Monday, May 11, 2009

What are Religion, Sex, and Politics?

The answer is: Things you’re not supposed to discuss in polite company.

Politics never held any interest for me anyway.  In fact, I excuse myself and get far away from political conversation whenever possible.

Sex...  Well, I really have little interest in hearing about other people’s sex lives.  Especially at family gatherings.

Religion.  It’s usually a subject that’s left alone (at least, in my family gatherings, where nearly everyone there outside of my immediate family and the grandparents is a lapsed Catholic), and every now and again I’m reminded why.

Maybe it’s just because I’m innately a people pleaser, but I’ve found that I don’t really mind the conversations wherein I tell someone that my career goal (outside of raising children, of course) is to offer to your average Sunday Catholics the treasures of the Church that tend to lay just beyond their reach in this day and age, and they say that sounds worthwhile, and so long as I’m passionate about it, ‘cuz that’s all that really matters.

The more troublesome conversations come when people (i.e., relatives and family friends of my parents’ generation) know that I’m religious and that I want to work in the Church, and they talk to me about religious things, expecting there to be common ground.  Things like how great it was when the Mass was English, and they could have guitar Mass (I chant in the schola for Latin Mass).  Things like the exciting possibility of women priests (I would sooner die than “become” one, despite my fervor for the Liturgy).  Things like how personable it is when the priest’s personality shows through in the way he celebrates Mass (I try to block that out because it distracts me from the sacrifice at hand).  Things like the little doilies the girls had to wear on their heads, and how they shrunk in size until they weren’t required anymore (I’ve been wearing the veil for nine months).  Not that they know any of this, because I don’t tell them (well, my immediate family knows some, but not much).

Yesterday I received a letter stating that I’ve been accepted to the Liturgical Institute, where I will study *surprise!* the Sacred Liturgy.  Naturally, this leads most people to question whether I intend to become a priest.  My two stock answers are “I like all the Church’s teachings just the way they are” and “Jesus had the perfect woman right in front of Him and didn’t ordain her, so who are we to ordain women?”  Uncle B’s response tonight was, “Well, how do we know He didn’t?” after which he began to ramble about the gnostic gospels.

I studied Biblical theology, inerrancy, all that.  I believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and the books in the canon were accurately written, and the canon itself was chosen via the influence of the Holy Spirit, just as Mother Church teaches.  I studied all that once, and I know that it is more reasonable to believe in the historicity of the Gospels than to disbelieve in them.  But I don’t remember all the arguments!  That has never been the part of faith that has interested me.  I’ve recalled what I need in order to move on with my life.  And yet I find myself unable to do anything but smile so as to give some (but not full) assent, and feel awkward.

At the end of the day, it’s days like this that remind me of the irrational aspect of our faith.  Sure, fides is built up by ratio, but our belief in “Christ crucified [is] a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor 1:23 ).  It wouldn’t be called faith if were entirely knowable by reason only.  There is something laudatory about placing our trust in the God of our fathers and just leaving it there, even when we can’t remember enough to explain it to others.

I’ve studied our faith so thoroughly for so long that it’s very easy to forget about the irrational side of things.  But uncomfortable-for-me conversations like tonight’s remind me that I’m not in control, no matter how much knowledge is at my fingertips, and I never will be.  Faith is a virtue, one upon which I should place greater value.

After all the great works he had written (keep in mind that it was once said of him by a pope that no miracles were needed through his intercession for his sainthood, because every article he wrote of the Summa was a miracle), St. Thomas Aquinas had a vision of heaven and stopped writing, because “All this is so much straw!”

I should pay less attention to the straw and more attention to Him Who created said straw, beautiful though it may be.


  1. Hear hear!
    I think that the coldest splash of water I got after leaving Steubenville has been those same reflections on faith. Faith and Reason are so strongly emphasized in Steubenville that people forget that they are using reason, yes, but from a common foundation. Once you meet people with a different foundation, your reason may still seem internally consistent but not compelling or indeed less absurd to them for that reason alone.

    Also: you sing in the schola now?

  2. I just figured out why I'm such a poor conversationalist. The only things I really want to talk about are religion, sex, and politics.

  3. Kevin, you crack me up. I guess you don't spend much time in polite company then?

    And yes, Luke, since the Triduum. It only took an entire Lent of knowing every single polyphonic hymn they sang to guilt me into it. I swear I wrote a blog post about it somewhere. Here:


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