28 November 2009

Unanswerable questions

I went out for a walk today.

Yesterday was Black Friday, the traditional day of shopping madness. In my family it is a tradition that we all go to my sister's house for a huge meal that lasts all day and into the evening. More food just magically appears whenever any of the trays run low....turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, broccoli and cheese casserole, dinner rolls, corn casserole, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies, peanut brittle, hot apple cider...so it goes all day and all evening. Football games are interspersed with cartoons and video games. And my family and I sleep over there, so that we can take part in the continuation of the festivities, namely Black Friday shopping. The girls all get up insanely early to go shopping. The guys sleep in and hang out at home with all the kids, and they bring the kids to the mall for lunch and pictures with Santa. It's just what we do.

We came home last night and I was thoroughly exhausted. Thanksgiving morning, I had gone downtown to take part in another local tradition, the Cincinnati Thanksgiving Day 10K. I have never run it before, but I really enjoyed it...a good race, a fun day, good company. So I was tired from that to start with, then I got up at 4:30 am (!!) Friday to go shopping. When we got home Friday night, I was wiped. out.
Went to bed and spent a much needed 12 hours there.

Today, before the husband left for work, I went for a walk. I thought about going for a run, but decided on a walk instead. No races coming up....don't want to work too hard today, feeling a bit...not lazy exactly, but I don't feel like working hard. It's a gorgeous day...almost painfully blue, clear sky, chilly but not cold. Instead of the music I normally listen to when I exercise, I decided to go with a podcast I download but don't always remember to listen to, called "Catholic Under the Hood." It's done by a priest who is a professor at Franciscan University across the state. I was listening to a segment he did on marriage, specifically Eastern Orthodox ceremonies, and I was thinking about the differences between Eastern ceremonies and Western or Roman Catholic ceremonies, and what the symbolism meant.

Since I've been back in school, studying science (because I have to), history (because I want to) and philosophy, and learning to think more critically, as in asking questions, weighing evidence, and coming to logical conclusions, my faith has raised an awful lot more questions than it has answered for me. And I'm not sure what that means. I found myself in a discussion, almost a debate, about religion recently and it really made me think. Who says my way is the right way? Is there "one true faith"? Are Protestants, Lutherans, Episcopals, Jews, Buddhists, Assemblies of God congregations, all going to hell because they aren't Catholic? How can I believe in a God I can't see, touch, or smell? Am I really hearing or feeling Him, or is it just that I want to so badly that I've convinced myself He's real? Science and the theory of evolution explains a lot about the way the world works, in a scientific way, where all the loose ends get tied up neatly and everything is explained.

How can you explain faith to a person who demands hard evidence? There is a component of mystery to faith, something that simply cannot be explained. The Holy Trinity.....how do you explain that? Three persons in one? And the religious sects that broke away from the Church because they couldn't subscribe to the same beliefs? How does it all make sense? They say we pray to idols and images and statues....we pray to the Saints and therefore are worshipping someone other than God Himself....how does this stack up neatly to make a complete picture of the one true faith, led by a supposedly infallible human man? What does it mean if I disagree or have a hard time being obedient to, or just flat out disobey, certain aspects of my chosen faith?

The only thing I know for sure, and this makes me a terrible debater, is the overwhelming peace I feel when I hear Mass. The soothing cadence of the prayers, the structure that doesn't change, the rhythm of sitting, standing, kneeling....I feel whole. My friend told me about explaining the Eucharist to her grandson....he wanted to know what it tasted like. She said it didn't really have a taste, but it was more of a feeling than a taste. And the Eucharist brings up another big question....if transubstantiation is real, then are we really eating the Body and drinking the Blood of Christ? How? And does that make us, as some people accuse, cannibals?

In my heart, I don't doubt. God is real. The Bible is the Truth. But again with the questions....which version is true? Is the Bible not just a bunch of stories passed down through the ages? Whose perspective? Were they really prophets?

Only when I try to communicate what I believe, and why I believe it, do I sound like I doubt. And so I hope that what I've heard is true...the truly faithful ask the most questions. Your faith really becomes your own and becomes fuller with each question you ask, and seeking to understand more fully means strengthening your faith. Boy, I sure hope so. 'Cause I still have a lot of questions.

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