One year ago today, I was given the great privilege of blogging here at Patheos.
For me, this is a place to share with you my thoughts and my progress as I come to learn more and more about the Church – a Church to which I returned after 41 years away.
I feel so incredibly honored to be a part of this group of faithful and extraordinarily talented writers, professors, authors, clergy, doctors, and media personalities. And I owe a great debt of gratitude to Elizabeth Scalia, The Anchoress, for taking a chance on me, an unknown lawyer with a simple desire to write something more than legal briefs and memoranda of law.
And I am also grateful to all of you for your reading, for commenting, and for interacting with me over the past year. You make it all worthwhile and fun (yes, fun!).
My start at Patheos coincided with the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, normally a Holy Day of Obligation. However, because this year August 15 falls on a Saturday, the obligation to attend Mass is abrogated. (The same is true whenever August 15 falls on a Monday – made, I assume, as a concession to those who may find it difficult to make time for Church two days in a row, especially during the summer).
Here’s what I wrote one year ago – the first time, in fact, that I had attended Mass specifically to fulfill an obligation of attendance, even though I had already been going to Mass on an almost-daily basis for a little bit.
I struggled with the requirement (demand, really) that I fulfill that obligation. And I struggled with the underlying doctrine of the Assumption itself.
Truth be told, I still do.
One year in, I am still learning and I am still growing.
I can only pray that will never cease.
Argue. Complain. Agitate. Fidget. Rest. Surrender
(August 15, 2014)
Maybe it stems from that independent American spirit that still grips a large part of my soul.
Or perhaps it comes from many years of reflexively pushing back at anything Catholic – or, in this case, Mary.
Maybe it’s tiredness.
Then again, it might be plain laziness.
But when I realized that Church attendance today was obligatory – even though I happily make my way over to daily Mass almost every other day – my first and visceral reaction was “No!”
It didn’t help that today was the first day of my vacation.
I knew that I would be irritated by the sudden surge of participants who don’t typically make it in on days other than Sunday.
I knew that there would be more people prone to talking loudly, more people squeezing in next to me, more people sneezing and coughing. Hey, don’t you know that this is my place? This is where, with a handful of regulars, I can come and go in peace and in silence. I don’t want to share any of that, especially since I’m compelled to be here against my will.
But I was there.
I sat there trying to wrap my head around the Assumption of Mary – is this scriptural? Am I in danger of becoming a heretic because my understanding of – okay, my belief in – the Assumption is not yet fully grounded? Others have today written on the meaning of this day better than I can, so I’ll leave it to them to explain.
But I can tell you that today’s service made a difference.
Maybe it was the much older woman who sat in the pew in front of me. Clearly gripped by arthritis – she was constantly comforting her left hand with her right throughout the Mass – she nevertheless was fully engaged, fully joyful. The smile that radiated from deep within her as we offered each other the sign of peace was sincere, and peaceful, and calming. I knew that there was a lesson waiting somewhere in there for me.
Maybe it was the Priest’s words about Mary. How she suffered, as any mother would, as she helplessly watched the life force literally drain from her son. And yet, she stood tall. No, not in a physical sense. In a deeply spiritual one. Her faith was love. Her love, faith.
In fact, we were reminded that faith is always love in action. “Faith without love is dead,” just as much as faith without works is dead. If you have no love you have no faith. If you have no love, you have nothing truly worth counting on.
We were implored to look to Mary, not as a mediator for there is only one, but as the “wings which give flight to our prayers.” That’s an image that I had never thought of before.
So, as I sat there, my complaints, my irritations, my stresses finally began to drain. I found them replaced by a peaceful reassurance. And I found that I was able to surrender into the moment.
In the end, I realized that I had also gained a slightly better understanding of the words that kept coming to mind as I sat there and thought about the meaning of this day: “Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief.”
For those further interested, long-time apologist and new Patheos blogger Dave Armstrong has a post up today about the scriptual basis of the Assumption. It’s well worth your time.
Also, be sure to read Max Lindenman‘s excellent post from today on the Assumption for his – as always – well written and wonderful perspective.
Finally, more here from The Anchoress, Elizabeth Scalia. One commenter was so moved by Elizabeth’s post that she said: “This brought tears to my eyes.” Yes, it is excellent.
Image Credit: Francesco Botticini (The Assumption of the Virgin), Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons