Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Acceptable Time

This blog doesn't precisely have the largest readership. Fine. Two family members. Two or three friends. An occasional drop-by, mildly curious or misdirected or just coming to plug their own blog and leave. And – alright. Que sera, sera. All that's to be found here are the poor results of my waiting, praying, and seeking. There's no brilliant apologetics; no scintillating commentary or deep insights into the nature of faith or God. Just one quiet record of one Catholic's fumbling experience of those.

I began writing shortly after Easter, with grandiose notions but no clear idea of what the purpose would actually be; lately, I've been reading back, to see what patterns have emerged. Since Easter, I've entered into – the best I can describe it as is a time of preparation. Whatever God is calling me to, right now it's for me to step back; to say I'm not ready yet (and how!); to, through His help, be made ready. Right now, it's for me to simply wait on Christ and trust in His grace, and now and again write down aspects of that waiting. Advent as a liturgical season is over; but in another sense, my life is an ongoing Advent season.

This past year has brought me to realize, among other things, the impossibility of forcing faith - not faith as a matter of intellect, but faith as a response to God. It's as hopeless a task as forcing a flower into blossom is. All that can be done is to provide the right conditions – good soil, water, and light - and then wait. Some flowers bloom in early spring, others not until autumn. Each needs the same basic conditions; each is beautiful when it does bloom; but it remains that each has its own time.

In that it is a response to God, faith is not familiarity with a collection of doctrines, to be pulled out and referenced as circumstances warrant. Those can be learned - and should be! - but they are not the heart. At its heart, faith is an encounter with a Person, Jesus Christ; and no one else can make that encounter for you. No one else can substitute their own experience of God for your lack of such; no one else will be drawn to God for the same reasons as you; no one else will have exactly the same experience of God as you. The role of the Christian is to guide others to that encounter and make introductions, so to speak – and then, very often, to step back and out of the way.

That stepping back, in humility, is very much a part of the charism of the Missionaries of Charity. By seeking Christ in the “poorest of the poor”, they cannot help but show Him forth – in their deeds, in their joy and simplicity of heart. (Ye olde 'frozen finger on the back of the neck' is not beyond them – but from love of neighbor!) Following Mary's example, they merely and always point to Christ. Anyone drawn to Him through their example is directed to a priest; they do not directly convert anyone. It is not their place; it is not their spirituality. In that I have them to thank for much of my spiritual development of late, neither is it mine. It's as humbling as it is difficult – but for a frustrated polemicist and point-scorer like me, it is much, much the better.


mithluin said...

Hello. Just a random person dropping by. Most likely, you know my sister. I am at the very least local, so I have enjoyed reading some of your accounts. I have not yet visited the MC house in Baltimore (I work in the area), so perhaps I should some day.

Margaret Catherine said...

Life in Baltimore is never boring, that's certain. :) Who is your sister - since I highly doubt my earlier guess?

mithluin said...

Hehe, nope, the earlier guess is not correct (though my niece is a baby). I have two sisters, and meant the one here in Baltimore, not the one in NC. She went to Stuebenville,(as a nursing student a few years younger than you though), and knows the group in Catonsville. So, I figured you have probably crossed paths. Her name is Brigid; she likes to do mission work in Latin America.