roamin' catholic: karin rosner

Requiem and Reunification

Posted on: November 5, 2011

It’s early on a Saturday morning, and I am getting ready to attend a Roman Catholic memorial Mass remembering an old friend of my family. It’s going to be the first mass I’ve gone to since my mother’s funeral nine years ago. Instead of thinking about the wonderful man we’re praying for, I’m thinking about last night’s lecture in New York City by the Right Rev. Dr. N.T. Wright on his book tour for “Simply Jesus” and the questions he’s asking that get to the core of who Jesus really was and is, and what Christianity is all about in light of the answers, stripped of modern (or post-modern) trappings. NTW wants to lead us into Christ’s core by trying to understand the Jews and Gentiles and what the Jesus in the Gospels is saying to the centuries.

The other bishop I’m thinking about died in 2003. I met Bishop Paul Moore while I was in the middle of working through my thinking about God and stripping down religion itself. I was looking deeply at the core of why people believe, why I could not be an atheist, and asking God/ess “Who are you?”  When I was not a Christian, and spending the summer learning how to be a travel agent, I met the recently retired Episcopal Bishop of New York. He lived around the corner from the little travel agency where I was an intern. My agency handled his travel arrangements for his book tours and missions work he was involved in. I had no idea who this guy was at the time and I knew absolutely nothing about Episcopalians and the Anglican Church, but he had some kind of inkling that I was a young woman asking the Creator of the Universe some really hard questions about who h/she really was. He took the time to come in to the agency after the owner had already gone for the day, and we sat and talked about everything. He initiated the chats. He walked in with his dog, sat down and started engaging me in deep conversation. I asked hard questions about God from a haughty, angry, know-it-all post-Christian perspective, and he countered with telling me about his faith. Over a period of six weeks that summer, we had perhaps 20 hours of conversations. He invited me to check out the Episcopal Church one day, thinking that the Anglican tradition was a great place to ask the questions of God that I was asking. A few years later, I did. I’m still there, but I am a very different person than the angry young woman who dared ask God some hard questions about Jesus in 1998.

I still think however, that it’s crucially important that we ask God hard questions that only he can answer, or choose not to. Questioning is not really about “doubt” as much as a willingness to really look into and understand why we believe what we believe, even when the answers to those questions reveal much more of a mystery. Mystery brings us to our knees, looking up to an imagined plane of existence called “Heaven” and shouting to the Creator of the Universe, “I don’t understand!” When we all admit that we are confronted with mystery, there can be more dialogue, more unity… and maybe all of our broken communions can be united in Christ again. (John 17:21)

So, in a few minutes, I’m going to get in the car and revisit a formative part of my faith journey as I spend time worshipping God with many people I love. I’ll wonder how many of the prayers of the Mass I can still recite by heart; the revised translation of the Roman Missal doesn’t go into play until the First Sunday of Advent.  I will most likely sit in the pew during Communion time and say a prayer of spiritual communion, unless the priest invites non-Catholics up for a blessing. I’ll remember my sister’s godfather and give thanks for him and for his amazing family, and his legacy of faith and ministry to everyone he met.

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