There’s a certain release in admitting I just don’t know.
I am sure I’ve experienced God before. I’m positive. I’ve thought very hard about any euphoric experiences I’ve had during Charismatic “praise and worship,” any blissful feelings of well-being when that monster Father Mike Scanlan prayed my demons away. There are lots of things which can produce that feeling. Emotional contagion is a real phenomenon, and con artists like him are experts at manipulating emotional contagion. But still, I’m thinking of the joy I’ve had alone, in contemplation. The things I’ve seen when people lay aside their differences and help each other. The moments of serendipity when everything seems to go right. The fire burning within me when I read the writings of saints, sometimes. The things I have seen and my hands have received, instead of the things that were forced on me. I call the cause of those things, God.
But I just don’t know where God is lately, or where that God expects me to go.
That’s terrible. But it’s also comforting.
I don’t have to go to church because I think God will damn me if I don’t anymore. And I don’t have to go because I know for certain that this is the very place God wants me and will pour down His mercies like a waterfall to make me a real saint with a vital mission in the Church. When I go, I go because I want Adrienne to learn her Gospel stories and hymns, and to receive Holy Communion if she wants.
I used to love receiving Holy Communion. It used to be the best thing I could imagine, but lately it feels like drinking bleach. All that talk about what happens to the wrong person when they receive Jesus and damn themselves to hell. Still, she should if she wants.
On Sunday she and I went to Mass by ourselves– Michael felt like a long October walk to another parish, but I had already promised to take Adrienne to the pumpkin patch in the afternoon, so we went to the morning liturgy. We ended up in that same church with that same pastor, the one who made me sad last week. And again, I thought that the Church is a bad mother, a mother like the bad steward in the Gospel, a mother who starves the children while pampering herself, a permissive mother to the children she likes and a tyrant to the rest of us, a mother who allows cults like the one I was raised in to ravage her children and leave them spiritually destroyed. But I didn’t feel guilty about saying that anymore, because I don’t know were God is.
I didn’t feel guilty that we came in late, when the hymn was nearly done.
I didn’t feel guilty that we stood in the back, just annoyed that there weren’t any seats.
I didn’t feel guilty for scrolling on my phone when I felt panic coming on during the sermon. If God begrudges me that, he’s not a reasonable God. If the people around me were scandalized, they deserve to be scandalized.
“This priest talks for a long time,” whispered Adrienne, and I shushed her.
I didn’t feel much of anything at the elevation of the Host. That used to be my favorite part. I felt nothing but the nagging, irritating conviction that I still think the Eucharist is really Christ. And I was angry with Christ for coming at the behest of such a terrible Church. I wished he’d show a little spine and refuse to show up– unless, of course, he wasn’t coming for the sake of the priests and bishops who summon him. If he was only at their beck and call because he wanted to be with the rest of us, that would be different.
Then there was trouble, because Adrienne didn’t want to walk up to Communion by herself.
I found myself shuffling forward with her.
I remembered every line I’d ever heard about going to hell for receiving Communion unworthily. I racked my brain to see if any of the things I’d done lately met the criteria of a mortal sin, but mortal sin requires knowing and I don’t know much of anything right now. Except that I’m angry with him for coming here, to this place, when a God with self-respect would laugh at us and go somewhere else. Which means I think he’s here.
“We need the low-gluten Host,” I whispered to the priest.
“Oh, of course.” He looked down into his own ciborium, then pulled one white disc out of the separate compartment on the extraordinary minister’s ciborium. He broke it in half. “Sorry. We need to consecrate more. The Body of Christ.”
I swallowed my half a Host, and Adrienne swallowed hers.
“It doesn’t matter that you just got half,” I told Adrienne after Communion, “Because Christ is undivided, so you always get all of Christ.”
And as I said it, I realized I believed it.
And we’ll see where we go from there.
image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.