The father parks down the street from his house so as to avoid alerting his unsuspecting yet watchful children of his return. Before he slinks out of his car, he quickly scans his yard, looking for tell-tale signs that his little gremlins may have, perchance, torn themselves away from the TV and now amble about in the grass, the dirt, the playful uncomfortable-ness of The Outside. Not seeing them, he confidently glides to his front door. A force–whether natural or spiritual he knows not nor cares to examine–seems to compel him toward a destination that provides a clue or two as to his final end as a man. He slowly turns the key in the lock and, with the patience and control of the sniper he saw in last night’s motel room movie (a soulless flick, but, still, better than tempting prying eyes-free motel porn), he twists the doorknob, possibly alerting only those machines designed to pick up the slightest vibrations in the air. Inserting himself into his home one limb at a time, he spots his wife lounging on the couch, Walker Percy novel in one hand, unspecified fruity drink in the other–God, he knew that he had married her for good reasons, and now he is starting to remember a few of them. He coughs. Startled, she looks up, giggles, spills a bit of her drink, throws down her book, and, with the drink still in her hand, throws her arms around him. A bit more of the drink spills. Being that the kids will soon make the same discovery, she reserves the greater portion of her luscious welcome home for later. He knows what is coming. (Note to the reader: Oh, do not think he has not been contemplating the theology of this particular body for the past few days. Selah.) The kids, whose ears are always attune to anything out of the ordinary and, thus, fun, fly down the stairs, maybe landing on only three steps along the way. He grabs them both, one with each arm. Though this gathering does not constitute a sacrament, everything about it is simply sacramental.
“Daddy, daddy, we’re so glad you’re home!”
“What’d you bring us?”
I wish I could say that during my absence I judiciously spent my time hesitantly contemplating the ineffable being of God on a retreat or silently but studiously immersing myself in great works of theology and philosophy in my den, drinking deeply from the wells of the fathers and of the masters (as well as from my ever-ready supply of bottles). Maybe I have spent the time learning to play the cello so that I could play Bach’s “Cello Suite No.1” for complete strangers, dropping aural gold coins for their depleted beauty coffers? Oh, I know, I pumped out that sly novel of alienation meets a tenuous faith meets a trembling hope meets a pretty girl meets an incarnated love that I know lurks within me. No. No. And no.
I feel like the father who has forgotten to bring gifts from afar, even if such gifts might have been trinkets hastily purchased at an airport gift shop between terminals (and after a quick visit to the airport bar).
Instead, I have simply fought against the nameless despair often named, ahem, “nameless despair” that seems to be as integral to the air we breathe as is oxygen. I have fought to retain a faith that I, at best, hold with palsied hands. I have flirted with nihilism, and, let me tell ya, brotha: She. Is. A. Bitch.
As such, as I have left this existential house with the same coat of convictions that I brought to it, except that I have discovered little fortifying pieces of chocolate chunks of confidence stuffed into the pockets of perseverance.
I am Catholic. (Let us conveniently but only temporarily put aside the tags of liberal, conservative, neo-conservative, traditional, radical traditional, loudmouth on Internet fora, etc.) I believe that Christ founded the Catholic Church upon His designated rock, St. Peter, and that the authority of Christ still remains with the Church. Apologetics (and literature) brought me into the Church ten years ago, but this is not what is keeping me. This is what keeps me: the actual and enduring presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist. The knowledge that–nay, the experience of–whenever I walk into a church, wherever I spot the often scandalously placed Tabernacle and the faithful accompanying flame, a flame that pulses with the quiet intensity of Our Lord’s Most Sacred Heart welcoming all, I am with Jesus, and, most scandalously, he is there with me, a lousy sinner. I can step outside time, outside the a-rhythmic pulse and pace of modern life and spend a little time with my first beginning and last end, the One who endured Calvary so that I do not have to endure eternal punishment. If you do not believe that Jesus is truly present in the Sacrament, there are arguments that could be spit in your general metaphysical direction; however, I will leave that to others more focused and energetic than I. Further and more, I believe that the Orthodox and Protestant faith communities possess neither the authority nor the grace that one finds in Mama Church; grace one will continue to find saecula saeculorum. In other words: not going anywhere else.
