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Monday, March 28, 2005

Filling a hole

When I was young, I simply adored Christmas Eve Midnight Mass. It was magical and no matter what the weather held during the day, the night brought with it a profound stillness. Adding to the peace and serenity of the night was the statue of the Virgin Mary in front of St. Mary’s Church illuminated in a blue glow. As much as I’ve tried to retain my belief in the magic of Christmas, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate that Easter Mass is where true joy is found.

St. Raphael Church in Bay Village does Easter big, with an altar full of intoxicating spring flowers framed by flowering dogwood trees that occupy their space as sparse sticks for weeks, suddenly erupting in blooms on Easter weekend. The choir and professional musicians play from the loft and the effect is sheer jubilance.

I swallowed down tears for most of the Mass. It’s been so long since I’ve felt even remotely spiritual during Mass. I’ve been questioning whether or not it was possible to ever reconnect with my faith. As I participated in the Mass, I began to hear words that hadn’t registered in so long. The effect was like God’s grace streaming over me like a gentle warm waterfall.

I was deeply touched by the Easter message of renewal and joy and my reaction was to weep. My eyes were filled with tears for much of the Mass, but I somehow managed to keep them from spilling down my cheeks.

The thing is no one tells you when you’re learning catechism that there are times when you will truly question everything you’ve ever been taught about faith and God. And they certainly won’t tell you that it’s a frightening feeling to be left dangling to your faith by a thread. And that somehow through all your crisis of faith you’ve got to maintain a position of confidence for your family’s sake.

Life in the past couple of years has been a steady stream of turmoil, flaring up into full-blown crisis from time to time. I’m a fairly composed human being, so all of this turmoil was swirling around just under the surface. Although I found it hard to verbalize, my anxiety would betray my outward calm and manifest itself physically in the form of hives.

All the things I took for granted were no more. The stability of work, the health of my parents and myself, the comfort and security found in my home, the solidity of my marriage, the unquestionable reliance on my church, my belief in goodness of all kinds—it all evaporated in a poof of uncertainty that has sent me reeling.

They say that which does not kill you makes you stronger. Is that really true, I wonder? I’ve had this horrible emptiness in the very center of my torso that just seems never to let go. What is missing from me? What am I searching for? Why can’t I just be content? None of those questions are easily answered. But what I found yesterday is that reconnecting with my faith helps fill some of that hole. It’s not all better. Life isn’t a matter of snapping your fingers to make it better. It’s a journey and I’ve just discovered what looks like a better path. I don’t know where it will lead, but I was sent a prayer that is providing a small measure of comfort and thought I'd share it with you:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. — Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

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