Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Beyond Reason?

I'm not one of those Catholics who has a crucifix on every wall, statues of Mary or lacquered plaques of  Jesus gazing into heaven, praying in the garden or knocking on someone's door in the middle of the night. I don't have religious poetry or saintly sayings on my refrigerator. I do have a plaque with scripture on it that was gifted to me years ago. I do have a couple small crosses & a single crucifix. I have an icon of Mary that I found at a thrift store for two bucks.  I have a print of a stained glass window, a pair of praying hands from my grandparent's house & a couple rosaries. I even kept my palm frond from this year's Palm Sunday. Since I think most religious paraphernalia is downright gaudy (not to mention pricey), I don't typically invest in "new" things... unless its a Bible. Right now I have 10 different versions that I've amassed over the last decade. Why, you might ask? Well, there are subtleties in every version. I'm attracted to the narrative rhythm of some & the textbooky, "just the facts, ma'am" approach of others. Most of all, I'm curious to discover how various people have interpreted it through the years. Changing times & culture have a tendency to affect our understanding of things we were once so sure of...

This weekend, I started to entertain the idea that maybe I had made a mistake with this whole Catholic thing. Do I really believe I'm in danger of hellfire if I don't go to Mass? Do I really have to go confess that sin to a priest? Do I really believe the wafer & wine become Body & Blood at any point in space & time? These are all questions a dear friend of mine & I began to discuss when she suggested I'd gone overboard in my pursuit of religion. Terms like "O.C.D." &" addiction" stepped into the room like criminals in a lineup. She was certain they were the perpetrators. When I asked how she came to her conclusion, she didn't mention any of my Catholic stuff or beliefs specifically. She instead pointed to my collection of Bibles.

I can't deny that the Psalmists & the Prophets have become bosom friends over the years. Their prayers have become my own... their songs, my songs... their cries, my cries. The history contained in the Bible is mine too. It shows me what I'm made of; the good, bad & the ugly. The stories of discipleship & betrayal are mine... the hopes & fears & stupid mistakes the twelve made are mine as well. But there seems to me no greater purpose than to pursue Christ with the life I've been given. I pursue through the scriptures, through the community of the church, through the attempt to maintain my faith on a second by second basis. Its my understanding that this world & all the stuff in it will pass away, so I have little interest in pursuing the temporal. My head & my heart are elsewhere. Is this O.C.D.? Is this addiction? I'd be interested to know how the psychiatric community would analyze the disciples, church fathers & other saints. Would they have diagnosed them as sufferers of O.C.D. or addicts of religion as well? I have a sneaking suspicion they probably would.

If the pursuit doesn't change me (or those around me) for the better, then damn it all to hell. But if I'm being challenged, transformed or renewed in some small way (& that somehow leads to other's lives being challenged, transformed or renewed), then maybe the pursuit isn't as crazy as some make it out to be.

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