Greetings in the name of Christ the King!
Once this project was underway and I was able to read the bios of all my Conversation Partners, I joked with Harold Heie that it seemed a bit of a conspiracy to make the Catholic Church look bad, with only a housewife as Her representative! I am not a scholar, a theologian, teacher or leader in my tradition the way all of you are, and so I thank you for the patience and care you took to read and respond to my posting. While I have done what I can to represent my own experience and move toward first the Roman Catholic Church, and then to a more traditional community within the vast sea of Roman Catholics, I’m sure my efforts have fallen short when it comes to speaking for the Church broadly.
It was a pleasure to read all of your thoughtful responses. Thank you for your honesty and your willingness to connect your own experiences of following Jesus with mine where possible, but also to address areas of disagreement frankly. The questions and critiques you raise are honest and fair. Most reveal to me that 1500 words (even with an additional 1000 added on!) are really not enough to explain both my journey and the broad scope of Catholicism when it comes to following the Lord. It would take another tome to address the theological differences that came up around things like the Eucharist and transubstantiation, the role of Mary the Mother of God and the saints, the all-male priesthood in the Catholic Church, Rome’s take on the priesthood of all believers, and certainly the implementation of social justice through the Catholic Church in a fallen world (to name only a few). There were also more political issues raised, both in the realm of church politics and state politics, which would perhaps turn the conversation down a different path if I were really to ‘explain myself.’
Instead, let me mention a hope I have for my efforts at this daunting task. First, I hope it has come through that I would characterize the Roman Catholic Church as a church in crisis. Please know that there is a kind of humility built-in to the nature of being Catholic in 2021 because of the very real shortcomings of the Church evident to the whole world, since they make the headlines of major newspapers on a regular basis. This bride of Christ is sullied, tattered and torn, bruised and beaten from within and without. And yet, one of the weird things about being a faithful Catholic is that we are bound to stay Catholic. When we converted, I had no real idea that part of the call on our family would be to fast and pray for Holy Mother Church, and to wear a thorny crown of humiliation, which we must offer up as one more sacrifice that helps us to become like our Lord. He did warn us, to be fair, that it would be this way.
Reading all of your postings was certainly fruitful for me. I learned about traditions I’ve scarcely heard of! I learned (perhaps again) about that push and pull we feel when we explore other traditions, and allow them to be held up as a mirror against our own. I learned more about some of the documents that the Roman Catholic Church has been working on with many of your churches, which I’ve only heard mention of through the years. Perhaps most important, I’ve tried to really hear and mull over the shortcomings some of you identify in my tradition. I hope that the responses to your postings I can offer over the next several months will help to further flesh out our differences, and our common ground.
I want to leave you with the words (in translation) of a very old song that Christian pilgrims would sing together as they marched along the way. Our kids love to belt it out in Latin with their friends under the stars, as it would have been done long ago. It is from a very old medieval manuscript collection, The Llibre Vermell de Montserrat, prepared around 1399 A.D. I share it because I sincerely believe we are all fellow pilgrims on this road to Christ and toward the Parousia we so look forward to. I hope it captures some of the wonder that the vast array of humanity is invited to in Christ, and through his Blessed Mother.
In the love of our Lord,
(The melody is haunting, and worthy of a listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67jKdP4BowE )
Splendid star on the serrated mountain,
with miracles shining like a sunbeam, hear the people.
From all around they rally, rejoicing,
rich and poor, young and old,
they assemble here to see with their own eyes,
and return from it filled with grace.
Rulers and magnates of royal stripes,
the mighty of the world, having obtained indulgence
for their sin, they cry out and beating their breast
they kneel and cry thus: Ave Maria.
Prelates and barons, famous counts,
all kinds of monks and priests,
soldiers, merchants, citizens, sailors,
burghers and fishermen are recompensed here.
Peasants, ploughmen and also scribes,
advocates, stone-masons and all carpenters,
tailors and shoemakers, and weavers as well,
all kinds of craftsmen rejoice here.
Queens, countesses, illustrious ladies powerful
and maidens, teenagers and girls,
virgins, old women and widows equally,
climb this mountain; so do nuns.
All these groups assemble here to present themselves,
to remember their vows and keep them as well
by enriching this temple so that all may see this
adorning it with jewels, and return home released.
Therefore, everybody, male and female,
beseeching and cleansing our minds,
let us devoutly pray that we may really experience the glory of the Virgin,
the clemency of the Mother, and her gracefulness in heaven.
Translation by Dick Wursten http://www.dick.wursten.be/Vermell_originaltexts_translations.htm