The Church is a whore, but she is my Mother.
If you had asked me five years ago what I thought of Catholics I would have given you a 20 minute lecture on how they’re “wrong”.
I was a proud Protestant. Grew up in the Assemblies of God church where we spoke in tongues and danced in the aisles. My favorite part about church was the child-like celebration of God…jumping around, clapping, dancing. I love all of this still and when worshiping with music on my own I still dance and shout! There was nothing ever wrong with where I was with my faith journey, nor is there anything wrong with anyone else’s. I had just gotten to a point where my relationship and understanding of God felt awkward and stagnant. I started reading, I read a lot about Catholicism vs Protestantism vs Atheism. Yes, I did toy with the idea of whether or not there was some “God” at all. I remember sitting across the table from my husband when we were out for supper and told him I’m not sure if I believe in God anymore.
The more I learned about science and religion, the more I realized it’s impossible to believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God. That the LITERAL ENGLISH translation of what we call the Bible now is the literal word of God. Once I found that crack in the mirror, I took a sledge hammer and completely shattered the mirror that represented by belief system. I started from scratch. Read scholar after scholar, re-read a lot of scripture, read a lot of the original translation, how the Bible even became what it is today. I learned about truth. How facts and truth are not synonymous. An old Native American quote sticks with me:
“Now I’m not certain if this is how it happened, but I know this story to be true”.
I believe the Bible is indeed true. Truth, not meaning facts. There might be some facts, but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t need to be taken as factual. It simply asks you to listen to it’s truths.
One of the undeniable truths is that God is Love. And we are a reflection of Him, thus we are also Love, living in Love, for Love, by Love. This concept caused me to stumble into the hands of many Mystics as St Francis of Assisi, Thomas Keating, Marcus Borg, Richard Rohr, Thomas Merton, and Rob Bell to name a few. These men opened a door of idea that I had been so blinded to before and this doorway led me to Catholicism. But not for the reason one would normally find Catholicism. It the idea of mercy and grace that the Church teaches. The reverence given to the one we call God. The rich meaning behind everything they do.
Something the Mystic Fathers have taught me is the importance of meditation…silent reflection with our Heavenly Father. Meditation is something the Protestant church as a whole greatly missed out on for me. The importance of prayer–and I don’t mean just literally talking to God–is phenomenal. Prayer looks like so many different things–it can be admiration of creation, sitting in silence, being with and loving another, participating in a therapeutic coping skill. Anything that involves interaction with the One is indeed prayer.
I found my understanding of the universe and transdimensionalism seemed to fit much better with Catholic theology. Not that this means it’s right or wrong, it’s simply easier to relate to. Transdimensionalism, however, opens up a whole new world of understanding where the spirit of us, our soul, our energy “ends up”. Its not so odd to think that those who have passed before us are simply living in a dimension interactive with our own, allowing intervention–good or bad if one considers the idea of evil spirits. But also this brings to light the beauty of the intercession of saints. When a dimension is without time a person’s energy exists always. To put things very simply-the “Praying to Saints” issue most have with Catholism is covered under concept that those Saints are still very much with us and are able to pray with and for us.
Anyway, to get to the point of this blog post. It took me a few years of really digging and piecing back my idea of Faith to turn to Catholicism. I did a lot praying, I did a lot of fasting, I did a lot of critiquing, learning, and thinking…and I just kept getting led back. So I “converted”. Please don’t hear me say Catholicism is the only way, it is simply where my husband and I have been led to meet with the Beloved at this time in our lives. The journey you are on is meant for you. This just happens to be ours.
Today my husband and I were baptized into the Catholic Church. And it was amazing. It felt like I was at a wedding, I was nervous, I was filled with joy. My husband agreed, that it felt like when we got married. I was filled with joyful tears throughout but after partaking of the Eucharist (Communion) for the very first time the joy was overwhelming. The love and peace that took over me at that moment made me realize how symbolic this moment really was. How I had just chosen to bind myself in Holy matrimony to my Mother Church. I never in a million years imagined this day would ever happen, let alone that it ended up being as rich and meaningful as it was. I feel like I’m home.
This leads me back to a dear friend of mine, Marty S. Dalton who wrote a poem years ago that has always stuck in my mind. Today it is more real that I’ve ever experienced it:
Over on the dirty side of town glimpsed between the red flashes of “don’t walk”
And barely visible through the steam spewing off of street drains
Leaned up against the neon sign of a pawn shop is a prostitute
Whose mother was a prostitute
Whose grandmother was a prostitute
Whose great-grandmother was a prostitute back
As far as they can recall
And she’s wearing the hand-me down wedding dress that fits her a little too well
And if you go down the right alleyways
You’ll find her prayers stenciled onto liquor shops like brick wall communiqués
Up to the ears of a still-listening God go her graffiti apologies
Confessions so painful they can’t be pretend
They get more vulgar until you reach the alley’s end
Where they run out of room and start climbing up the wall,
Climbing up and up and up until they turn into steeples
The spray paint colors into stained glass windows
Forming a sanctuary whose doors don’t close
She strides inside and waits at the altar in white clothes
And who should reverse the customary process and approach as her groom?
None, but a ruler whose purple train fills the entire room
How backward to see this promiscuous harlot married to a king
But as she mouths her vows
They resound as forgiveness hymns she sings
In the pews made of cigarette butts and beer cans
Every hard-backed row built by her own hands
Sits a throng of witnesses
And all of them can see she doesn’t deserve His graces
Their sense of justice so violated
It can’t be controlled,
That their arms are crossed like origami waiting to unfold
In objection to this unholy marriage
As they ask themselves who gave her the privilege
At this alter she doesn’t have a right to be
“But,” she says, “He proposed to me.”
And wedding wine never tasted so good
Full forgiveness flavored finer than it should
He leans down with a kiss on her brow
She tilts her weary head down
And feels the weight of a holy crown
Etchings along the inside
Read: “Child and Bride, In You I Abide”
And with whisper in her ear He is repeating over and over
I love you I love you I love you I love you
I love you…
The congregation cheers and rises,
But from the street outside the open doors of the shabby-made cathedral
A shout across the crowd breaks the joyous celebration
A man cursing as he swore
“You can’t hear the gospel from a whore!”
But in walked two daughters and then in walked a son
They placed their hands on the man with a smile and said,
“I and my mother one.”
(c) Marty Schoenleber III 2012