Friday, March 21, 2008

Spirituality trumps dogma on Good Friday

For kids in Catholic School, the best thing about Good Friday (circa 1961) was that there was no school. While public school kids rotted at their desks, we were free to play ball or (if snowing) sled or wage Holy Week snowball wars. But that was after we attended church to pray the stations of the cross and feel really bad about Christ’s crucifixion. In the dark and dreary church, the citizenry was swathed in somber clothes and the air reeked of incense. It wasn’t too unusual when an old lady broke down in tears at the sight of Christ on the cross. To a wise-ass ten-year-old, this was a very long day. Only when the stations were completed could we go home and cut loose.

The sorrows of Good Friday gave way to the joys of Easter. Sure, we had to go to church again, but it was to celebrate Christ rising from the dead and an Easter Egg hunt followed, as well as chocolate bunnies and then Easter dinner with the relatives. It didn’t matter if it was cold and snowy because you knew that spring was coming, and after that summer. Easter marked the change of seasons and the return of (mostly) sunny days.

I no longer do the stations of the cross, as I’m only nominally Catholic. I attend a United Methodist Church with my wife Chris and daughter Annie. My parents and Chris’s parents are spinning in their consecrated graves. Chris’s father was the grand knight of the Knights of Columbus chapter in Ormond Beach, Florida. His K of C Hall was the site of our wedding reception in May 1982 after we were married at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church (yes, named after Ireland’s St. Brendan the Navigator). We were both raised Catholics with all the attendant sacraments. I won the K of C "Mr. Catholic" savings bond when I graduated from high school in 1969.

I guess I’m what’s called an "historical" Catholic. I feel deserted by the Church because it’s become so conservative in an alliance with American Fundamentalists. The last time I went to mass during the lead-up to the 2004 elections, a church deacon’s homily warned us not to vote for any Catholic candidates (John Kerry) that didn’t follow church teachings on abortion (against) and homosexuality (really against). Real Catholics voted for pro-life candidates, even if those people (George Bush) were currently killing babies with bombs in Iraq.

That was it for me.

So, since I can’t be a "real" Catholic, I go somewhere else that welcomes people like me.

My Christianity is complicated. I struggle with it all the time. I’m un-Christian at times, especially when confronted with the hatred and intolerance of so-called Christians. I’m not better than they are – I’m intolerant of them and their shenanigans. I should forgive them for their imperfections. I should also forgive myself.

I was casting about for some words of wisdom to illuminate my predicament. I found them, as I often do, on the Sojourners web site. Sojourners has a daily posting called "Verse & Voice" that featured a Biblical verse and spiritual quote from someone. Today, it was noted Christian theologian Henri Nouwen in a lecture, "The Vision of Jesus," at the Scarritt-Bennett Center. Here’s the quote:
The vision that Jesus gives us is this: That I am unconditionally loved, that I belong to God, and that I am a person who can really trust that. When I meet another person who also is rooted in the heart of God, then the spirit of God in me can recognize the spirit of God in the other person, and then we can start building a new space, a new home, a house, a community. Whether we speak about friendship, community, family, marriage, in the spiritual world we are talking about spirit recognizing Spirit, solitude embracing Solitude, heart speaking to Heart. And where this happens, there is an immense space.
Try that on for size this Good Friday.


mpage225 said...

Mike, happy Easter and welcome to the United Methodist Church, where everyone is welcome.


Michael Shay said...

Happy Easter to you and yours, Bob. I do feel welcome at the local UMC. And I've seen the commercials. Truth in advertising!