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Tuesday, February 25, 2014
As a former member of RCIA, and lost on an ocean of shipwrecked souls, I approach this season of Lent with a different point of view than before.
In the few short months I was in RCIA, I learned that Catholics do not fornicate outside of marriage, they don't lie, and they welcome sinners as one of them all. Really? The reality escapes the ideal.
Perhaps in another church will be found those who walk the talk, or at least the acceptance of imperfection? Then I thought some more; I thought it over—this apparent incongruence of reality and the ideal is in every Christian church. That it should be more obvious amongst the devout leads to the realization that hypocrisy springs from the human heart when moral demands are too great for the flesh. I would say the flesh is willing but the spirit is weak.
A moral dilemma dogged the very roots of our faith in the mystery of Mary and the virgin birth. The villagers would have stoned her had Joseph not put her away privately and fulfilled his vows to protect her. Their marriage is not recorded other than to say Mary was "espoused" to Joseph when she rode her way to Bethlehem where the babe was born.
All Christians were Catholic before the Reformation. William the Conqueror, the "Bastard," was Catholic. Entire countries remain dominated by the Catholic faith. Yet human nature hasn't changed.
I learned something interesting in RCIA, that this world is not the end and heaven nor hell are not guaranteed. There was no mention of Purgatory, but when my first husband died unbaptized in 1971, I was sure at that time, at the age of 26 years, that he could work out his salvation in another realm, perhaps with my help as a believer on this world. I had no basis at the time for this belief. My son died in September 2012, an unbeliever, and I know he's in the Light of God. How do I know? I don't think it through. I feel it, and know it must be right, because it is right.
Because God is Love and, as a good father, He would secure a second chance. He gave the people of the Earth a second chance after the great Flood, when he framed the earth with a rainbow as his promise. David, the adulterer and murderer, was "a man after God's own heart." Jesus came out of the line of David and Bathsheba, to give us the greatest promise this world has ever known.
The Catholic faith is not a closely guarded secret, but many have slipped away, and many Protestants believe in untruths and half truths about the original Christian church. Mary remains shrouded in mystery and superstition. The usual meaning of Mary in Hebrew is "bitterness" from "myrrh." Myrrh, of course, was one of the gifts given by the Wise Men to the holy child, and myrrh was also used as perfume and to anoint the dead.
I'm divorced. If I married again, in the Catholic church, my second marriage would have to be annulled, though perhaps not, as my second husband died many years after I divorced him (no correlation there!). What a tangled web we weave. How is it possible to annul a relationship after the fact, simply to comply with an ideal? How many Catholics attend church piously, while not living within the tenets of the church? And how may I judge them?
I belong to no church, but someday this shipwrecked soul will rejoin the priests and sisters of the Catholic church with a new spirit of freedom, but a familiar and old spirit of rebellion.
A priest once told a parishioner, "If you attend a church that requires you to leave your intelligence at the door, run." You can count on that.
God is Love. It's unlikely that Jesus was born in December. We celebrate anyhow, Christians and non-Christians alike; we are one world at that time. A global village. Mary, you pondered these things in your heart. You thought things over, and you didn't respond immediately to emotion.
The laughing face of Mary is one I long to see on an icon. Why does Mary never laugh in the ideal Catholic world? I think she does. I think her Son throws back his head and roars, because the reality is much more amusing and profound than the ideal.
My son met his father last year, the son who succumbed to an aggressive and cruel form of cancer, and the father who rode his motorbike too fast in the rain on a winding road 41 years ago. Neither beloved of mine was Christian, neither beloved was ideal, but both were treasured by God and man, and both are mine to meet at some point in the future when I, too, am in the Light and able to work out my salvation.
This I believe.