Remember Your Promises: A Note to My Spiritual Elders

Remember Your Promises: A Note to My Spiritual Elders January 10, 2017

You raised me. You taught me. You took my family and gave them a direction. You fed us and sometimes clothed us. You loved me. You promised.

The keywords: Orthodoxy, conservative with a small c that started to grow during the Clinton years, fidelity, authority. You swore an oath, and I did too. I still do. Magisterium. Teacher. Rabbi.

I loved what you loved, I drank deeply and it was good. God, yes, always Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but also Rome. You led me there and showed it to me. By the hand.

I pilgrimaged in Poland and wept when he passed. I missed and still miss him, he lives on in letters and verse. I study the German and refuse to let ideology sweep away his beautiful mind. I defend and champion him. He took me to Augustine, a man you should meet someday. I never took things down without thinking, mind you, I disagreed with both, but always as you taught me, faithfully.

Francis was no different, how could he be?  His style was different, sure, but I thought you said it was one, whole. Actually, you never did say that, but I thought it was implied. I thought the Holy Spirit was real.

Clinton’s scandal was unbearable and unforgivable since he never asked for forgiveness. His impeachment was just, right, good. I would never let his economy or philosophy degree fool me. You said it was principle over politics. I believed you. I wrote in candidates and still do. You taught me that. We were the outcasts, the Jesus freaks, the misunderstood.

You promised that fidelity would bring freedom and it did, mostly. The core of that promise was true. You taught the hard way, with very little room for choices or fancy, and I saw the difference between essentials and nonessentials. You promised we would take this route, and maybe suffer, the stories of the martyrs still ring and echo.

Maybe you are sick. Maybe you are tired. Maybe you took too much on back then and now your generation needs to escape and retire. Maybe your rigor was authentic but your will is faded. Maybe you are like Moses, leading to the promise land but unable to complete the journey.

I cannot reject you. I cannot go to “another side.” I’ve never been a James Martin or Richard Rohr Catholic. I don’t know how to be otherwise than what you made me. You are less than you seem, even then. I see there were many others, others who were just as pious but not American, didn’t speak English, and disagreed with you — but I often let you speak the loudest.

Now I can speak. I am a writer now. I don’t think you are proud of me but you must know that I know you because we are linked. You led me here. You gave me books but now you don’t read as much as I thought you did. You are selective when I thought the point was to be thorough. You are afraid and I thought we were to be courageous.

Most of all, you doubt in a way that is not free or forthright. You are passive aggressive and use the question marked by sneaky moves that once belonged to the postmodern. You attack the Pope. The Pope. But you make qualified and carefully manicured excuses for Trump. I realize now that some of you were lying to me, but your lies had truth in them.

I realize that most of your promises were meant to be kept, but you are human like me. We are weak. We miss meetings. We never spoke of weakness often, but probably because we were so weak so we sought strength. But your promises are still strong in my limbs and my mind. I have not forgotten. Test me, I remember. My children now learn and grow.

Today you are my greatest scandal. I want to hide you from sight. Protect you, even. You must awake. Remember your promises. Don’t exchange them anymore. Some of us are still here, differently but the same. Essentials and non-essentials. Orthodoxy, authority, fidelity, conservative for what must be conserved, progressive for what needs to be progressed from, liberal about books and liberty, socialist about society, capitalist about capital, but most of all Catholic and Roman Catholic because this is who we are, right?

This is not the most important thing, I have not lectured you about Jesus or those things. We should not argue over liturgy now. But your open cynicism about Francis is a real problem. It breaks the promises you made. It sells my family into folly. It stains the only coat I have to wear when it is cold. Do not play games anymore, you said it was not a game.

Remember and repent and return.

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