On the 26th day of April, A.D. 1990, I stood before His Grace, the Most Rev. Robert J. Rose, bishop of Grand Rapids, and was Confirmed into the Catholic Church, at a special Mass held at St. Anthony of Padua church.
That was 20 years ago, tomorrow.
The Catholic sacrament of Confirmation is the final sacrament of initiation: It is the spiritual acceptance of a Catholic into full adulthood within the community of believers.
Much has happened to me, spiritually, over the last two decades:
- I went to a Catholic high school and was lukewarm in faith, bordering on the agnostic;
- I went to a secular university, discovered philosophy, and became a radical and committed atheist;
- I made a series of bad judgements, rooted in youthful arrogance, that brought me a considerable amount of legal and financial trouble;
- in desperation, I turned to God and (for reasons I never really did fully understand) went back to church, despite thinking it was a silly and superstitious waste of time;
- I eventually re-embraced the Church fully, serving in my parish as a lector, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and sacristan — and eventually becoming the chief sacristan and long-running chairman of the parish liturgy committee;
- I spent a few years in pre-seminary study and took a week-long retreat with the Legion of Christ in Connecticut to explore a priestly vocation (at which, I was blessed by a special encounter with the Divine);
- I started volunteering through the diocese, eventually serving as a lay chaplain at a hospital and at a state prison, and contributing to the diocesan Office for Worship as a master of ceremonies to the bishop and lay coordinator for major diocesan liturgies;
- and then,
- acedia struck.
So I’ve pretty much moved full circle, from “cultural Catholic” to atheist to practicing Catholic to potential priest to non-practicing Catholic.
The spiritual journey has been curious. I am not abandoning the Church; I don’t disagree with major teachings or think it’s silly superstition. I will return to active practice. Part of the issue may be burn-out — I was doing so much, so frequently, that I’d actually sit down to Mass with no “extra” obligation maybe only once per year. That’s a lot; a person can spend so much time serving others that he loses the ability to service himself.
I am heartened by the path of the Church over the last two decades. I am a committed “Benedict XVI Catholic” — one who favors authentic liturgy, an inquisitive mind, and a charitable heart. I identify much more strongly with the academic/contemplative forms of prayer life than the evangelical/charismatic model, and I find some hope in the way the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments have taken a firm but gentle hand in correcting some of the liturgical abuses arising in the post-Vatican II chaos.
Like many Catholics, I regret the sexual abuse of some priests, even as I notice (in away the New York Times editorial board apparently cannot) that the worst of the crisis occurred in the generation immediately after Vatican II and that the abuse rate among Catholic clergy is still significantly below that of, say, Southern Baptist clergy, prison guards, or public-school teachers.
That said, I am presently in a spiritual rut that has lasted for nearly two years. I am confident, however, that in due time, the rut will have run its course and I will once again be spiritually joined to the Church Universal.