Tried and Found Wanting
He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the river dry-shod....
For you, O God, have tested us, you have tried us as silver is tried:
you led us, God, into the snare; you laid a heavy burden on our backs.
...we went through fire and through water
but then you brought us relief.
Quietly, matter-of-factly, we started worshipping at Mass. As we assembled with worshipping believers every Sunday at the Cathedral of St. Joseph answers to our most urgent questions began flooding into our hearts and minds. Our nowhere was progressively turning into "now here." The Good Shepherd was leading and we were following a path that would take us home to the ancient Church. The peace of mind that poured over us was so refreshing and life-restoring. The Cathedral of St. Joseph in Sioux Falls, South Dakota has a Rector, a Parochial Vicar and a Director of Faith Formation: Father Thomas Fitzpatrick, Father Andrew Young and Mr. Joe Rutten. These men of God are the vessels of grace placed in Salvation History for many reasons that will never be fully comprehended in this life, but we are certain that we are among the recipients of God's divine favor and mercy flowing from their lives. The Spirit drew us deeper into consideration of the Catholic Church as we learned from these men and observed their intellectual and theological integrity with which they served God. Worship embodied the integrity and the authenticity that we hungered for--every word, every action, every moment of the Mass bore the full solemnity of the Christian faith and that deeply impacted us.
As strange as it may sound, desperation is a really good thing in the spiritual life.
Desperation causes us to be open to radical solutions,
willing to take all manner of risk in order to find what we are looking for.
Desperate ones seek with an all-consuming intensity,
for they know that their life depends on it.
Like the cancer patient who travels to a foreign country in the quest
for cures that can't be found in familiar territory,
spiritual seekers embark on a quest for that which cannot be found
within the borders of life as we know it.
We embark on a search for healing that has not been found
in all the other cures we have tried.
We have run all the way to the edges of our own answers;
we have exhausted the possibilities
and are now finally ready to admit our powerlessness
in the face of the great unfixables of life.
--Ruth Haley Barton
Tired and Hungry
As the months passed our perspective clarified as we worshipped each Sunday in the Catholic Church. The season of waiting gave way to understanding. We hadn't fully comprehended how distorted our vision had become during our service to Protestant ministry, we simply knew there had to be more depth to the Christian faith than what was the unfortunate normal in our own Protestant denomination's churchiness. When we were still searching for a Protestant church to worship at after our departure from that denomination, one thing had become crystal clear to us, our denomination was not unique in its floundering. And we knew we were tired of all the man-centered maneuvering all done in "the name of God!"
Mary's magnificent response to God's grace and mercy on humanity recorded in Luke 1 prophetically describes the fallout of rebellion, "He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts..." As pride has taken root, entangling every facet of life, humanity has scattered and diffused into all manner of imaginations. We had witnessed how tiring the Protestant movement had become with its preoccupation of what people want rather than what God's desires from His creation in worship of Him. We found it more and more tiring to be associated with all the innovations in the Protestant movement that has scattered over different "imaginations" about what it means to worship the Triune God and to live as His Church in the world. We tired of denominationalism's proclivity for defining itself in its protests and its innovations. We tired of ministry motivations that centered around attracting people through every manner of consumerism familiar to the current generation it is trying to attract. We tired of the topic-driven preaching, performer-driven music, soapbox-driven teaching, and entertainment-driven programming. We tired of all the church-splits, denominational-division and denominational-multiplication, not to mention all the non-denominational "affiliations" or movements that were replacing denominations--new wine in old wineskins!
Our spirits were wearied by the futility of attachment to all the benefits we were promised for serving God. We had looked through the neatly packaged boxes God had been put into by customized movements, and found them wanting. We had read the formulas and noted the steps laid out by well-meaning evangelical leaders, broadcasters and writers that relegated faith to methodology, and found so many of them self-serving. We had dedicated our time and effort to doing and believing all the right things according to our own denomination's perspective, and still had doubts about its continuity with the historic Church. We had surveyed the tactics and strategies that were purported by sincere authors to improve our prayer life, our marriage and family, our business, our self-image, our weight and our financial status. We wondered to ourselves if the sovereign God is also tired of all the catering we humans do for ourselves.
We were tired, and we were hungry. Our hunger manifested in what St. Anselm wrote thousands of years ago, "faith seeks understanding." Our questions about God and faith had made us uneasy as they had led to new questions we could never have anticipated. Our questions were changing and we found the answers we had previously accepted did not satisfy our desire for security, rest and peace. We fed our spirits by reading from the early Church Fathers and Saints of the Church. In their devotion to Christ, in their desire to understand what they believed, we found satisfaction. We had grown more comfortable with the transcendent Mystery ("to shut the mouth") of the Triune God than with the domesticated certainties that had fossilized so much of the Protestant movement. We fed our spirits by seeking beyond what we were taught was certain about God and discovered the Mystery of Faith that transcends humanity's diminutive attempts at definitions of The Faith. The gravitas that accompanied these realizations had led us in the "long obedience in the same direction" toward the threshold of the Catholic Church. The hungering darkness of our past gave way to certain light!
Tell Me Some More
There's a children's book titled "Tell Me Some More" that we always enjoyed reading to our children. A little guy named Andrew discovers the town library for the first time, he becomes fascinated by all the books filled with knowledge and intrigue. One day he sits down with his friend Tim and tries to describe the place he has discovered. Andrew begins by saying, "I know a place, if I tell you, will you believe me?" "I will believe you, I will believe you. Tell me and see," Tim responds. And Andrew proceeds to tell Tim of a string of adventures he had been on in his discovery of the inside of the place where he could hold an elephant under his arm. Andrew's pal keeps saying, "Tell me some more." Finally Andrew tells Tim, "I will show you, I will take you there." Tim could have questioned and wondered all his life, but the only way he could fully understand what Andrew was telling him was to go to the steps of the town's library and enter through the big heavy doors. Once inside Andrew didn't need to tell him of the place anymore, Tim could set off through the aisles of books to find the places Andrew had described.
Well, we know a place where we join with fellow sinners and saints on the way of salvation to confess to almighty God that we are sinners. We know a place where God's mercy is invoked and His name is glorified. We know a place where Salvation History in the Liturgy of the Word is revealed every day everywhere around the world. Where we bow to the King of kings who is also the Suffering Servant of mankind. We know a place where we join other believers around the world to profess our faith in the Triune God. A place where Truth and Authority have stood for over 2,000 years and still draws all people to the Sacred Tradition. We know a place where the Real Presence of Jesus Christ is re-presented as the source and summit of the Christian life. Where the Liturgy of the Eucharist is offered in worship and thanksgiving of our Triune God every day, everywhere in the world. We've told you all we can tell you about what got us here, but there is so much more to learn. Let us take you there by introducing you to the treasury of the Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and Sacred Authority of the Catholic Church. We are confident that you will be amazed by what you discover.