I write this on Easter Sunday, 2010.
I have been thinking about my stormy relation to the Roman Catholic church, which I joined in 2003 for quite some time.
As a lifelong Protestant (Lutheran) prior to my joining the church, I have struggled with the hierarchical nature of the church almost since day one. I don't know that I'll ever resolve that struggle from an emotional or an intellectual level.
I cannot defend what happened now, nor can I defend what happened shortly before I joined in 2003 (the sexual abuse scandals that rocked the Archdiocese of Boston). I cannot try to defend the Vatican or Pope Benedict XVI or any Bishop involved. In my opinion, they show themselves sometimes to be so far out of touch with what the average Catholic is thinking, and the teachings of Christ, I just cannot believe it.
All I can do on this Easter Sunday is to continue to do what the Apostle Paul instructed me to do in Philippians 2:12-13: "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure"
What drew me to the church was not the Vatican, or the Pope, or the Magesterium, or the hierarchy, or anything like that.
What drew me to the church were prophetic, hard working men and women. Some of them known, some of them not well known. Some of them Saints, and some of them on their way to being saints. Some of them, not ever destined to be saints - at least within the formal canonization process of the church.
People like Saint Francis of Assisi. Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. Saint Maximilian Kolbe of Auschwitz. Franz Jaggerstatter of Austria. Thomas Merton. The Patron Saint of my Parish, Saint Therese of Lisieux. Mother Teresa of Calcutta. And so many more, including good people I've met in my faith journey.
I could post the reasons why I was attracted to these people's lives and actions, and how that related to my finding a home in the church. But each person has to find these people for themselves.
The people mentioned above, and the work they did through the ages was important. Their examples helped me to enhance my faith, and gave me good examples of how to live out my faith. But, they didn't do it for themselves. They did it for what the church is really about. The central figure of church history. Jesus Christ.
He is the true focus of my faith. I hereby reaffirm that on Easter Day 2010.
Last night I went to the Easter Vigil at my parish. The Easter Vigil is traditionally the Mass where those who have been preparing to enter the church are brought into the church. Last night we had one person come into the church. He was baptized last night, confirmed, and had his first communion.
As I looked around at the people, people who I know, people who I worship with each week, each of us watching a person come into the church, I realized that THIS was what it was about.
Each of us living our faith in a community of faith. Struggling to deal with the sin and ugliness of the world, and sometimes the sin and ugliness of those who are entrusted to be our leaders and teachers in the faith. Being perplexed about it, being angry about it, and sometimes being incredibly sad about it. But also dealing with beauty, and the greatness of the faith.
It is a gift in having those rare moments like last night, where you get a sense of what it is all about.
I realize that my words here are grossly inadequate to explain it all, so I'll close with a great quote from Dorothy Day:
"We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community."