This blog isn’t dead, only in stasis. I’ll have plenty to say real soon.
The journey has been long, the struggle has been real. I’ve told myself again and again that I am Catholic now, and in my best moments, almost believed it.
In light of the recent extraordinary events occurring in the Anglican Communion, and their censure of the Episcopal Church, I’ve made the decision at last.
The time has come. The time has come to cut the cord, even if it holds up what remains of the bridge between me and the church that taught me to believe.
Don’t misunderstand. I love TEC. I will always love it. But the church that led me to Christ and inspired me to seek ordination is becoming a cult–a cult that worships a false Christ, a Christ TEC sees when it collectively looks in the mirror. A cult incapable of imagining even a reason to repent of its actions.
Then again, maybe the Episcopal Church is right. Maybe the Universal Church has got it wrong all this time, and that the blessing of same sex relationships, the practice of abortion and euthanasia, etc., may have been God’s will all along. But that’s the only justification TEC seems to give.
Same-sex marriage? God’s will. Abortion? God’s gift to women. Euthanasia? God hates suffering. God wills it. God wills it. God wills it.
If God truly wills such things, then I am content to be not just thought a devil, but a devil in truth.
To my Episcopalian friends: I am sorry, but I can no longer accept your invitation to worship with you. I can no longer sanction, by my presence or my participation, not only the Episcopal Church’s stance on such matters, but the prideful, dismissive way in which TEC defends it. There was no room for me before, there is no room now–and now, there never will be.
The cord is cut. The bridge collapses. May the chasm between us, by God’s grace, close until we can join hands again.
You know, I think I’d like to just be Catholic for a while.
I’ve never had to change churches before. I have no idea how to do it. I think I’m doing it wrong.
It’s not that I think I’ve made the wrong choice. Converting to Catholicism and being grafted to the true vine is the best thing I’ve ever done. I know I will put down roots and flourish here at St. Joseph’s. The problem is that it seems to be taking longer than I thought it would.
Of course, I don’t expect to get to know everyone right away; in a parish of some four thousand men, women and children, such an expectation would be madness. Nor do I expect to find my place within the church’s ministry right away, even though I intend to volunteer for the same ministries I had at St. Matthew’s, my old church, insofar as they are available. I’ve enjoyed being just another face in this great crowd of witnesses, learning by observation and osmosis those little tidbits of knowledge and culture that cannot be taught, only experienced. At least I no longer reflexively add the doxology to the end of the Lord’s Prayer during mass.
Still, I can’t help feeling that I am always behind, that there’s something I’ve missed. Sure, I’ve spent some time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, but making time to learn the Rosary has been problematic. I’ve joined the Knights of Columbus, but up until last Sunday’s pancake breakfast I haven’t been able to connect with everything else they do. I’ve been going to confession, but I seem to bring the same old grocery list of the same sins every week.
Sometimes, I feel like I’m always not quite “there”.
Some clarification is in order. I didn’t join the Catholic Church because I wanted to be Catholic. I didn’t join the Catholic Church because I wanted to look or feel Catholic. I joined the church because I believed—and still believe, and always will believe—that it is true, the way a straight line is true or the way that big black arrow on a map points true north. The truth will make you free, I remember reading Someone say. I’m more than okay with that. It’s just that the truth isn’t easy.
Sometimes I wish I could go back. Sometimes I wish I could turn back time and take the blue pill, remain comfortable and cocooned in my always not quite real Christian life. That’s what I wanted more than anything. I would’ve been content. I would’ve been happy.
But I wouldn’t have what I have now, which means everything to me.
Am I doing it wrong? Maybe yes, maybe no. Neither here nor there. There is no “there” there. The absolute worst part is seeing for the first time that there never was. Not for me.
I don’t know. I’ve never changed churches before. I never want to do it again.
Once upon a time, I was a postulant to Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church.
I received my call on a sleepless summer night. Oh, I had toyed with the idea for some years before, had run it past two priests who served my parish and was rebuffed, but though the exact date and time escapes me, I can say for certain that this was the night I received The Call. The night remained without sleep until the earliest light of day.