I must confess, though I do not except absolution, that I have become rather interested in sites devoted to game (not gaming) and human biodiversity. Yes, these sites often function as a much needed corrective to the insidious, though faltering, politically correct Cathedral of pseudo & quasi-authority that would seek to impose a uniform vision of mankind that refuses to acknowledge the natural, obvious, and significant differences between the sexes and among cultures and races. Yet, what will all this knowledge enable us to do if we lack both sanctifying and actual grace in our lives? Yes, men and women are different. Yes, men are naturally inclined to lead, and, yes, women respond favorably, though frequently in opposition to their stultifying mis-education, to strong, confident, and capable men. Yes, race is more than a nifty and convenient categorical method of classification. Yes, in regard to IQ, whites, East Asians, and Jews score higher than other races. OK. In what ways, though, will this information help us to live–and live well–among individuals, not the abstractions, who come in and out of our lives if we lack the means of grace? How will this knowledge help us live with ourselves if we lack the means of grace? We ignore nature (which, as The Philosopher would remind us, is simply essence working itself out) at our peril, but, more severely, we despise the transforming power of grace to our destruction.
Fine, just so you know that I have not been utterly without movement, of both the intellectual and physical kind in these last few months, I have been faithfully adhering to my Gracie jiu-jitsu training regime. I am due to earn my blue belt next month, hundreds of arm bars, choke holds, throws, and triangle chokes later.
Also, I have been reading, skimming, and luxuriating in the following works:
Sister Miriam Joseph’s The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric,
* * Shakespeare’s Use of the Arts of Language,
Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder,
Jad Adam’s Madder Music, Stronger Wine: The Life of Ernest Dowson, Poet and Decadent,
Ezra Pound’s Guide to Kulchur,
Florence King’s Stet, Damnit!: The Misanthropes’s Corner 1991 to 2002,
Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian,
The Baltimore Catechism and Mass No. 3.
Addendum: The post title does not reflect the content of this post; I simply liked the phrase–my harmless attempt to separate form from matter.
I hear from so many that they feel close to Jesus in the Eucharist, but that has yet to develop in me. I joined the church about 5 yrs ago for what sounds to be about the same reasons, but I still limp along on those reasons I’m afraid, as much as (I say) I’d like to ‘feel’ more of Jesus’ presence.
Congratulations on the blue belt.
Hey, Todd, thanks. Oh, I definitely didn’t mean to imply (not that you inferred this) that I’ve achieved a level of spirituality that no longer needs arguments for the faith. (Heaven laughs and laughs.) I find myself constantly having to fall back upon arguments for the supremacy of the Roman bishopric, as one example, for I’m very drawn to and “tempted” by Eastern Orthodoxy. In fact, before I swam the Tiber, I had thought that I might swim the Bosphorus. I was much more attracted to (and, in many ways, still am) the Divine Liturgy and Eastern spirituality than to the Latin counterparts. Yet, I could not deny the theological and historical claims for the Catholic Church. Still can’t.
As for feeling close to Jesus, I really don’t know what to say, man, namely, because I don’t think that I personally am very close to Him. However, I will say that forcing (and it’s a struggle more often than I’d like to admit) myself to sit in front of the Tabernacle or the exposed Blessed Sacrament has an effect upon me that reading from the Summa Theologica or Dr. Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma or even the Gospels do not. Hoping not to sound too Protestant: my desire of late is to encounter the person of Christ as opposed to the various ideologies of faith that I often use as a buffer between me and a true encounter.
I think we certainly agree. I do feel very close to Jesus at various times and places, it is just that I don’t feel it in the Eucharist. I appreciate the fact that ‘feeling’ things is not a good test for gauging how things are,… er… working, but it is a little disappointing sometimes to have never really felt the presence so many say they feel in the Eucharist. But I appreciate his presence whenever it is His will.
Curious (not related to your last post): what books did you read that started you on your journey to Rome?