I opened my online version of The New York Times newspaper tonight and picked up THIS.
Evidently there's a new study, ordered by the Vatican, to investigate various nun orders. The article states "While some nuns say they are grateful that the Vatican is finally paying attention to their dwindling communities, many fear that the real motivation is to reel in American nuns who have reinterpreted their calling for the modern world." The article details what are known as "visitations" -- and what sounds like a harsh indictment of practices by American nuns that deviate from Catholic tradition and doctrine.
(Read it and tell me what you think. And now here are some thoughts, random at best but that's the beauty of the blog, I suppose -- I can throw the stuff in and let it stew.)
My history with the Roman Catholic Church is a spotty one. I was raised Catholic and attended church nearly every Sunday as a child. I lived in a large "Catholic" neighborhood and played with kids whose last names were Flynn and Geraghty and Murphy and who had five and six and sometimes sixteen (!) children. My father's parents were southern Italian immigrants and my grandmother was the kind of old woman who never ate meat on Fridays or Wednesdays, for that matter, because her husband, my grandfather, had died on a Wednesday. She wore black every day after his death, until he died. She walked around our home when she visited us for a month or so every summer with a rosary bead wound around her gnarled, rough fingers. She was an incredible cook, the stereotypical Italian fare with admonitions to mangia, mangia and then an indignant whassa matta wit you? you no eata? whassa matta? Nonnie smelled clean and neat and I remember most her rolled down pantyhose and thick shoes. When she was old she ate mashed up saltines in her coffee and smacked her lips. She could thrust her jaw forward in such a way that her dentures came out and made us run, screaming and laughing. When she made a bed, you could bounce a quarter off of it and she taught us the Lord's Prayer in Italian.
To me, she defined Catholicism and I respected her lifetime of hard work, her blind faith and even her ignorant superstitions.
The article I linked above, though, is like another shovel of dirt thrown on the dying Catholic within me. I've been digging that grave for years, now, I suppose -- despite the years of Catholic school that my sons had and going through the motions of giving them the same traditions that I had (church on Sunday, penance, first communion, etc.), I find myself moving further and further away. The conflict isn't anything immense; it's actually quite banal and it certainly has nothing to do with spirituality and everything, really, to do with the bullshit that is the Catholic church. The male-dominated hierarchy, the condemnation of homosexuality and marginalization of women. The enormous evil of the pedophile scandal and the continued obduracy of the Church's leaders regarding their culpability. It's those pointy red hats that the Cardinals all wear when they meet in Rome and their evident lack of humor when they look at each other. It's the deadening of everything that is beautiful and dynamic about faith. It's the several visits I've made over the past couple of years for pastoral counseling and the incredibly stupid responses I've received. And it's the preposterous nature of investigations like the one reported on in this article, as well as the ever more ludicrous encyclicals et al that the Church puts out, year after year after year.
Spirituality runs through me like a prehistoric vein in a rock. One of my favorite paintings is The Annunciation by Fr'a Angelico (I wrote about it HERE) and the Book of Ecclesiastes makes me swoon. I value the community right here in my neighborhood whose members are devout Catholics in the way of my Nonnie and those families with whom I grew up forty years ago.
But I can't do it anymore, push aside what I believe, what I know because of tradition laced with a guilt that is centuries old.
Grace has always been random, I think.
My own reaction to fortune is one of wonder and gratitude.
I can rail at the universe and curse the god of chaos.
I can also breathe deeply, in and out, and feel my edges blur and a hand on my shoulder, tapping on my heart.
I can sit on the floor in the dark of night with anger inchoate and then laugh like an idiot in the light of day.
Enough random thoughts. I'll end on a poem by George Herbert, one of the great metaphysical poets. I remember reading this poem in college and feeling the hairs on my arms rise at the poem's end.
|The Collar |
I struck the board, and cry'd, No more.