Confession (How appropriate!): If you noticed your local Target was fresh out of Elmer’s yesterday it’s because I was GLUED to CNN’s coverage of the conclave and following Papal announcement!! There’s just something about the way Wolf and Anderson can so smoothly transition from the Presidential Election coverage to Pope Vote 2013!
I’m Presbyterian but have found myself a part of several professional and academic Catholic communities during the past decade- whoa! In the last few years I was able to work with an organization under a group of supervisors that included a priest. Thanks to his dedication to our supervision, I had the chance to really stretch my understanding of service, health, and spiritual development in this time. Along with being one of the most intelligent people I have ever met he is a strong advocate for children, imaginative and innovative therapies, and continued education for mental health professionals.
I remember during my second interview for the position he asked me how I planned to continue growing and learning as the Spiritual Development Coordinator. I responded with what I thought was the answer, “I will make sure to take time and space for my own spiritual development. I’ll pray and write and do yoga and breathe and drink special tea and go on silent retreats-” He stopped me, “What about what you’ll do with the stories the children share with you?” I looked at him curiously, thinking I had just explained. “I will tend to myself. Make sure it doesn’t put a chink in my spiritual development. I’ll take time to heal.” He continued “How will it affect your work?” Was this a trick question? “It won’t! I’ll still be able to do the job-” I remember he had been leaning back in his chair for most of the conversation. Now he sat up, put both arms on the table between us and said, “I’ve heard this before and yes, I think these things are important. However, I want to see you let these stories CHANGE your work. I want you to leave some room. I want you to be open to more than what’s on your agenda.”
I was so embarrassed. I thought, “I’m such a noob. I’m such a noob. Noob, noob, noob, noob, noob” and I was right. Fortunately, I guess, it was better to be embarrassed rather than defensive because surely enough, my priest was on point. The best work happened when there was some space for whatever the kids brought in with them or when I left lessons half finished. I took to heart the idea that a big part of individual and/or collective spiritual development requires a growth interaction, whether that be an unexpected challenge, a mistake, something frustrating, something inspiring… These most often require some sort of community in order for them to take shape.
I’m much better at silent retreats and journaling and ringing my little meditation chime. Sure, these things need a time and place. What needs more time and a bigger place though is the actual hand-in-the-dirt, heavy lifting, out of breath work. The kind of work that makes the talk walk and transforms faith into more than something “in the clouds” or “on the wind.” The kind of work that includes small steps and big pictures (winkity wink.) The work of love in translation.
I made a point to not return to FaceBook yesterday after seeing a lot of anti-Catholicism posts starting up. It reminded me that some of the people I most admire for their work in the fields of spirituality and religion sometimes make this kind of criticism a sport. I’m completely guilty of doing the same (as Marc gives an “Amen.“) I get so frustrated when the Protestant Christians with the biggest bullhorns make the rest of us look like loud-mouthed, judgmental, idiots. Then I go and judge others, forgetting that every faith fights the stereotypes. I’ve met and come to know so many people of the Catholic faith who are just like me: trying to help their faith and church grow into the issues facing our world now.
It is not OK that so many denominations of Christianity still hold tenets in direct conflict with the most important truth of our faith, that God is love. And we must continue to grow towards living out this truth in our churches and homes and selves. But when we throw the words “God and love” together we start to feel good and easy. This conversation is anything but easy. It’s a difficult, grinding reality. It is easier to walk away from religion and God. It is much, much harder to stay and be a part of the conversation.
There are so many people working diligently to once again, reform the reformed faith community through these conversations and I know there are Catholics who are also dedicating their lives to making sure the language of God’s love is translatable in the world today. While we all do this let’s go beyond playing nice and make some real strides towards approaching one another with more graciousness and generosity. Let’s leave some space for our best work to happen together.