If you had met me 19 years ago this month, you would have met a green shoot that was pushing up through the earth; a bulb long ago planted was ready to bloom. It was at this time that after an 18-year absence, I returned to the Roman Catholic Church.
Without ever actually having intended to do so, I might add. Oh yes, another unlikely tale.
If you read my earlier post, Mary the Mother of God was always guiding light for me. For good or ill, over the years, even though that was not why I left, I had grown to associate the organized institution of the Church with a male dominated society that I had no use for. (Still possibly true? Well, the first part of the sentence perhaps.)
Now I have written at other times in other places about my background of sexual abuse; let it suffice that that had a great deal to do with my issues of male domination – and understandably so. That is another story for another day, but I will clarify that I was never hurt in any way by any priest.
In any case I felt like I had no use for a stultifying and negative place that seemed to have little to do with my image of God at that time. Mary the Mother of God however seemed to represent all that was good and I decided to stick with her. I did like the idea of angels and saints, so parts of my Catholicity stayed with me.
One of the things that happened to me was that I became immersed in the “New Age movement. My inner-hippie-gnostic-pantheist was aflame with all the ways in which the things I read dovetailed with my own immature spirituality.
Some of you who have read my words have heard me quote Anne Lamott quoting her priest friend Tom saying, “You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do." Interestingly enough, I had done this too. I wanted a God who was hip, kindly, and who fed all the appetites around my own “magical thinking.” Does God hate mean people? I thought that God did. No - I do not think this any longer!
For all those who believe that they are “spiritual, but not religious” I do not intend any disrespect to others, but today that thinking is simplistic and even narcissistic to me, at least in my own life. I had to spend a lot of time there, maybe some people need to be there, so understand I am only speaking of my own experience here.
In any case, one of my main sources of “new age” information was the Association for Research and Enlightenment, which is part of the Edgar Cayce foundation. Cayce was known as the “Sleeping Prophet” and I had been captivated by his story, which I first heard in my early teens.
At some point during late 1986 or early 87 I received my monthly ARE magazine and opened it to discover spiritual gold… An article about the appearances of Mary at a place called Medjugorje. This was karmic serendipity beyond what I could have hoped for and I’m sure at the time I had happy-thought-ed my way into it due to all my new-agey good thoughts and feelings. For someone who hated the kumbayah feel of Vatican II, I was agog in hand holding magical mystery.
So it was all coming together at last, Mary has entered the new age! I could not be happier. Looking back it now seems so unlikely that such an article would have been in there and I even question that it was, but I think it truly was there. How else would I have heard of this?
Like so many things, when you hear of something, you are suddenly flooded with information about it. I took this as good karma on steroids, but likely it was just because I was now aware of it. It now seemed like every fifth person I met had gone to or was going to Medjugorje! Surely this was a cosmic convergence of events based on me me me. (Can you see why I said narcissistic earlier?)
Now if we take a moment to inspect the other side of the coin, we will find out (I did not happen to turn the coin over at the time) that Medjugorje was then (and remains) a place where one might find more conservative Catholics gathering.
That did not worry me; I had no intention of ever dealing with the Catholic part. That I thought I had a choice underscores both my arrogance and the self-serving nature of my so-called spirituality. In my mind, I was going to go there one day and say hello to my beloved Mary, who had stuck by me.
Which of course, she had. In ways that I could not even imagine and guided always, by the hand of God and in the most unlikely ways.
Note: For reasons that are either conservative, liberal or any other qualifier, I am no longer someone who keeps up with what is going on at Medjugorje, which has never been officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. Controversy remains about the veracity of the apparitions at both the diocesan level and at the Vatican. If you ask me, something is happening, but what I do not know nor do I need to know. I simply know that using some bizarre cocktail that included Edgar Cayce and Medjugorje, God got my attention. Yes, I did experience some things that go beyond explanation during my visit there, but I don’t fixate on that. At this point, it seems to have no bearing and puts the focus on the wrong place.
To be continued...