It was not a representative of the Church that wounded me, but someone else, a long time ago. I want to tread very carefully because I cannot know what suffering other people have endured, and I would not presume to tell anyone else what to do. All I can tell you is what I have experienced.
The other day, I realized I wasn’t angry anymore. It’s taken many years to get here.
There’s such a thing as deciding to get over yourself, and remembering that the Mass is not about you. But we can also understand our own limitations, and work with them. You could make the case that it’s all right to leave one parish and find one that suits you better, even if you don’t have impressionable children.
The other night, I was having a mild panic attack in the middle of the night, and I dealt with it this way: I breathed in while thinking, “I don’t know what’s going to happen next,” and then breathed out while thinking, “But I place my trust in Jesus.” I accepted my ignorance and my uncertainty, and I reclaimed my knowledge of the one true thing that will always be true, which is Jesus Himself.
It got me through that one bad night. But there has not been a single second in my life when that was not an appropriate prayer.
Image via Max Pixel (Public Domain)
This is the conversation she wants to have with an archangel: Let’s talk about my Son, because it’s personal.
There’s that downward gaze. So much better than rolled-up eyes! It’s a good look, on Mary and on all of us: that personal, intimate, “You’re real and so am I” connection. That would be a good posture for all of us to adopt for the rest of Advent: Look to the ones who are closest to us.
Image: Adoration of the Shepherds (detail) by Gerard van Honthorst [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]
The Church doesn’t say, “Oh, well, no one should have to swallow a bug, so let’s just say that, if there’s a fly in there, it’s not really Jesus’ body, blood, soul, and divinity. Do what you like.” No. But neither does she say, “If you really, truly believe in the sacrament, then you have no other choice. Down the hatch, or you’re out.” She makes allowances for our humanity without denying Christ’s divinity. She is, in short, incarnational all the way down.
Image: By Aravind Sivaraj (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The one thing all these priests had in common: Someone had made the idea of being a priest seem reasonable. Someone had said, “Have you ever considered being a priest?” or “Wow, you sure look like you want to be a priest!” or “Face it. You’re gonna be a priest.” Someone had asked the question.
Image by U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Ashley Tank via Mountain Home Air Force Base
If it’s wrong to gorge on cookies and electronic toys on December 25th, it’s also wrong to gorge on cynicism and criticism in the name of Christ.
This impulse, this drive to name, categorize, and find meaning in every experience, is the hallmark of a rational creature. We do not want to be like witless crickets, singing and leaping our way through the world, taking seasons as they come and then one day mindlessly coming to an end ourselves. We are made in the image of God, and that means we know there is meaning; and so we want to know why things happen. We want to know what our lives mean.
But sometimes, we can’t. Sometimes we are passing through the moor, on our way to a strange and new life we would never have chosen for ourselves. We cannot name what we see in that great expanse of dark. And it is normal to, like Mary, simply decide we do not like it.