July 16, 2006

…begins with a single step, so the ancient Chinese proverb goes. Today, my seemingly-thousand mile journey back to the Church began with the single step taken by attending Mass down the street at St. Anne Catholic Church. An Episcopalian since birth, but more of an Anglo-Catholic since my awakening to Christ more than a decade ago, I decided to try this Roman Catholic church to clean the palate, so to speak, and start anew my journey back to the Church (in whatever form that might ultimately take) in a place I’d never seen, and in a denomination where I could simply melt into the background and enjoy attending Church without any baggage, expectations, or commitments.

Since moving to Arizona, my attempts at returning to regular church attendance have been both unsuccessful and unfulfilling, to say the least. I’ve attended two Episcopal churches on occasion – Church of the Epiphany and St. James, both in Tempe (the latter of which experienced the loss of its rector and much of its congregation following the consecration of V. Gene Robinson, an openly-gay priest, as Bishop of New Hampshire), but found my worship experiences at both places unsatisfying and uninspiring, both theologically and as an overall church-going exercise.

In truth, that’s only part of it, for I have come to realize that, as much as I still enjoy the comfortable familiarity of the Episcopal liturgy and style of worship, whenever I attend services at any Episcopal church I can’t seem to separate present from past and the memory of seven crazy years (1994-2000) of intense – and I mean really intense – church involvement during two ill-fated attempts at being accepted into the ordination process for the priesthood in the Episcopal Church.

In truth again, that’s only a part of a part of it, for, truth be told, today’s Episcopal Church is not yo’ mama’s Episcopal Church – heck, it’s not even the same Episcopal Church as it was back in 1994, when I started my extended period of heavy involvement and ministry. I’ve written on it before, and will do again shortly, but suffice to say for this particular post, the sense of conflict and estrangement I feel with today’s “progressive” Episcopal Church has led me to hours upon hours of prayer, contemplation, and meditation, trying to figure out what God wants me to do with my life, and where. It was, and is, a puzzle that needs solving, but how?

Using my God-given gifts for problem-solving and systemic thinking, I went back to the beginning and the books that initially drove my theological and philosophical formation more than a decade ago. While it wasn’t a surprise, I did take note that most of my cherished books were by Roman Catholics – Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Benedict Groeschel, St. John of the Cross, and others. Like me, they all too had their conflicts with their Church, but somehow found a way to let God transform those conflicts into gifts of wisdom and ministry.

I also noted that, earlier this year, when the first signs appeared that my five-year period of spiritual dryness was starting to lift and I was finding the occasional desire to return to my prayer table, it was hearing on secular radio in the space of one weeks’ time Raymond Arroyo discussing his biography of Mother Angelica, and Scott Hahn discussing his conversion from Presbyterianism to Roman Catholicism, both with such joy and passion that I couldn’t help but take notice.

Of course, it’s one thing to appreciate the mystics and movers and shakers of Catholicism, it’s a whole ‘nuther thing entirely to even consider leaving one’s own faith tradition for another. My feeling was – and still is – that such a prospect is too much of a jump to consider without taking very small baby steps and careful stock of where things stand along the way.

Which brought me to St. Anne Catholic Church today. Like most Catholic churches in the area, it’s pretty-good sized, very modern, and very short-staffed when it comes to priests. It had a nice mix of elderly folk and young families. There were no liturgy or music books in the pews – instead, both were projected in a very pleasing fashion against the white walls on either side of the sanctuary. The music was fairly harmless, even bland, but VERY well done – quite a change from my recent Episcopal church experiences.

What struck me more than anything, however, were the priest’s homily and the prayers. The homily itself was rock-solid, based on the day’s lessons and Gospel, and steeped in sacramental theology, yet very accessible in terms of style and delivery. He even chastised those in the congregation who had been leaving immediately after the Eucharist, saying that it cheapened the sacrament and the meaning of Christ’s sacrifice. Now THAT’S something you don’t see everyday. I was impressed. I also particulary enjoyed hearing prayers for, among other things, an end to abortion, artificial means of contraception, embryonic stem-cell testing, and capital punishment. Whether you agree with these positions or not, it was refeshing to hear a church unafraid to state what it believes and put it out in the open via its prayers, without compromise.

Will I go back? I don’t know. What I do know is that, for the first time in a long time, I find myself aware that I have begun a new journey, one just underway. I don’t know where it will lead, or even if it will, but I sense within a new-found desire to expose myself once again to the whims and wills of God’s guiding Hand. I have not prayed for this, neither have I even prayed for the grace to be able to pray for something like this. It just is what it is for now, and that seems good enough for me.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:11 | Comments (3)
  1. What wonderful news! You are in my thoughts and prayers and I hope that you will share the journey with your readers. Your friend, Dona

    Comment by Dona — July 16, 2006 @ 3:45 am

  2. Hello again! I just read your link to Spiritual Dryness. Interesting that you have literally been living in the desert! I am leading Morning Prayer this morning. K is on vacation. My homily is about David (the first lesson this morning). And I have started reading Jonathan Kirsch’s book “King David, the Real Life of the Man Who Ruled Israel.” You may see yourself as taking a baby step but I predict that you will be running soon…….
    Peace, Dona

    Comment by Dona — July 16, 2006 @ 3:56 am

  3. Singulair (montelukast)….

    Singulair (montelukast)….

    Trackback by Singulair (montelukast). — September 26, 2007 @ 9:15 pm

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