Wednesday, 15 August 2007

My Story Pt 5: Attraction-repulsion and other Christians

I would like to pick up on a couple of things I've already been through a bit and answer some question Karen -Gem of the Ocean has asked.

I had looked at so many things, arguments, stories and practices in my search for the True God-for the fullness of Truth. A lot of what I tried out was because I met people who introduced me to it, but also because of the way it was dressed up so to speak.

New Age practices are marketed with vibrant colours, posters, gem stones, fabrics. It has a kind of identity with it. There are incense burners, chanting music, stained glass and candles-sound familiar?
Those of us who get into it, get into it because it speaks to something within us. The symbols are real to us.
Our churches ditched the bells, smells, chants and colours and so we went for it all elsewhere.

Modern storytellers understand this and their tents and sets use the same imagery. It's just plain and simple human psychology.

Now Karen asks this:
"But why do people leave? Is it because of what someone DID to them, and they see the Church and its people as hypocritical? Or having tepid faith to begin with, they seize on these incidents as an excuse to "not bother?" I've never expected people in the Church to be sinless - it's unrealistic - and I do believe the Church is a hospital for sinners. And I can't deny John 6 - "Where shall we go?""
I think a lot of people do leave because of what has been done to them. When we are fragile in faith and ignorant of a lot of it we seek the face of Christ in those who claim to be Christians. Be aware of that brothers and sisters in Christ. Many people are NOT going to turn to Scripture to see the Bride of Christ and see past you to Him-they are going to see you and whether He has made you into anything.
My directionlessness and confusion came because I was never shown Christ. I saw cruelty, meanness, spite and hatred-and this from people who basically made it clear they were good holy Catholics with what my friend calls a 'get-into-heaven-free' card.
Once you have a strong faith, know God and know where His Church is-then these people are simply people to pray for. You shake your head and walk away perhaps, but the damage they do to those who are ignorant and frail in faith is deep and long lasting.
Sr Mary Kate was the face of Christ in my life. Her gentleness and real holiness helped me see what Christ could be in my life. I've known her 30ish yrs now, so I know some of her frailties, but I tell you she has never done anything that has truly hidden the love of God.
I stopped going to Confession. I saw those who were being vindictive go to Confession and continue the behaviour-most often on the same day. Then something else happened with Confession where a desperate plea for help was brushed off.
I just couldn't see the point in it.
It wasn't just an excuse because I couldn't be bothered. It was a protest because of a growing level of anger.
Later, once I was safely back in the Church I experienced another one of these 'holy' Catholic people who were actually pretty unpleasant in behaviour and attitude-but with the bulwark of faith under me I was not so unprepared.
Despite what was done-God kept shining a light for me. He sent people who shone their own lights and I could see them and follow.
God works through the people he sends and I think that is why Christ is so strict about those who are stumbling blocks for others.
My friend who has lapsed-yes, she makes 'excuses'-but the damage done to her by other 'holy' people is so great I am surprised she attends any church at all. I am grateful that she does.
I have had to learn that the Church is for the sick. I still find it easier to forgive those who are not Christians. One thing I think about being wounded, is I know I have been a sinner (and still am) but I know a lot of what I did was because I did not have the benifit of Christ and His Church in my life. So I expect those who say they have to be better-far better perhaps-than me. That's the problem. It's one that I am still working on.
Wounds take a long time to heal. It just doesn't help being told to "have faith" or "trust God" or not to make excuses...or whatever other pull-yourself-together-in-a-Christian-sense.
The people who helped me, were just there-acting as Christ like as possible and often, they were silent.


PART 4 just below


gemoftheocean said...

