Tomorrow is Palm Sunday.
This miserable Lent of Invitation and Accompaniment is nearly over.
I had a plan, if my car somehow got fixed in time, to take a day in the week before Holy Week to drive to Pittsburgh, bribe myself with sashimi and a trip to a museum, and go to confession at that church I know with the fortress of a confessional, a confessional build like a closet with no way the terrifying priest could get around to my side for any reason. Then I’d go to the parish I heard was friendly to outcasts like me, and sit through a Mass, scrolling on my phone if necessary. I might even receive Holy Communion. Maybe.
In any case, it didn’t happen. The car is still a doorstop. Jimmy the neighbor mechanic is still waiting for the wiring harness to come in and it will take him a few days to put it in. I hope we have our own transportation by Triduum, but I’ll be surprised if we do before then. I’m out of ideas.
I’ve been too sick and scared to do anything worthwhile for Lent. I still have unbearable panic attacks in Mass and at the thought of confession. I haven’t been to confession in eleven months because I absolutely can’t, and I have only been to Mass twice since New Years. I’ve tried and tried but the flashbacks paralyze me and I get so sick that I have to go to bed.
I have failed to earn Easter, which was always the case anyway. No one could ever earn a resurrection, just as no one ever earned their first chance at life. We come to exist through circumstances beyond our control, and we cannot save ourselves.
We have one more ride to Palm Sunday Mass tomorrow, to get our palms and hear the reading of the Passion, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it or not.
I wake up every morning lately, absolutely certain I’m going to hell. And I cry, and I ask the archangels to stay with me and visit me in hell, and I’m afraid to ask the same thing of Jesus, even though I’m told He’s been to hell specifically for my benefit. And I can’t possibly convey how horrible that is. I honestly don’t know if I will ever find my way out of that feeling again. I have to say that before I say anything that sounds too hopeful, or I’ll feel like I’m lying.
Still, I’ve come to the conclusion that if I wind up in hell, I’ll be in good company.
If the god of my childhood, the prim white Jesus of the Charismatic Renewal and of Traditional Catholicism, is real, then I’m damned. And so is Holly the Witch who keeps Lunchables in the fridge to give her homeless neighbors, who recently ran into the street to put a blanket over an addict who passed out in front of her house and called him an ambulance, who is putting together a blessing box for her front yard so the poor who live near her can always have hand warmers and tampons. And so is her partner who always stops and gives money to panhandlers on the way home from work. And so is the friend who went hours out of her way to drive us home from Columbus when my old car was totaled, and so is her partner, and so is the funny silly Twitchstreamer my daughter likes to watch play video games. So is my transgender friend in West Virginia, who is desperately trying to raise money to move to a different state so his young transgender daughter can be safe, but he just can’t make ends meet. So is my other transgender friend who used to drive us to Sunday Mass as a favor, even though she didn’t believe, and the friends I’ve met online. Because we’re all intrinsically disordered and an abomination. And I don’t think I’d like to spend eternity with the Jesus of the Charismatic Renewal anyway.
But if a God of invitation and accompaniment is real, then we are all children of that God, fearfully and wonderfully made. And I can pray for God to supply the faith I am sorely lacking, and I can know, even if I can’t feel, that we’ll all be all right.
If the god of the Charismatic Renewal and of Traditional Catholicism is the true god, I will go to hell for being too terrified to walk into a confessional or swallow the Host. The abusers I’ve known will be fine, because they mutter a nice neat list of their transgressions to the priest and receive absolution before receiving Holy Communion, kneeling, on the tongue. But if there is really a God of Love, then this– my life, my injuries, my weaknesses, my failures, all of it– is a Communion with the Blood of Christ, and I will be all right.
If the god of the Charismatic Renewal and of Traditional Catholicism is the true god, then the Church is really my perfect sinless mother, and the fact that she despises and rejects me and has ruined my life is my condemnation. But if the Christ of the Gospels is God, I know that the Church’s capriciousness and cruelty are the same capriciousness and cruelty that crucified Christ, and that the abusive members of the hierarchy are the murderous stewards Christ prophesied in the Gospel, and in the end, when He returns, He will not side with them.
If the Christ of the Gospels is real, I can bear this trauma from the Catholic Church and also find meaning in the Church.
If the Christ of the Gospels is real, I can be a Catholic while condemning the sins and abuses of the Catholic Church, and there’s no contradiction there.
If the Christ of the Gospels is real, then the Resurrection has a meaning for me, and all of life is worth it.
If, on the other hand, the god of the Charismatic Renewal is real, then the miracle of Easter is just another parlor trick like falling over backwards slain in the spirit.
I don’t feel any hope right this moment. But I’ve long maintained that the feeling of hope is not the virtue of hope, the Hope which does not disappoint. That Hope is something different. That is the Hope Palm Sunday: the hope of a madman riding a donkey into the City of God, being greeted and revered and worshipped by the People of God, knowing all the time that in a few days they will turn on Him, torture Him, drag Him out of the city and lynch Him in front of His mother, but that will not be the story’s end.
If that madman is truly God, I’ll be all right.
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.