Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Paradox Of Loneliness

Soon I will add another link to a new blog by a wonderful friend, husband, father, teacher.

You will note his family is growing, what he learns from his children, and also much more about our life of faith, of pilgrimage, in Christ.

Reading his most recent post I must admit I shuddered interiorly.

Recently off retreat I found that post about the grace of living in the now was too close to home, to close to the struggle.

It seems to me there is an immense paradox unfolding in this Year of the Priest: the obvious love, gratitude, prayer directed towards priests from thousands upon thousands of the wonderful faithful – and yet – the seemingly never ending horror of new revelations of priestly sins and crimes against the innocent is the tearing open anew of a wound which I wonder: will it ever heal?

The wound: in the lives of the betrayed.

The wound: in the Priesthood.

So, yes, today to be honest I am struggling with my emotions, with the sheer weight of exile because of a false accusation and really kicking against the goad of the Holy Spirit nudging me, inviting me, ever more deeply into the loneliness of Christ.

The paradox of this loneliness is that we can only enter into this loneliness of Christ if we are with Him!

I love my Bishop and brother priests very much and hate the pain of loss of fraternity because I am deemed ‘one of those.’

In human terms, of course, priority of place in my heart belongs to my own Son and with each passing year, as he more and more confidently has his priorities in right order: wife, children, parish, work – well you get the picture and yes I hate that too and when my neediness for attention {just typing that I am blushing and feel like an old fart!} comes up against his feeling overwhelmed – well I hate that most of all!

Yet the lavishness of his love, the love of his wife who is a tender and wise woman, the love of their children, all of which domestic-church, family love is a healing balm, comes at a price I rebel against {much to the consternation of my rather patient son} because the price seems huge, when in fact it is far less than the price Christ paid alone in the Garden.

The price: being third, which in the case of a right ordered family may mean being 8th or 80th!; in the case of an exiled priest being third means being absolutely forgotten.

Why, I often wonder, did Jesus, as for example St. Mark tells us, go off to a lonely place to pray? [cf. Mk.1:30ff]

Well, not really! I just don’t like facing the implications because if it is just us and Jesus we are like the Woman at the Well – there is no place, not even within ourselves, to hide.

That’s loneliness too!

The Servant of God, Catherine Doherty, gave a powerful talk once, published as a letter in Volume Two of the series Dearly Beloved, published by Madonna House Publications.

It is a letter I return to again and again, often like a moth to a flame even though this moth knows he’s gonna get burnt again – but the fire, in truth, is the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit!

Aptly titled “Paradoxes of the Spirit” it is Catherine reflecting on another passage from St. Mark wherein Jesus tells us what will happen if we try by our own wits to save our life, ourselves, our very souls! [cf. Mk. 8:34f]

At the very beginning Catherine teaches: “This seems to be a key mystery that continually escapes us all; or rather it is a paradox from which we try to escape! We are not ready to have an inner battle with ourselves, sixty minutes of every hour, twenty-four hours a day, all of our lives.” – and – “…Whenever you experience inwardly any annihilation of yourself, you will feel an overpowering urge to assert yourself outwardly, to imprint yourself on life. ‘Look, folks, I exist! I’m here. I haven’t disappeared. I’m a person. Listen to me!’”

When the searing pain of the human family, of the suffering Christ, of the Holy Father, of the Priesthood, when the cries of personhood devastation of the abused, the silent scream of the aborted, when the raw ache of the loneliness of Christ goads the raw wound of exile, abandonment, not being heard touches my emotional centre – well yep I get this very overpowering urge to assert myself and the paradox is that very self-assertion pushes away the very people, quite naturally I might add, I most want to pay attention – sometimes, it seems, it is as if when I am in that space in prayer I am pushing away the very Jesus upon whom I yearn to lean, to be with and find rest!

Yep, this is the paradox of loneliness: unless I allow myself to experience the raw pain of loneliness, mine, everyone’s, Christ’s own, I cannot comfort the lonely Christ.

Nor can I be alone with Him in that solitary place of prayer, nor keep watch with Him in the Garden, nor be one with Him on the Cross.

If we are to do the battle ‘sixty minutes of every hour every day’, if we are to embrace the mystery, the paradox of ‘losing our life to save it’ we need, I believe, to hold onto the hand of our Blessed Mother, like a little child learning to walk, allow her to take us where perhaps, at least in our emotions and fears, we’d rather not go!

To be taken by her/led by her to enter this paradox, to allow this purifying fire to burn away our need to be the centre, rather than the servant, to be the loved rather than the one loving, to have needs met rather than be gift – yep if we willingly do the battle Catherine speaks of, then Our Lady takes us also to two extraordinary places where Jesus is: the Manger and the Eucharist, which is to enter the mystery of becoming childlike and truly beloved – but the way to both is the way of the Cross.

Indeed the cross Jesus urges us to take up each day is the very battle, the very paradox, as Catherine says, we seek to flee!

The paradox within the paradox is, of course, this is not a one-time battle and then it’s done and we become all calm, totally selfless, and absolutely faith-filled.

Much as I sure wish it were that easy, the reality is very much the Exodus story, the days with Jesus in the Desert, the struggle to keep watch with Him in the loneliness of the Garden, the Way of the Cross.

Cross is prelude, crucifixion is the heart and joy of the paradox.

Fulfillment is resurrection imprinted, invested, within us every time we receive Our Beloved Glorified Jesus in Holy Communion!

Wheat must be ground and fired to become bread, grape must be crushed to become wine.

This fired and crushed matter by the power of the Holy Spirit becomes Jesus, my Lord, my God, my all!

In His passion and death Jesus Himself was ground and squeezed to the last drop for love of us.

In the same letter Catherine notes the following, speaking about the weight of the battle pushing us face down to the floor, that is, of course, to be on the ground with Jesus in the Garden: “Now the grace is that you are on that floor, that you haven’t turned your back to God and walked away. That’s the grace. That’s the beginning of your growth in faith: you’re there! He was on a cross, and you are on the floor. After you get up, your soul feels like a thousand sponges that have been squeezed out, but it doesn’t matter….there comes a 'day’ when you wake up and find that a new dimension of Christ has opened itself, and now you can take some steps in His Kingdom….”

1 comment:

kam said...

My blessing to you for spilling your heart out to us all. What a dark, haunting but beautiful post! So much for me to think about. In you our Faith is radiated, I can truly feel it. May you find your way down this quiet unlit path you have chosen, or perhaps it was chosen for you? Peace, my friend.. k