Catholic.

Well, the die is set.  Catholic.  I have been Catholic for over a week, and there is still a bit of unreality about it.

I am convinced this sense of unreality is residual, as the Easter Vigils mass assured me that my entry into the Church mattered.  What was and still remains a bit of a mystery to me was fully embraced and accepted as Divine Reality by the Church, my sponsor, my priest, the sacrament, and most importantly by the Trinity:  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

In being loved, we are made lovable.  In being loved, we come to know Love, and can thus return it.

If I am being nebulous in my words, forgive me, but please understand.  How is a man, previously walking in the darkness of himself for many a long year, supposed to react to an anointing of chrism in a suddenly lit cathedral, a new name echoing that of a patron saint who is pleased, across centuries and geography, to lead and guide?  How react to a comforting hand on the shoulder by a good friend, who now also stands as guide into a holy communion?  Why the embrace from the priest, the smiles and congratulations from a new family?

Do they know what is happening in your heart?

A Queen bids you to come hither.  You bow respectfully, awkwardly.  You lift your head to see Her open arms, inviting you into Her embrace as son.  Muffled in her holy robes, you could stay there forever.  You look into Her eyes; they are wide and teary with joy, and provide a mirror for the Person behind you.  You turn, and now embrace a Risen Christ, who laughs and laughs, showing His mirth, which echoes through the kingdom.  He gazes around at the million others who have made the same step as you, holy warmth exuding, Sacred Heart pumping, and cries out “Come to the table, the Feast is set!”

You kneel, receive, feed, feast.

Glory be.

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Belloc on the Catholic Church

“But we are of so glorious a company that we receive support, and have communion.”

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Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953), contemporary and great friend of GK Chesterton, minced no words in his conversations with detractors of the Catholic Church.  In a letter to William “Dean” Inge, an Anglican priest, he is at his usual pugilistic best.  However, in the midst of his parry and thrust with Inge, an emphatic statement of the Church is made which, in ringing true, touches upon a note of humility, both melancholy and glorious.  Belloc admits, in this passage, that no true peace is self-made, but comes through communion with others and with God.

“For what is the Catholic Church?  It is that which replies, coordinates, establishes…Here alone is promise, and here alone a foundation.  Those of us who boast so stable an endowment make no claim thereby to personal peace; we are not saved thereby alone.  But we are of so glorious a company that we receive support, and have communion.  The Mother of God is also ours.  Our dead are with us.  Even in these our earthly miseries we always hear the distant something of an eternal music, and smell a native air.  There is a standard set for us whereto our whole selves respond, which is that of an inherited and endless life, quite full, in our own country.”

In terms of my conversion to Catholicism, I know what I am drawn to, and thanks be to God, it is not some whim or personal imagining.  It extends beyond the selfish and the immediate.  Let me put it this way:  Catholicism is so far beyond a sense of instant gratification, like 99.9% of everything else in my life and our present culture, that it hearkens to a peace like no other, and one that is outside the self.  And yet it is offered to us without reservation or hindrance.  A gift.

For that, I give humble thanks.

St. Francis de Sales

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Today is the feast day of St. Francis de Sales, bishop and doctor of the Church, and in a tie currently with St. Philip Neri as my confirmation saint.  Both saints have a wonderful measure of humility and humor about them which I find refreshing and worthy of emulating.

St. Francis de Sales is close to my heart as he suffered anxiety as a young man, something that has plagued me for many years.  There is a strong theme of a “come as you are” which runs through much of St. Francis de Sales’ writings, an acknowledgement both of our fallen nature but also of the kindness of mercy of our ever-loving Father, who loves every single of our faltering steps toward Him.  St. Francis de Sales also warns us about beating ourselves up too much with regard to our sins.  Here is a letter he responded to on this subject .

Dear St. Francis de Sales,

I want to be holy, but I am a total failure. After I have committed a sin, I get so disappointed and mad at myself that I can hardly think about anything else. I’m never going to be a saint, am I?

Signed,

Hopeless

Dear Hopeless,

What would you say to a friend who had sinned? Would you tell him to wallow in misery, or to get up, brush off, and press on? You must be as gentle with yourself as you would be with others.

It is self-love that is disturbed when it sees its own imperfections. Do not yield to the vanity of punishing yourself unreasonably for your faults. Rebuke your heart mildly and calmly, with compassion, correcting it in this way:

“Alas, my poor heart, here we are, fallen into the pit we were so firmly resolved to avoid! Well, we must get up again and leave it forever. We must call on God’s mercy and hope that it will help us to be steadier in the days to come. Let us start out again on the way of humility. Let us be of good heart and from this day be more on guard. God will help us; we will do better.”

Note the kindness he admonishes us to have toward our own hearts!

St. Francis de Sales, pray for us!

 

The Near Country

“God knows I don’t set up to be good; but even a rascal sometimes has to fight the world in the same way as a saint” -Captain Patrick Dalroy, The Flying Inn, by GK Chesterton

The road to conversion, I believe, often starts with a good,  hard, clarifying look at the world and the man in the mirror.  It’s not so hard in this day and age to see how darkly is the glass (to awkwardly paraphrase St. Paul).

I got this kick in the shorts many years ago, and now am within sight of the walls of Rome, set to enter the Holy Catholic Church during Easter Vigils in just under six months.  The Far Country has become the Near Country.

Welcome to Flying Inn to Rome.  More than a century ago, Cardinal Newman, the great leader of Catholicism’s revival in England, said, “I want a laity … who know their faith, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it and who know enough of history to defend it. I want an intelligent, well-instructed laity.  My hope is that every Catholic will be able to articulate their faith in convincing and intelligent ways, and show by their living example the compelling truth of the Gospel and church teaching.” (quote source)

At times I find it very hard to articulate this enormous pull, attraction, and call to home of the Catholic Church, but I hope and pray that this space will enable me to do that better.  Like my allusion to Chesterton’s Flying Inn, however, and apropos to this postmodern, confusing age, I pray that these entries will avoid the stodgy, the heavy, and the overly theological, and lean more towards the rollicking reality:  that this world is good, but our Fall has left us quite ridiculous and laden with the most unfortunate and awkward of baggage, and our call Home is an adventure, if rightly considered.