Sunday, May 28, 2017

My Crossroads

by Fr. Brian Massingale 
Published in U.S. Catholic Magazine

This article hit home for me. I, like Fr. Massingale's sister, am passionate about my faith and am always looking to go deeper in my relationship with Christ. And I am trying my best to cooperate with grace and be a devoted Roman Catholic. There are many moments, however, when I pause and ask the question in prayer: Why am I having such a hard time with some of the Church's teachings in the Catechism, even after conscience formation in the mind of the Church, intense study, the Sacraments, reflection, fellowship, and prayer? The answer I keep coming back to is that faith is a journey, not a destination. True discipleship is continual growth in relationship with Christ. Conversion is perpetual and develops as we keep striving to know Christ better.
My experience is one that complicates blind adherence to magisterial teaching, but I desire, remain open, and am doing my best to be what the Church calls me to be. My best, however, falls short most of the time. And when it does, I get a deep sense of frustration and guilt, attaching my understanding of being a faithful Catholic with an ideal I struggle to fully embrace. But God's love, as the Spirit has led me to discover, is so much bigger than my understanding of it. Just look at the cross. I have faith that, by God’s grace and His love through Jesus, I am an adopted son of God and brother of Jesus Christ.
I have many moments when I vacillate between either seeking Christ in another Christian context -- one rich in Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience --or remaining a flawed yet “striving-for-Christian-perfection” Roman Catholic. I have read widely regarding Catholicism, Church history, the Reformation, theology, and the plurality of Protestant (and in the sense of the Episcopal Church, the via media) beliefs. And the only thing I can truly say is that God loves us warts and all (and believe me, I have many warts). For He has shown that love most perfectly through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The more I try to conform to traditional Roman Catholic teaching, the more I despise myself for not being what the Church says I should be, even though I am doing all I can to cooperate with grace. But I have been given the grace of faith and trust in Jesus Christ, and that had made the difference.

After five years of struggle and formation, seeking the sacrament of Reconciliation, practicing prayer, and trying to my best to be holy, I have reached a point where I must decide: Where can I grow most as a disciple of Jesus Christ in this world and live with who I am in Christ? I am trying my best to remain faithful to the tradition to which I felt my initial call to Christ, the Roman Catholic Church. But it is a cross to bear at times. Was our faith tradition ever meant to be a such a cross?

In the article, the author’s sister, a devout Catholic in her own right, found her place in the Body of Christ that called out to her in a way that Roman Catholicism did not. Now I do not know this woman, but something tells me she is a better disciple for it, a better imitation of Jesus’ love in the world because of it. And isn’t this the true reason Jesus came to save us -- so that we would be reconciled with God, evangelize others, and imitate His love in this world? And if she finds that in the American Baptist Church, then God bless her.