In my journey of faith, I met God first, fortunately, before getting involved in a church. The Church I loved was the one I found in my mother's 1926 hand missal, the eternal church of Rome, solidly unified across time and geography and culture, with her own language and clear rules. Vatican II was to that church as Katrina was to New Orleans; she survived the first go-round pretty much intact; it was the second wave, the breaking of the levees which had previously held back destruction, which washed away all that was left, dispersing even the holdouts like me. For our spiritual health, we had to get away from the disgusting, toxic morass our spiritual neighborhood had become.
In the years since I joined the church in 1971, my experiences with it have been consistent in their type and effect. After multiple tries to rejoin, I've had to accept that I need to detach from that institution in the same way I had to consciously detach from my mother due to her behavior. In doing so, I rely on the words of St. Augustine - "Love God and do as you please," - and Jesus, Who said, "I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture." That word, found in John 10:9, is the real meaning of the title of this blog.
He's led me to investigate several churches over the years. The latest is one I've grazed in before. It's an evangelical church whose teaching hews closely to the Bible, and yet it's enfolded a significant number of the hurting, ignored, directionless, and spiritually hungry sheep from Mahony's flock, as well as others from the opposite side of the spectrum.
In the past, I moved on from this community because of the relentless pressure to Get Involved. For many soul-wrenching reasons, it was completely out of the question at that time in my life, and I was not about to explain to perfect strangers why I just wanted to show up on Sunday and be fed in the word, without having to sign away hours of my life I could not spare at that time. Now, besides my life being more open, I discovered via their website that there has been a change in the pastorship. The discomfort I felt may have well "come from the top," so to speak; due to my life experience, I am inordinately sensitive to those issues, even when I can't quite identify nor articulate them. I find myself looking forward to going back.
While the previous shepherd had a strong personality and a "bias for action," he also showed his stripes as a true intellectual liberal - not in the sense of political left-leaning, but in the sense of accepting and investigating before coming to a conclusion. The depth of wisdom and intellectual rigor he brought to his teaching was obvious in every word he wrote. He understood the touchpoints for all types of Christians. He showed more respect to my Catholic faith than the post-Vatican II church ever did.
Spiritually, a vast number of Catholics were treated after Vatican II like the pathetic crowds at the Superdome. The ones in charge had the power and resources to save us from those who abandoned us, hoping for us to die or leave so they could build a new church on the ruins of our faith. Those of us in the resulting diaspora are enriching and teaching those in "other folds," gently leading them to open their hearts and minds to the truth of John 6 and other things. In the meantime, among the brave, strong souls who stayed behind to fight, there is a move afoot to bring back thoughtful Scripture study and reestablish the practical, daily practices which spiritually nurture the soul. Jesus is drawing together those who hear His voice into one flock with one shepherd. (John 10:16)
No church is perfect. Only Jesus is perfect. He is my shepherd. I know His voice. No sheep can graze forever in the same place. He leads me to lie down in green pastures, and lets me know when it's time to graze elsewhere. I survive, and thrive, under His leadership. By His grace, I trust Him.