Why do I still go to church?

The other night we had friends over for dinner. A bit of a disagreement or difference of opinion erupted, mostly because of my reaction to what one of our guests put forth. I fear I came across badly, but my reaction told me a lot about myself. The friend was so in awe of The Eucharist — which he proceeded to proclaim in the most magical terms of changes to physical blood and flesh. This is sort of description of The Eucharist that a) creeps me out, b) makes me angry because of what I perceive as a juvenile magic trick mentality and c) just seems so foreign to what I understand Jesus to have meant when he instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper.

I have to do some deep searching within myself to find a better way to respond. Displaying the anger and the snark are not particularly helpful, even if they do reveal to me some strong emotions that I usually keep packed away. It’s sort of the “Why don’t you tell me how you really feel?” approach.

I’m thinking that I react so badly because others with this mentality have in the past called me heretic and tried to restructure my [malformed] conscience. I must remember that the blessing in those attempts was that I dug deep into my faith and found another dimension that was previously hidden. I searched for the meaning of the Cosmic Christ. I always come back to the reality that the Eucharistic mystery is a lot of why I am RC instead of being a part of another Christian communion. The magical approach, to me, obscures the absolute Wow factor that the Creator (God) chose to become one of us and show us that we are not alone, that we are loved beyond measure and that all of creation (bread, wine, animals, trees, rocks and volcanoes) are a part of this. I think to the words “Fruit of the field and work of human hands” — we work with God/Jesus/Spirit to create the elements that bring the reality of Love to our lives and give us a way to say “THANK YOU!”

Christmas is ongoing – day 7 now – and I am still reeling from a Christmas revelation that if we as Christians truly believe that God loves us so much that He chose to be one of us we would light the world on fire in a good way. If we accepted that it was done with the cooperation of a young woman/girl and a trusting spouse we would see that we MUST cooperate. We must trust. We can’t judge from the outside. We must love the out-of-wedlock mother, the immigrant fleeing to find safety, the smelly shepherds and the kings/wise men in our midst and on our borders. And, we say “thank you” when we receive the fruit of the vine and work of human hands.


The Comma: Being and Doing

I read the numbers and understand that so many of my generation, and even more of those who follow behind, no longer attend church or ascribe to a particular faith. I, myself, while still attending mass on a regular basis, find that I feel estranged in many ways from “church.” It’s not estranged from God/Jesus/Spirit, but from this whole organized church thing. I find much peace, strength and connection through yoga, and reflecting on daily emails from CAC (Richard Rohr’s daily reflections) and from a small group of women who meet weekly to share our walk through life.

There was a time when “church” was a center point in my life. I’ve learned much, loved much, grown much through Christian community. Ah! That might be it — What I can’t seem to find in church these days is Christian Community. Perhaps I have simply withdrawn.

Recent reflections from Richard Rohr have brought to my attention “the great comma” in the Apostle’s Creed. In the creed there one says “born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate.” That comma is Jesus’s life here on earth where he walked among people and showed the way. I’m far more interested in the comma than what comes before and after. The birth and death, to me are not nearly as useful to me as what came between. One can certainly state (and believe) the words of the Creed (Apostles and Nicene) but never be transformed by the example shown in the comma.

I think the Church and society would do well to dwell on the comma more that the phrases around it. For example, when I come to my yoga mat for a practice, the focus is not what faith or creed I might follow. The focus is on the present: how does this body feel, am I anxious, just be in this moment and see where I am. Be. Listen. A good instructor (with a small class) can give pointers on alignment without judgement about how bad you are for not being in the best alignment. Encouragement to shift a bit closer to the goal if your body allows. Oh — and acknowledgement that people are built differently and will not all shape up the same way. Wow! What if the church took that approach?

What if the Catholic Church changed its tune about Communion? Maybe viewing it as Food for the Journey that should be offered to all who desire it? A gentle touch to help one get into right alignment? A chance to be in the Presence of a great teacher who showed the Way instead of a reward for checking off all the boxes of belief and external behavior. Something to receive when one is lost, or unsure as well as thanksgiving for the gift it offers. Then, perhaps, there would be a place for healing and transformation and a new way of looking at the world.

As John Lennon might have said: “you say that I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one…”

Let those who have ears…

I admit that I struggle with “the Church” and with the apparent ideologies of parts of the church that I deal with… like the Cursillo Movement. I admit that I struggle to be inclusive, to remember and love these entities that I struggle with, even when we diverge on interpretation, or when I feel like I have moved on and I have shed some of these ideas. I admit that at times I do think I am more advanced or a bit superior. I’m not, when I look closely and honestly at myself, but I do struggle with those tendencies.

Last night I listened to a couple of talks at a Cursillo School of Leaders. These were well done, and well researched. The women who happened to be talking had put time, effort and thought into these presentations, and both admitted that the preparation had caused a change of mind and/or heart in themselves.

