I went for Lauds at 6:35 AM and made it just in time. Very nice. No communion, but prayerful. A surprisingly intimate group for a Sunday it seemed to me. I thought to leave, knowing of a sudden that what I love and am made for is the mixed muck and glory of a neighborhood Parish - but I stayed for Mass. It was a packed house. Well enough - Communion wonderful, tearful as always. Then I got pulled into a retreat group by a kind-hearted fellow, met the RCIA contingent, listened, then went home. So, these thoughts before I write poetry.
I have been given the grace of belief, that the Lord is present in the Sacrament. I can add nothing to this belief that is not fully expressed in the belief, except to confuse you or myself. Wherever I attend Mass, I receive the body of Christ. I may visit the chapel and worship the body of Christ, which is present in the sacrament. I may stop at a shrine and, inspired by an icon or relic, an image or touch of light, I will worship God, I will worship the Holy Spirit, I will worship Christ.
Belief, after all, is utter and immutable. It is not subject to change, it cannot be improved, not by experience, not even by thought. The belief I had in God as a child has not changed. I may have found ways to express my belief more fully or so that they suit other aspects of my life better, but the beliefs, they do not change. Concepts held as beliefs that change - these are opinions. They are subject to supposition. Someone who purports to have once "believed" in God but then "changed their mind" has done just that. Their opinion has changed. May God bless them, I say.
The visit to Mount Angel Abbey was frustrating to a certain degree, in that the people I spoke to viewed it as a place of deepening a relationship that can never be deeper than to say, I believe in the Holy Spirit. We give ourselves over to this belief - but then, variously, or for various reasons, it can be termed a thought and, as a thought, it becomes subject to comparison. "Jesus Christ," you hear, "is present in your life right now."
Like other things - more than other tings - yes, I see your point, and I thank you. Perhaps it is my epistomologically conservative nature, preferring scripture to commentary (a secondary to tertiary source), as I believe that absent sacred reference, only an individual can say for themselves where or what Jesus is, and only by belief. When I say, I believe, I do not say You believe, and I cannot afford to say, You must believe, or worse, You should believe. I have nothing to do with what you believe anymore than I am fit to "loosen the sandals on His feet." In short, as Catholics, I believe we have two references we rely on. The Bible and our ministers who, as Christ's representatives on earth, we trust to speak the Word in a manner that is faithful to Christ on earth.
And so, if you were to stand me up and demand that I tell you what I know about God or Jesus, I would say first, Forgive me, but I know nothing. I only believe. If you asked me what I believe, I would recite the Apostle's Creed. If you asked me to tell you some details, anything, to support my belief, oh, I could tell you a few things I have experienced, but they are in the nature of mere facts. I know enought to know that I am not fit to draw a line for others to adhere to or even perceive, however willing or sympathetic they might be. I would tend to want to sit down and look over scripture, perhaps. I mean, what can I say in the company of Paul except, to suggest that we read Paul?
It has been an interesting weekend. I can say, I have had the honor, much to my constant, effervescent dismay, of being a reader at my Parish, and as usual or has been the case it was an emotional and startling service. I can say I have insight into the politics of the Church and my liberal leanings that I did not expect to realize. I am a little happy to say, I think I have my perfect "Catholic" (i.e. paradoxical) solution, which is, I believe in the sanctity of life and I believe in choice. I believe in both as both are gifts of God. To live, to choose to live. This position I can imagine would infuriate a reactionary - How do you vote? I hear him cry. I vote my conscience, I reply. Abortion is the law of the land, and in any event I support a woman's right to choose as that is a gift of God. I support distribution of condoms at public schools as an act of Charity - but principally, when I hear people getting so heated over these issues I smile and ask myself, given that we are trained in eternities, has it really been so long since God walked among us and showed us how to love one other?
Like I said, I met some RCIA folks (from St. Joseph's in Salem) and - there he was among them. It seems that he was a seminarian for five years when younger and he asked me is I was attending the seminary! What a joy. I had never seen anyone absolutely prostrate themselves before the Host in a chapel until today. What a great guy. Well, I promised to visit St. Joseph soon and I will. St, Joseph is one of my patron saints as it is and has been very helpful, I think, though one can never be sure - with the certainty of fact - where the help is coming from.
I should know something more on May 20 when I help with the Pancake Breakfast at St. Stephens.