Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"Joining the Club" is Not Enough: I Want Brothers and Sisters

St. Benedict, patron of the Fraternity. This image
doesn't imply any endorsement by the Fraternity of
any of the nonsense in this blog post. The words here
are entirely due to the (lack of) responsibility of me.
I mentioned last week that my wife and I were able to attend the annual retreat/Spiritual Exercises of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation held for our region of the United States. It was really good for both of us on a lot of levels. We got to see many good friends that we don't see often, since no one from the Fraternity lives near us. We were also reminded of why we continue to be attached more deeply to the Church through this charism.

What I've written here are not polished reflections at all. This is rough stuff that is being left largely as I wrote it on first draft, before beginning to study the written texts from the Exercises, which is a work that we continue throughout the year. I still have much to discover and clarify (and reconsider) so as to express these points more precisely.

The grace of the charism of CL witnesses to a crucial aspect of what it means to live as members of one another in Christ, journeying together toward our common destiny of eternal life and love in the Trinity. Its so easy, as Catholics, to have a moment in which we recognize, "this is the road for our journey!" But then we walk that road like we are strangers to one another.

I have a very hard time with that. For me, the road is so weird and I get lost all the time, or go around in circles. I can't do this alone. I need something more than polite fellow-travelers on this trip.

I've studied "the road" for 30 years, and I've prayed, and this has been a good thing. But its like studying food and learning about cooking. The cookbooks tell me all about food and what to do with it, but they don't actually give me any food. And I'm hungry right now. Studying cooking just makes me more hungry. I want to eat... at least something.

Prayer of course nourishes, but it also mysteriously deepens the hunger. If my prayer is authentic, then it will lead me to discover ever more profoundly just how needy and poor I really am.

So where can I go? The Church ...what do I find in a parish? Activities and groups. That's okay, but its not enough. After its over, I get into my car and drive back to my lonely fortress. Is that what the New Testament calls "the fellowship of disciples"?

What about just giving up my mind and my freedom to some "Catholic dictator" who just tells me what to think and what to do and relieves me of the awful burden of being a human person? I must admit that this option can be very tempting. "Conformity" and "comfort," disguised as obedience, could shape my notions and my behavior into a formulaic routine, and give me a sense of superiority, but they would also also suffocate my heart -- that depth of me that says, "I am someone, I have been made for a reason, I have aspiration, I have hope, I don't just want to be reduced to a 'part' of a project, not even the cosmic project!"

What else is there for me? Can I exalt my aloneness and say, "I'm gonna do what I want and just blow off everybody else"? For me, personally, that's the short path to the psych ward. Others seem to get by with this attitude, except that its really crummy for their spouses (who often become ex-spouses) and their children and anyone else who needs them or tries to care about them.

I don't want to be alone. I need people. Clubs and the internet are not enough. Being part of the collective just covers up the loneliness. There's a lot missing even from the experience of being in dedicated Catholic groups that work together for the good of the Church. People can share an activity (even passionately) without sharing their lives. Passion for the cause can become a cover for not acknowledging the poverty of my person, for not sharing myself, for not loving and for not being honest about my own vulnerability, my own need to be loved.

I can even "belong" to a "movement," and wear it like a badge, and conform myself to its external style, and do all the "stuff," and still not invest myself. I can cover up the fact that I'm poor and that I need God. I can hide it from others, and from myself.

And I can write about this whole subject, but really be trying to avoid it. I'm saying, "See, I know about my need for Christian community, and I'm helping others to discover that too... so I 'get it,' obviously. That means that you, my friend, don't have bother me, okay? So go away!"

Its true that I don't want people meddling in my life. There is a reason for this fear. So often in life, my experience has been that people come along, stand on their platform, rebuke me, and then leave! That happens so much. It even happens in movements. It certainly happens in marriages. We live alone. Then we come out to "help" one another every so often. Then we go back to being alone.

I don't want to belong to a group of people who just correct my behavior and call me "brother," but don't actively love me. That's not the Church. That's manipulation. That's a fundamentalist sect. Its just another form of power imposing itself upon the weak.

When we talk about our relationship within the Church, we use these terms: "brothers and sisters." Why? Are we just being nice? Why this metaphor, or even better, is it just a metaphor? The Church is our Mother. Baptism is a new birth. We are brothers and sisters and more, members of each other and members of Christ's body.

Is all this just "Christianspeak"? I hope not! Because this is what I want! I want brothers and sisters. I want a family. I want to belong to God, to call Him "Father," and to have the freedom to be with others in my life and say, "I am your brother" and "you are my brother, you are my sister, you help me just by the fact that we are together, you help me even when you fail or forget. We are together in Him. We help each other to follow Him to the place where our hearts will all finally be at home."

I run away from this myself, every day. It scares me to death (why is that?). But its still what I really want.