The grotto behind the church

I told a priest I was so tired of the Catholic Church. I told him I wasn’t leaving, and I wasn’t apostatizing. (Where the hell else would I go?) But I was so tired.

Every encounter I had with Catholics lately seemed to have nothing to do with anything Jesus taught us. I was really rattled. It was murderously hot, and I was sweating and agitated, and full of righteous anger. Sick of the Church, and with good reason.

And he laughed at me. This old, old man with brown, placid eyes waved away a mosquito that floated by his face, and he laughed gently. Birds sang and tears leaked into my mask. We were sitting on benches outdoors, where a safely socially distanced confession could be heard, in front of a grotto for Mary. It was a place I had forgotten existed.

The grotto is a cool, dim spot behind the church, surrounded by trees. It smells of pine, and there are weathered benches grouped around, so you can sit and pray. It turns out they built it because a young boy insisted he saw Mary there. Did he? I have no idea. There is no record that I can find, other than a plaque mounted on the little stone shrine below the statue of Our Lady.

I had to admit, it was a place of unusual peace; a good place to calm down and recollect myself. I had forgotten it was there.

“You know, Jesus said the Church will last until the end of time. The gates of hell won’t prevail, you know,” Fr Bill said, smiling.

And do you know, I had forgotten this. I had fallen into thinking that Jesus was sort of trapped at the center of a clotted tangle of Catholicism, and that as long as I wanted Jesus, I would need to prove myself by fighting my way through that ugly, irrelevant tangle to be with him.

But that’s not really how it is. Jesus doesn’t just sort of put up with the Church, the way you or I put up with pointless rules and regulations before we can get our license or our permit or our degree. He’s not just with the Church because the Church is the hoops you have to jump through. The Church isn’t going anywhere, and its deep and ancient goodness, truth, and beauty are unchanged, changeless.

But sometimes we forget what we have, when we have the Church.

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5 thoughts on “The grotto behind the church”

  1. Strangely I’m not ready to leave the Church but Iv’e maybe only had one socially distanced confession this entire pandemic and haven’t been to Mass in months. That’s not for lack of desire..just that myself and my baby have to be very careful during this time. I am glad I found you here Simcha. I’m beginning to work on my blog too. Feel free to follow on here. I’m a noob but I am definitely ready to do what I was made to do; WRITE. Thank you for this post that gave me great hope today.

  2. Honestly, I really am ready to leave the Church. Have been for a while now. Even before the pandemic and the closing of churches. And if I hear “What about the Eucharist?” one more time I’m going to scream.

    I’ve tried, I really have. But it’s all rules and rules and you better follow the rules or you’re going to Hell. There’s no mention of Jesus as a real person but rather as a cheap door prize made cheaply in China by slave labor. And if you want to know Jesus, you better follow those rules perfectly and all the time and maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe in three hundred centuries you might get a quick nod as he’s walking on his way to somewhere more important to meet with more important people than you ever will be but really you shouldn’t even be in the same universe as him. But a relationship with Jesus ? How Protestant and that just makes you a heretic so get out before we bring back burning at the stake just for you. The only “relationship” you need with Jesus is the Eucharist and you better be going to Confession every single day because you’re a woman who is seducing every single man even those in Hell and women are such harlots and need to know their place and be under the thumb of a man.

    I’m great at rules and following. I thought following rules would make my mother finally love me. It never did. And she really like to tell me that God sent girls like me to Hell. Bad girls like me to Hell.

    So yeah, I’m ready to leave. Maybe I’ve already left. Not that anybody will notice.

  3. I very much share your frustrations. That’s why I love your blog. You demonstrate that it is possible to be a faithful Catholic and still rise above the pettiness that sometimes occurs among faithful Catholics. it’s easy to lose sight of that.

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