Thursday, January 26, 2012


Last week, I officially “jumped ship” from the Roman Catholics and joined the Episcopalian church. 

For Roman Catholics, it’s pretty much an easy process – Just sign on the dotted line. The Big Main Bishop laid his hands on my head  and proclaimed me to be a member of the Anglican Communion. I then went online to have a monthly donation made to the church  and the process was complete. 

Easy Peasy.

But for me, becoming an Episcopalian was a really big deal. This is my third time at joining a Christian denomination and each time, the experience was pretty significant. Bottom line: My motives in the past were messed up.

April 1968: I was nine years old and I had been pressured for some time to make my “profession of faith” in the local Southern Baptist church. That’s where one walks down the aisle during the last hymn and says to the congregation that you’re a sinner and that you “accept the lord Jesus Christ as your savior” (I doubt that anyone  knows, theologically, what that actually means) and that you want to be baptized. I did that when I was nine. It was embarrassing  and frightening. 

June 1993: I had spent the previous year attending classes at the local parish in order to become a Catholic. I was doing this for the sole purpose of joining a monastery. I had become obsessed with monastic spirituality, (I wanted to become another Thomas Merton or St. Thérèse of Lisieux) had found a monastery to join, but the one hitch was – I needed to be Roman Catholic. 

Much like Thomas Merton, I was admitted into the monastery two months after becoming Catholic. I remained in the Order for the next seven years and came awfully close to being ordained as a priest. 

Having completed a huge amount of graduate studies in philosophy and theology, in retrospect, I realize that I idealized religious life far too much. Turns out, it was a disappointing, painful and potentially disastrous experience; much like many episodes in our lives turn out to be. 

January 2012: I had spent the past two-and-a-half years as a member of the choir at St. James (Episcopal) Cathedral and it’s been a wonderful experience. I came there having distanced myself from spirituality and having been awfully jaded by it.

Bottom line: I missed having music in my life. I came to the Episcopal cathedral hoping to join a really good choir. I found that. 

What I didn’t expect was to be nourished. 

Emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and musical enrichment became a huge part of my life because of this Episcopal church that I found two-and-a-half years ago. For that, I am truly grateful. 

In retrospect, I’ve got three years of monastic life and four years of seminary toward the priesthood behind me along with an inordinate amount of graduate theological studies. There were a few years of embracing atheism as well. 

As an Episcopalian, do I believe in God?

I don’t know. 

Philosophically, I have a great deal of trouble thinking that I can marvel at my own existence, that I can realize and create such beauty with my music, and the fact that I can love without Something-Greater-Than-I causing it.  (Consult Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas for the actual philosophical references). Could all this about me have been created without a supernatural First Cause? My training as a Catholic seminarian gave me the ability to posit these things. As an Episcopalian, I can question them. 

Do I believe in life after death?

I don’t know

As a Catholic, we were always led to believe in a life and consciousness after we die. I’m now free to think that, actually, I’d be very surprised to find that we exist after death; or at least in any humanly-recognizable form of existence. 

When you think about it, isn’t there something incredibly meritorious and supernatural in living our lives without the knowledge of an afterlife?

Didn’t Christ (God) experience the same emptiness and nihilism upon his death when uttering “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Did Christ do all that he did with a quid pro quo mentality?

Cannot we enter into a solidarity with Christ by not expecting a reward? Are we brave enough to do this?

Why does such horrible affliction exist among the innocent?

I don't know.

During my years in religious life, I wrestled for so long with that “ultimate” question as to why there is so much unjustified affliction in this world. There was never an “answer” to why it exists. I can often only hang my head to the horror if it all.  But the best response I could ever come up with was to develop an observation of my own; 

An unlimited amount of supernatural beauty exists and can be discovered when one finds solidarity with the God (Christ) who chose to experience the affliction and annihilation to which we humans are continually shown.

That statement above pretty much distills all the insights I've gleaned so far. If I had to submit a "Credo", that would be it. 

I still love the visions of the 20th century philosopher, Simone Weil (1909-1943). I’ll paraphrase her thought: 

“In the beginning, God was all that existed and there was nothing but Himself:  . . . Perfection. 
Therefore, God’s greatest act of love was to create something outside Himself."

The journey continues. . . .

Peace and love, my friends.

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At 6:34 PM , Blogger Mom said...

I love this post. I think we may be soul mates. It is so honest to say I don't know and it is refreshing to hear. I believe there is a good and gracious God, but there are doubts that always creep in and I have to admit that, really , I don't know.

At 10:32 PM , Blogger Miss Healthypants said...

I loved this post, too. Well-said, my friend. :)

At 8:08 AM , Blogger Rooster said...

Isn't strange how religion gets in the way of spirituality so often. I'm glad you have found a home.


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