Friday, October 18, 2013

Faith in a Lord Who Cast Out Demons

Angelus Silesius 
My most recent posting was about a talk by Father James Martin who talked about the joy and humor that pervaded the lives—and ministries—of so many of the Saints from Teresa of Avila to John XXIII and from Francis de Sales to Bishop Sheen.  We are blessed to see again, in Pope Francis, a shepherd who is such a witness to a joyful and happy Christianity.  But in my occasional survey of the blogs of those woeful souls whose Jansenism wants us to keep our faith somber and sober, I saw that our friend Janet from Rockville Maryland is just so unhappy about everything these days from the bishops doing a wave-like dance at World Youth Day to the Papal interviews.  Troubled souls find it so distressing that others are able to move beyond their pain or rage and find a hope that allows joy and an inner peace to triumph over their misery and their anger.  They want us all to live beneath the cloud of their own unhappiness—but that is the problem with emotional illnesses.  Those who are physically ill want to recover but those who are emotionally and spiritually ill cling to their anger and their depression as their most precious possession. They dress it up in pious language, even refer to it as the “Dark Night of the Soul” in an attempt to sanctify what is not a Dark Night at all but an emotional illness, and they are just a disaster when it comes to the new evangelization. 
Well, Janet posted a video by Michal Voris that voices his deep suspicions of joyful Christianity, or of any Christianity that integrates the affective dimensions of a person into their spiritual life.  Voris offers us cold and embalmed doctrines and rules, a Christianity that not only knows pain—as does authentic Christianity—but wallows in it; a religion of the Tomb of Holy Saturday rather than a faith in a Lord who journeyed through suffering and death into the tomb but chose to move on into the Resurrection.  There is no Resurrection without the Cross and without the Tomb but our faith is in neither the Cross nor the Tomb but the Risen Lord who assures us that pain, suffering, and death are not God’s final Word.
But that is not my point.  Mr. Voris in his video, relates to us the story of his mother, a woman who had suffered for years from bi-polar disorder and compulsive behaviors, asked for a cross from God for the conversion of her sons, including himself.  Shortly after making this request, she was diagnosed with cancer from which she suffered for three years before dying.  This, of course, puts Michael and his particular brand of Catholicism in a whole new light.  One can understand why he clings to this embalmed religiosity.  He must preserve the religion that his mother prayed for for him or it invalidates her sacrifice.  Her own faith, colored by depression and bi-polar disorder, must be the norm not only for him but be the “gold standard” for all or his mother’s sufferings are robbed of their meaning.  His mother’s sacrifice for him and for his brother was a noble and generous self-gift which God obviously accepted with pity and compassion, but her faith—if it was this rigid and frigid Catholicism—did not and does not reflect our authentic Catholic tradition.  Each of us finds our faith colored by our own experiences and our own personalities—including our compulsions and disorders—and God loves us just as we are, but we must not confuse this personal twist on our Catholic heritage as ultimate orthodoxy.  Nevertheless, I think Michael Voris’ own story—and Janet’s—explain their particular perspectives but should not be allowed to represent what our Catholic faith is.  But in the lives of the saints we have examples we can trust.  Of course the saints run the gamut from the no-nonsense Jerome to the prankster Philip Neri.  There is a legitimate spectrum to accommodate all personalities.  But sorry Michael and Janet, your buddy Cornelius Jansen didn’t make the cut.  As for me, I have always liked the message of Angelus Silesius, the convert priest from dour Calvinism:  Start blooming frozen Christian—springtime is at hand.  When will you ever bloom if not here and now.  

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