I listened to the words and a couple of things struck me:  First, I was hearing with different ears. Same words, but very different meanings to me. That means I heard things I had never heard before, even if I had heard the same words proclaimed. One of the ideas that has been voiced is about being fully human. I’ve mouthed those words, but mostly they were a mystery to me. I hear words about “something superior to this world” and I bristle… until I begin to understand that what I seek is superior in as much as it is more, beyond, a unity of the physical world we see (and touch and hear) and the Spirit  or power that animates not only humans but all the world. A unity in the universe.

The other thing that struck me was the simplicity of “method” talk and how the speaker shared her journey toward a better understanding of “the method.” She talked about “Make a friend, be a friend, bring that friend to Christ” and how the goal was “Bring a friend to Christ” not “Bring a friend to Cursillo.” That might happen that one would bring a friend to a Cursillo weekend, and that would probably be a good thing, but that is not the goal. Even before that, she reflected on what it means to make a friend and be a friend. I kept hearing the words to an old song “What a friend we have in Jesus…” as she spoke.

I’m listening with new ears. I’m hearing the same words and moving to a different understanding. If I truly believe that God is everywhere and in everything/person/creature/plant/situation, and that the same holds for the Body of Christ, then I’m approaching this idea of sharing the Good News differently. I only need to witness to the Love that is Lord of Heaven and earth and be led by that light. I don’t need to judge. I don’t need to worry that someone else is responding incorrectly. I can let go of the need to be “right.”  I am free to evaluate the results of actions without judging the person.

Maybe those are the ears Jesus was referring to… for now, I’m going with that.

Right time, right place

I am often amazed at how life works out. Sometimes, it’s just that you know that a lot of pieces are coming together in a way that indicates that there is a higher power running the show. One example is how I came to be involved in FAMVIN through what seemed almost a chance meeting on the internet. FAMVIN didn’t even exist at that time, and now I’m in up to my eyeballs, and I met some of my best friends through the process. Who knew? (Well, I’m inclined to think Someone knew.)

Another might well be the circumstances that ended up in my leaving on parish and moving to another. I’ve written about that before when I tried to transcribe a witness talk I gave for an Ultreya meeting a few years ago. It was an occasion of losing my parish and finding my church.

And now I have a sense that it’s happening again. A young Ugandan priest who thought he would be going to Chicago this summer finds himself here in east Alabama. True, he’d like to raise some funds, but more importantly he shares himself, his dreams and his faith. He is on fire in a rather quiet, but intense way. He has a vision of way to try to help his country now and in the future. He realizes that he is here, in this place, for a reason and he gracefully and joyfully tries to understand this American culture and share his own. It’s even more amazing to me that a part of the way he got to this spot was an email contact with a young man in a nearby city who happens to be a good friend of my son-in-law.

So, I watch the Spirit breathe on us. I try to see what, if anything, I am called to do in response. This world is so much more than it seems on the surface and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future will bring. And I’ll keep Fr. Michael on my prayer list.

Body and Blood of Christ

I wish I had recorded the homily Saturday night — I keep trying to review it and remember the wonder of the words. The feast of Corpus Christi – the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. A reflection on just what that means.

As I attempt to comprehend another “body” that I belong to comes to mind…

I am an Auburn grad. I left and came back to work at the University 24 years ago. One could see Auburn as the buildings, the grounds, the town. That’s not what the word means to me. It’s more than the physical plant. We are a body: those of us who are a part of “Auburn” share a piece of our lives with each other and with the whole. On TV, you see football (or baseball or maybe swimming). But that’s not quite it.

My mother used to observe that just saying the word “Auburn” would evoke a faraway look – that there was something special about the place.

We worked and/or studied together. We shared ourselves. We travel all over the world and when we see the telltale signs ( a ball cap or a logo on a t-shirt or a car tag) most of us look at each other and say “War Eagle!” We represent the school in all manner of things and we identify with it. We follow our sports teams. We represent the school in our work, our research and in our trying to convince new, young recruits to join us. We even have a creed. Look around the campus on a Saturday afternoon in the fall and you see folks gathered for tailgating – just to be in the same space with each other (there are far more tailgaters than game attendees – and that’s a lot of folks.)

And how does this relate to Corpus Christi? The Body of Christ is so much more than just the human who walked the earth – more than his bones and muscles and blood. That man is the linchpin, but he commanded us to “take and eat” – to join in this Life. One would never expect a University community to be willing to do anything it took, including death, to show its love for us. But he did. When we celebrate this Body and Blood, we remember that we are a part of his body, that we are his body for all the world to see. We are many parts. We have different gifts. We are a part of his body. Each of us important. We come to the table: caucasian, african, asian, latino (and any combination),wealthy, poor, healthy and infirm, academically gifted and not so great at school and we stand as equals. We know that he is with us and we join him. One can only hope that when we see each other in the world, and see the telltale signs, that we too are called to greet each other with “Peace!” and we are called to show this to the world so as to encourage new recruits to join us.