A month or so later I came away from a meeting with our newest parish priest wondering just what had happened. Discernment with a parish committee followed, then admittance to aspirancy. Imagine that: I, who had been a Christian for less than ten years, was on his way to becoming a priest in the church of God—as I understood it then. Baptized, married, confirmed in the space of a year, and now this. I was on one heck of a fast track.
I doubted, still. How could such a thing happen to me? How could God want a lifelong reprobate like me? These and other questions kept me awake all throughout those months of being an aspirant. Then the questions became accusations, and the accusations became open mockery of my humanity and dignity, and the mockery became curses the likes of which I’d never heard before, even in the most terrible times of my childhood. It was here that I learned what a superb ventriloquist the Adversary could be.
At my examination for admittance to the posutlancy I was asked which biblical character I identified with most. I picked Job, for I knew what it was like to be caught between two powers fighting for supremacy over my soul. Months after the examination, my bishop asked me to wait. He didn’t say no, he didn’t say yes. He asked me to wait. I accepted his decision, knowing it was correct. But I looked out over the lunar landscape of my spirit, and saw an airless, cratered battlefield, wondering who had won.
Months later, after a short meeting with my bishop, I was admitted to the postulancy. My faith in a rational universe vanished.
I doubted, still. My postulancy had opened doors to all kinds of ministry opportunities, not least of which preaching, for which I discovered something of a small talent. I enjoyed my time as a postulant as I had little else. But the Adversary had not been driven away, and new concerns filled my mind about the direction of the Episcopal Church and God’s new thing. My wife was resisting, too, and I’m sorry to say I behaved abominably toward her in my pursuit of ordination. The battle within, and over, my soul raged on.
The Adversary is an excellent ventriloquist. I persisted, following the call, the one thing in my heart I knew had come from God. I gave what I could, but it was not enough.
On an afternoon in May, the bishop rescinded my postulancy. Two hours before, as I waited for the bishop’s call, I heard another voice in my heart telling me that no matter what the bishop’s decision was, everything would be all right. I received his decision with sadness, but without sorrow and without regret. I would be all right. God told me so.
The next day I was re-examining everything I’d been through, everything I’d learned about God and about myself, and thought I’d done something pretty amazing for a lifelong atheist/agnostic/heathen.
“Yeah, I know,” said a voice inside me, clear as a May afternoon. “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I have never in my life wept as I did that day.
Yet I doubted, still. My faith was changing, and the more it changed, the less Episcopalian I became. I had wanted nothing more than to take that summer off from ministry, return to my parish, and serve God and His people faithfully, joyfully and honorably for the rest of my life. I had won the only reward I ever could have desired, and that was enough. Or so I thought. I began reading about the Catholic Church, and what she taught, and comparing what she taught to what I was coming to believe and what I had been taught to believe.
I was received into the Catholic Church on the Easter Vigil of 2015. I had no choice.
That beautiful if chaotic night, as I received the Eucharist for the first time—indeed, for the first time ever—it occurred to me: I had been ordained.
Not as a priest, no, of course not. But ordination, as I had come to understand it, produces a permanent change in the person on whom it is bestowed. Ordination is ontological; it changes one’s very being. I am still a new Catholic, and I may be mistaken in the particulars, but isn’t that what all the sacraments do?
I had been confirmed, yes. I had received the Eucharist in the fullness of Christ’s body, blood, soul and divinity, yes. Had I not been changed, in some permanent way? Are we not all of us, the laity of the Catholic Church, ordained into the priesthood of all believers at confirmation, and even at every Mass? Are we not all of us transformed not only by the sight of Christ incarnate among us, but by the feel and taste of Him upon our lips and upon our tongues? If not, what are we missing?
So, here I am—not exactly where I expected my call to ordination to lead. And yet I look back, as I did after the end of my postulancy, and see all the questions and answers fall into place like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, revealing the big picture. I am where God has been leading me from the beginning. I am an aspirant no longer. I am a postulant no longer. I am where I belong, still seeking ordination—and receiving it with every sacrament. Like Job, I have been justified and rewarded. The battle is over (until a more opportune time). My soul is a garden again. I doubt no more.
I am a fully ordained, perfectly ordinary layman of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, and I wish to be nothing else.