Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Sometimes (frequently, actually), I wonder why God pushed me in the door of the Catholic church as opposed to a mosque (I was living in the Middle East just weeks before my conversion), a synagogue (well, there is that ethnic thing), the Orthodox church (the only church in which I had spent any time due to the spiritual events in the lives of the scads of friends, colleagues, and employees in my world who are Russian Orthodox), or a Protestant church (considering that I was born into and grew up in an exclusively WASP community).

Over time, I have learned that God is pretty smart. He knew exactly what I needed: mystic spirituality and spiritual discipline. Both are pervasive attributes of the Catholic church that I have come to appreciate.

Only with increasing experience have I learned how blessed I was that my beloved Fr. Barry, then-director of our local St. Francis Retreat Center, was simultaneously serving as the interim priest at Old Mission church when I began RCIA. The combination of Franciscan spirituality and 50 years of priesthood gave him the perspective needed to help me accept and begin to understand my repeated mystical experiences. (Full understanding is not likely ever to come, not as long as God remains a mystery, and I am willing to accept that.)

The second attribute, discipline, has turned out to be equally important for this free-spirit product of the '60s. First, there is a centuries-old history of exegesis, mysticism, spirituality, and role-modeling of the walk with God. Although we may rebel against the catechesis of the church where it does not match our own precepts or makes us uncomfortable about some aspects of our lives (e.g., see my post on Anne Rice, Recooked on 100th Lamb), but we cannot but admit that they are carefully considered tenets, worked out by many faithful believers over many centuries and based on the principles that Jesus gave us at the beginning of the Common Era, the years of which those of schooled before the 21st century counted as anno domini. Over time, the Catholic church has put an order to the days and to the hours of our spiritual lives that I find refreshing and comforting. It is indeed a healthy discipline. Would that I could find time to allow myself to be disciplined more often!

One of the great blessings of Catholic discipline for me has been the daily Mass. Although I am always greedy for as much time as possible with God since I missed out on so many decades, I cannot attend every day. Work requirements preclude that. I do attend whenever I have a day off from work, and I mark Wednesday and Friday noon hours, the days that Mass is celebrated at a chapel near my office, as "do not schedule" on my calendar. My admin assistant tries carefully to keep those times sacred. She succeeds 80% of the time, and my afternoons on those days have a special feel to them as I bring the Presence that is in the Host and after the Eucharist within me back to the office.

Yes, indeed, God knew what He was doing when He pushed me in the door of the Catholic church. I am and eternally will be grateful.

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