"Happy" "Good" Friday...
Rather than launch into an explanation of why it is called "good" Friday, let me just express my weariness this year. I have limped along to this day. I dread Lent, each year. And each year, I struggle with giving something up without beating myself up. This year, I could not decide what to do, so I went with a "gentle Lent," and decided to take stuff on. I decided to go to confession several times, to participate in stations of the cross, and to go to daily mass (not daily, but to aim for once a week), to give up meat on Fridays, to try to love. I thought I could overcome my negative feelings toward Lent and to understand a balanced self-love of discipline. It didn't take too well. Lent still feels foreign to me, raised as a fundamental Protestant with none of that "ritual" stuff.
So, 40 days later, I was talking to my fiance last week, and I couldn't even remember what I had "given up" for Lent. I was like, "Did I ever decide?" Somewhere in the middle there, I had gotten sick twice. First with strep throat, then with the stomach flu. Between regular life, travel for work one week, getting sick, etc. it slipped my mind that I had made this "gentle Lent" resolution of taking stuff ON. Then, I remembered, "oh yeah, I was also going to give up all negativity in speech, both toward myself and others." Fail on both counts of giving stuff up and taking stuff on. Whoops.
So, here I am, on this "good" Friday. I am worn out. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. Once again, I'm not a very good Catholic. I didn't really do Lent that well this year, it wasn't a drastic difference from years before, and I didn't overcome my general negativity toward Lent. I made it to Stations of the Cross three times, I think. I enjoyed it, and maybe will do it again next year. (As a convert for 8 years, this is somehow the first time I've ever done the Stations of the Cross.) As for confession, I made it once this Lent. I didn't go any more than that, and I basically went to fulfill my earlier birthday resolution of trying to go once a month this year. (I'm probably actually behind now on going to confession, as I think I went to confession in March and have yet to go in April). But, my soul feels clean and excited for Easter. As for daily mass, I went once. And, no, I didn't make it to 6 AM mass before work. I made it to 6 PM mass once in 40 days, and just BARELY because of traffic. Also, I did manage to skip meat on Fridays a few times, but I also managed to eat it a few times. (It's also a foreign practice to me that has yet to take root.) So, all that to say Baby Steps. Really small Baby Steps.
I am weary of myself. I am weary of the selfishness, the lack of discipline, the nagging sense of not following through or doing enough. I'm weary of my own sin, my own restlessness, my indifference. I am also weary of other Christians this year. More so than normal. It has been a particularly ugly Lent. With a big scandal in the Protestant/Evangelical world about World Vision allowing married gay employees, then immediately disallowing married gay employees, 10,000 children lost Christian sponsors worldwide in this fight. Christians tore into one another on both sides of the issue, pointing fingers, calling names, mutually ex-communicating one another over this. While part of me is glad not to be in this camp anymore ("not my problem/this is why I'm Catholic"), I realize that it is my problem too, even if I don't want it to be, even if I don't identify with these groups as a Protestant Evangelical. All Christians are in this together and to the world, we are epically failing. We are not one. We do not love one another. I remember in 2003 when the scandals broke about priests abusing children (in Boston, I think, first), our Protestant chaplain talked about this with remorse. He didn't gloat at the sins of "those Catholics," he owned it. He explained that we are all in this together - for better or for worse - we have to deal with these sins too. Those words made an impact on me. I was Protestant, but a Catholic sympathizer at the time. I appreciate his standpoint, and I remember it in moments like these.
As a Protestant, I liked the diversity found in many denominations. I saw it as brothers and sisters with different personalities, each bringing a different slice to the pie, and aren't we just one big, happy, diverse family. While I do agree that we have much to learn from each other, now that I'm Catholic, the denominations and divisions break my heart. Jesus left behind A Church. And, it is a Universal Church (that's what the world Catholic means). There is room for all of us, and yet, there is also protection from all this confusion over doctrine and practice. He left behind the Holy Spirit to guide us, not to confuse us. It requires submission. Not brainwashing, not blind allegiance. Submission. And, yes, that part is hard. I believe that if all Catholics truly knew what the Church taught, they would never leave. And, if all Protestants truly knew what the Catholic Church taught, they would come running to their home. We have it all - history, tradition, reason, a deep intellectual tradition - and most importantly - the sacraments. Jesus. Present. And, yes Jesus is present everywhere, at all times, and to some extent in all religions and denominations, but this division was not and is not his will. It saddens me.
Today on Twitter, some Protestant with a doctorate called out Pope Francis as being number one on his list of false teachers. I just can't anymore. I'm can't engage in these fights. I can hardly even follow or read anymore the Protestant bloggers and authors I frequently read. I can hardly engage in a discussion or rebuttal of someone with such vast ignorance. I am frustrated as I watch Protestants re-invent the wheel, as I watch them struggle with questions that HAVE ANSWERS and HAVE BEEN ANSWERED. I struggle as I watch more in-fighting and confusion, and as I see that using the Bible to win your battle basically doesn't work. There's a reason Sola Scriptura is not in the Bible. It is not "biblical," and it wasn't thought up until 1500 years after Jesus. It saddens me.
I remember that even within my own family, I am the only Catholic. While some family members are more sympathetic than others, my parents chastised me last Easter for not spending it with "real" Christians. I am weary. I cannot open my mind or heart up to people like that. Yes, even my own parents. I struggle with knowing even how to even greet them this Sunday. For one, "Happy Easter" is forbidden because they don't use that word (too "pagan"). For two, I don't want another lecture about how awful my religion is. I'm weary. It saddens me.
All of this pales in comparison to the suffering of our Savior that we remember this day. If I ever learn how to be a real Catholic, or a good one, I will learn how to offer up this suffering (however small it is) in union with Christ's. I pray that we may all be one. I don't know how we will be. Ever. I don't know how to have any part in the discussion sometimes. I will just keep on keeping on in my own practice. The truth marches on, and I will march with it, even if there are those who try to stop me, who try to rain on the parade, who try to ridicule the parade itself. God help us all.
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
For by your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.