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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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."
continues. . . .
Peace and love, my
Labels: Anglican Communion, Episcopal Church, Simone Weil