matter' thinking causing the same kind of trouble for Faithful Catholics as well. If I become so bound and determined to school my brothers and sisters in the Truth about how they are to walk, talk and breath I may miss the opportunity to show them how walking, talking and breathing a Catholic Sacramental Life is the best way to walk on this side of the veil.
This does not mean I overlook abuses or agree to shortcuts. I defend and explain the Faith when called to do so (often to other Catholics) but how I do it has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. I think (hope) I am more effective today. I think (hope) that when I talk people listen more. I KNOW (for sure) that I no longer hear every question put to me about The Church as some sort of personal challenge. If someone disagrees with me, they disagree with me. If someone walks away from me, they walk away from me. It is what it is and life goes on.
Damage I did years ago when trying to evangelize still haunts me. I know I will never be able to repair that damage. I pray that the Divine Physician do the repair and that someday I can stand in the pew with those I drove away by my own bad behavior. Until then I accept that my time in Purgatory will be spent there because of this very damage I did and my hope lies in the mercy and forgiveness of God.
Maybe what I have learned can be summed up this way: I have learned to love without making others hate. Anyone who takes offense at me today is doing so because an honest error was made - either on my part or on their part - and not because I have purposefully made them feel attacked or uncomfortable in order to make my point.
Today I hope to pass on to the children of my parish the ability to be Catholic Out Loud. I also hope we can begin to teach them that doing so means loving the unlovable, smiling in the face of insults and bearing pain with dignity.
I better be able to practice what I preach.