So, am I going to post this thing I've written? Or am I going to run away from God again? Well that won't work so here you go. This post did not go in the direction I had intended it to go. I sat down a couple of days ago to write about how I had come to peace with the “fact” that there was no particular church I needed to go to, that God was OK with whatever church I was at as long as I believed in Jesus, that it wasn't really all that important to have just the right doctrine.
For most of my life I've sought “TRUTH,” yes truth in all caps. Ultimate truth, total truth, pure truth. I've called myself a “seeker” for a very long time. I have always been convinced that there must be “TRUTH” but I didn't know where to look for it, science or religion or philosophy?
Having studied dozens of religions over several decades, Hinduism, Buddhism, Baha'i, New Age style paganism, I finally concluded that Christianity presented the best explanation for everything I saw around me in the world. C.S. Lewis answered a lot of questions and helped me to see the truth of “MereChristianity” but that left me still wondering just what church I ought to go to. Was it a matter of what “felt right” to me? Or was there a particular church, a certain denomination or even a single congregation that was the place where this “TRUTH” of Christianity was most perfectly expressed? After going through a search of different flavors of Christianity I felt that I had found a comfortable place in Messiah Lutheran Church in Danville where I was convinced that I had at least found “Truth.”
I was convinced for a while that in confessional Lutheranism I had found the closest thing to “TRUTH” that existed, it all fit together so nicely and made such good sense. It just “felt right.” So it was disappointing when I realized that there are obvious, to me at least, errors promulgated by that denomination. I’m not going to dredge up all of my struggles with Young Earth Creationism and the nearly unquestioning obedience to governments, especially our own United States government today, but those were the two biggest issues that led me to question my choice of Lutheranism and sent me on a quest through atheism and then eventually to Catholicism.
More recently, to keep family peace and make others happy, I've been trying not to be Catholic. Instead of following my heart and the leading of the Holy Spirit, I've told myself over and over again that God doesn't care what church I go to as long as I’m a Christian. In a way that is true enough. God certainly can and does work through many different denominational and even “non-denominational” churches. The Holy Spirit is not constrained by any human institution and can reach us wherever we are.
But there is something missing when I don’t go to a Catholic Mass. There is some sense of the presence of God that is simply not there when I go to another church. I was reading just this morning a blog post by Father Robert Barron titled “The More.” In it he talks about the “…odd and precious moments in life when we sense that, behind the veil of our sensible experience, there is something more. We never see this dimension of reality directly or clearly. It is usually felt or intuited more than “seen” or “known.” But when we are in touch with it, we sense that it is more real, more important, more enduring than anything in our ordinary experience.” This is what I experience when I am at mass in a Catholic church. This is what I feel when I am in the presence of God in the Eucharist. As Father Barron said in his post “It is easy enough for the casual rationalists and atheists of today to write all of this off as so much nonsense or as wishful thinking, but those who have experienced these moments know how important, how desperately real they are.”
I certainly don't want to say that God is not present at Messiah, he certainly is! Jesus is present wherever two or three are gathered in His name, that is a promise He made and a promise He keeps. Yet even though He is there and the Holy Spirit is there and working, He is present in a deeper and fuller and more complete way in the Catholic Church. I can’t prove this to anyone rationally, but I sense it deep within my heart. My spirit is drawn to the mass like a moth to the flame, I cannot resist it. When I deny it my heart grows cold toward God and my prayer life turns into mere form without the substance of communion with Christ.
Obviously, since I’m bothering to write all of this out in a blog post, I've decided that I need to follow where Christ leads me, and He’s leading me back home to His Church, the church he founded with the apostles, the Catholic Church. And so, on this Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord I am declaring to all the world, well to the two or three people who will read this actually, that I can’t help it, God won’t let me leave the Catholic Church, He wants me there and who am I to argue with God Almighty?