The fog came in last night, billowing by. Then the rain began just after I turned out my light. I fell asleep with my thoughts wandering and the sound of sleet hitting the roof echoing through the room. There are few sounds more comforting than rain at night. This morning everything was covered in a thin layer of white frost, which because the sun works as it should here in Southern California, has now melted.
Birds are busy, and happy, and singing, likely because they had a worse night than I did, and are that much more appreciative of the beautiful morning. A nuthatch tweets as it hangs upside down on a bird seed holder right outside my window. A squirrel with a swollen nose leaps onto the rail, and tries to hide from the view of the squirrel already present. Two jays screech at each other on a nearby branch. In the upper branches of a ten foot tall line sapling a chipmunk bathes in the sun, engaging what appears to be a tail activated chirp. Each chirp is combined with a flick of its striped tail, which goes into a swish when the chirping stops.
Someone mentioned the other day that I tend to artfully change the subject when the subject turns to me. Or not so artfully, as the person did notice. Part of this is because I am, most certainly, a Saturday Christian. What did Peter have to say about himself on that Saturday long ago. He had plenty to say on Monday, and forty days later he couldn’t keep quiet. On Saturday? There was only hope and faith that what had happened was for a reason, a reason which had not yet resolved itself into a reality.
It isn’t that I avoid the questions. I know myself. That is an art. The Desert Father Poemen said, “He who knows himself is a man.” This very page is a working out of those core questions. But, I don’t know what to say to others. How do I speak of the vague mists within my soul until they resolve into something palpable. I know… but I don’t trust hardly anyone to listen. So I change the subject, much as Joseph must have done when a fellow prisoner asked if he had any dreams when he was younger.
She was noting that she really didn’t know anything about my past, not that I know too much about her past. This is true, though I suspect we both share the same feeling we are very much alike, and share a similar path, even with our distinctive pasts. So, not only do I not like to share about my present overmuch, except to the whole world (or at least the fraction of the wee bit that pass through here) via the Internet,I am wary about sharing my history for much the same reasons.
I got to thinking why this might be so. I realized that it basically comes down to the fact that I am not Catholic. I’m quite not Catholic if this isn’t apparent, and happily so for a variety of reasons, some of which have to do with the reasons why my story is difficult to explain because I’m not Catholic.
There is little doubt in my mind that had I lived a thousand years ago I would have become a priest. My brother would have inherited the title and the estate, and I would have gone into the Church to provide spiritual and temporal support for the broader family. This was the responsibility of literate second sons.
What is also true is that had I been born the same exact year I was born, yet born into a Catholic family rather than a Protestant family I almost certainly would be a priest or in a religious order right now. My heart, passion, dedication, focus over these last twelve years points almost exclusively to the reality that I have been effectively living the life of a religious or priest, except for the bit about being a Catholic. Had I been Catholic, the path would look almost exactly the same only I would be engaged by a Church that promotes and values all three strands of Christian devotion, and would be able to answer easily any questions about my calling.
But, like I said, I’m not Catholic. I’m happily not Catholic, without any thought of becoming such, because of matters of theology and because I don’t hold whatsoever to the absolute insistence that a religous or vocational servant of Christ must remain single. I am single, that is true. But, I hold this to be a flexible reality, not a permanent vow, dependent on the very fluid work of the Holy Spirit in my life. Indeed, as there really isn’t in me anything that affirms a lifelong singleness for my own journey I am glad I am not part of a Church which insists on this for me. Quite the opposite in fact is true, I feel that my journey is not a solitary one, though my learning has required walking the journey alone for the time being. I’m happy I’m not Catholic because I would miss out on that part of me which feels a companion on this journey is not only a delight, but a key aspect of my own participation in the Spirit.
Understanding if I were Catholic I would almost certainly be a priest helps me view my past decade with more clarity. All my choices were directed towards pursuing God first, which left out the pursuit of most other things in my life which makes the typical Protestant content. I am an evangelical monk of sorts, with the reading, dedication and temperament of a monk without the insistence on a specific way of life to spend such a calling. Thus I have more fluidity in my life… but also lack the structural support which helps provide succinct answers to questions about my present and past.
A person can see why I change the subject after wading through these previous paragraphs.
Another realization hit me this morning as I was waking up. Twelve years ago I left my house to walk down the block to get some Starbuck’s coffee. Halfway there, someone slapped a number on my chest and on my back. I began to jog when I noticed others jogging past me. Some tables were set up and people were handing out cups of water, which I happily took as I went past. I never quite arrived at the Starbucks, for it was seemingly always one more block away.
Four miles into this I realized I wasn’t on my way to Starbucks at all, but had somehow gotten myself in a marathon.
Eight miles after this I realized I wasn’t just supposed to run a marathon, I was supposed to win it. The thought was exhausting, because I woke up thinking I was just going to get a vente cappuccino and maybe spend an hour reading through the Times. Only after twelve miles there wasn’t getting around the fact that I was involved in a marathon and I was supposed to run faster and faster as I went on in order to win the prize.
“Why are you running?” the person jogging next to me asks.
“I have no idea,” I respond. “I didn’t realize I was running a marathon at all until the fourth mile or so.”
Needless to say there are reasons why I am wary about answering questions, mostly because I don’t know much of the answers, and the entire interpretation of my present and past reality insists on a future which is both unrealized and decisive. My only hope, and thus my present singleness in a way, is that the other person must first see through the Spirit’s lense of the future in order to understand my reality. Without that there’s really no point in me answering questions at all.
With that, however, is a bond. This is a bond which shares the long fire lined path preventing those on it from going right or left. There is only to keep on it until it breaks open into a grassy meadow where a few singed people gather. These people recognize the struggle and recognize each other. In this is a beauty which makes it all worthwhile, even if incomprehensible to anyone outside of the meadow.
Again… it is easy to see why I generally change the subject when the question is, “What’s up with you, Patrick?”
It does feel nice to write it out… with hoped for clarity coming sooner rather than later in both the writing and the understanding. Such is the reality of being a Saturday Christian.
Curiously enough, I think I’m going to spend the rest of my day reading through the texts of Vatican II. I do not seek irony… but I do embrace it when it happens by.