Thanks so much for sharing all of this about your faith journey. I guess I was very lucky to get graced with a mother who was very strong in the faith. I think one of the best things she ever did in bringing me up, was to say "I'm sorry" when she did something wrong. [Which was seldom she was wrong...but I think even the best of parents say things in a moment of anger they don't mean in a heated moment of "parenting."] My dad never did. I've often wondered where my faith would be today if both parents were like my dad in that way. Not to say my dad was a mean, evil man or anything. He did have a lot of good qualities...but that "sorry I was a jerk" was just not something he could do. I finally after many years "resolved" my issues with my dad (there was more than just that) but it took a long, long time...and I know of at least one friend who prayed for me for years (without me being conscious of it) when I told him I had come to grips and was able to really forgive my father. My friend was relieved, and happy.

Like I say, I was never tempted from the faith due to John 6, and my belief in the primacy of Peter

I'd have to say the one thing where my faith gets a work out is finding and keeping good confessors. I've always had a problem going to someone I know well...just psychologically -- it's easier for my to "Get started" and just lay it all out by going to someone I don't know outside the confessor/penitent relationship. I will never go to those "penance service" things again - I've found them inadequate every time. and I've had two bad experiences in the past where Father was just NOT "having a good day" and rather took it out on me. That last "bad time" was a good 15 years ago, but it still haunts me. It was at a penance service and fortunately another priest was there to pick up the ball father A had dropped. But it still gives me the rattles and haunts me to this day sometimes.

I wish all priests would remember that sometimes when a person asks for confession, to realize that that person may not have been for some time and it has taken them a lot of courage to screw up the guts to ask for confession...and if they are made "gun shy" it might be a long time, if ever if they go back.

I don't know where I'd be if that one priest hadn't have stepped up to the plate.

I suppose the "scariest" prayer we Catholics say is the Our Father:
"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" ought to be the most frightening and sobering thing we say daily. i.e. if I am unwilling to forgive, when the Almighty is, what does that say about my relation to Him? I have been good with "dropping" things where the person was angry and did something really maddening, and came up after and said "sorry I was a jerk" I can even handle it when I know someone knows they were guilty, but you can tell they have a hard time admitting it, but are clearly trying to make it up to you. I'm not one for holding grudges...and I think I'm usually pretty good saying "I was a jerk" too.

But I have to say, I still struggle with people who KNOW they were in the wrong, and clearly don't give a rat's behind about it, who intend to do MORE damage.

I can pray for them...and wish I could forgive them, but I'd be lying if I said I always can/could.

Usually, I try and avoid people like that, as I find them "near occasions of sin." But sometimes that's not always possible. I mean you can jolly yourself along by saying "maybe this person's character is so ill-formed that they honestly have no idea they are doing a grave wrong." But it's hard. Does God "forgive" people who aren't sorry? -- I know God is always willing and open and would if the person sincerely asked ...

anyway, enough rambling, and thanks for posting your journey.

Karen H. -- San Diego, Ca.

John Kearney said...

This is a very interesting post. When I was young I was the whizz kid going about tryint to convert people. I knew all the answers and all people had to do was listen. What I did not appreciate so much was that I was also part of the message. and that I had to understand what was stopping people turning to God, what their pain was, and how much help catholic doctrine was in the healing process. What they needed was spirituality not a catechism. That is where the unspoken word comes in, just a friendly word of encouragement, someone who is always there, someone who has something that others lack, and you may not even be able to pinpoint what it is. This is the journey an awfu lot of people make to the Church. God bless you White Stone Name Seeker and thanks for encouraging me in my blog.

White Stone Name Seeker said...

Confession is so important. I think the 'incident' was because the priest did not want to address anything. He just wanted to give a quick absolution to a child's little sins and say "Go and say a Hail Mary" -but instead he got a plea for help.

The Our Father is such a powerful prayer (well it would be). I couldn't say it for years.

You make a very important point, we are part of the message.

God bless

Philip Andrews said...

It's been a wonderful experience reading the story of your pilgrimage. So many of us have very full stories of our own, with ups and downs, but are sometimes not too keen about sharing the details. Yours has been an inspiration. Thank you.