There is a series of hurdles that one must overcome in one’s appropriation of the Catholic faith. One raised in the religion will be largely unconscious of these hurdles, at least until one reaches an age at which external concepts and influences challenge one’s received acceptance of the faith. This series is especially significant for converts, and comprise a kind of personal tatoo of transformation in Christ. For myself, the hurdle of the Eucharist was the first one that I cleared, and it made all the other that much easier to clear. Other hurdles included the nature of justification, the validity of confession, the role of Scripture, the communion of saints, the reality of purgatory, the perpetually mediated merits of Christ (indulgences), devotion to Our Lady, and the Roman papacy. This apologetics site addresses these hurdles and more. At some point, all such hurdles become quaint memories, and one simply “gets on with” one’s life as a Catholic. Little remains remarkable, still less controversial.
There are a few hurdles which stick out even to the uninterested observer, that is, to someone not considering entering the Church.
Even after becoming Catholic, I find myself jarred by such things, not because I object to or cringe at them, but because they are like lightning flashes that expose the inner vitality of the Church with a haiku-like vividness. Just when the Church might have seemed hum-drum and repetitive, such phenomena, because they flow from the very heart of the Church, make Her strange again; and by making the Church strange again, they make Her alluring all over again, for their unique unpredictability bespeaks the Living One who constantly animates Her. It is as if a man, married for decades, suddenly caught a glimpse of his wife in motion which revealed a new contour in her ear, or in the swoop of her jawline, which in turn made him fall in love with her all over again. What he saw was a part of her, yet somehow also a strange new barrier one must pass in order to embrace her once more in toto. Granted, the shock is not always benign. At times, the shock of seeing a living being, as if for the first time, can engender chills, goosebumps, and stupefied humility. There’s a power that comes to light that is as endearing as it is jarring.
In that spirit, let me post a few things which recently caught me off-guard from a Catholic perspective. I will not hang my hat on any one of them, but they certainly added some spice to my proverbial egg nog.
First, from St. Faustina’s Diary – December 17, 1936:
“I have offered this day for priests. I have suffered more today than ever before, both interiorly and exteriorly. I did not know it was possible to suffer so much in one day. I tried to make a Holy Hour, in the course of which my spirit had a taste of the bitterness of the Garden of Gethsemane. I am fighting alone, supported by His arm, against all the difficulties that face me like unassailable walls. But I trust in the power of His name and I fear nothing.”
Who was born on December 17, 1936?
Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis.
As I said, I will not hang my hat on this, but… Good Lord, it sent a shiver up my spine when I read it.
In other words, a case of Catholicism making itself feel strange all over again.
“I saw also the relationship between two popes … I saw how baleful would be the consequences of this false church. I saw it increase in size; heretics of every kind came into the city of Rome. The local clergy grew lukewarm, and I saw a great darkness…
“I had another vision of the great tribulation. It seems to me that a concession was demanded from the clergy which could not be granted. I saw many older priests, especially one, who wept bitterly. A few younger ones were also weeping. But others, and the lukewarm among them, readily did what was demanded. It was as if people were splitting into two camps.” …
“I see the Holy Father in great anguish. He lives in a palace other than before and he admits only a limited number of friends near him. I fear that the Holy Father will suffer many more trials before he dies.
“I see that the false Church of darkness is making progress and I see the dreadful influence it has on the people. The Holy Father and the Church are verily in so great a distress that one must implore God night and day…”
Did somebody say Catholic shivers?!
What do such things mean? At the very least, we must keep our eyes and heart open–vigilate et orate.