Thursday, February 24, 2011

Be faithful

I should say at the outset that I don't believe most dreams have supernatural significance, and the one I'm about to describe is not any different. There is a natural reason why I had this particular dream; I'd been asked to pray for an orthodox priest under some duress from his bishop, and though I had not yet had the privelege of meeting this priest I'd heard many good things about him. What with thinking about his situation and praying for him, I was not surprised at all to have him show up in a couple of dreams--but as this one was interesting and has some relevance to what I want to say today I share it here.

I dreamed this several years ago, yet it has remained rather vivid in my mind, as some of those short, near-dawn dreams often do. In my dream I was kneeling at Mass, right up in the front row; the priest I'd been praying for was saying Mass, and was just at the moment of the Consecration.

As he elevated the chalice I saw that it was a clear glass or crystal chalice--and had I been awake, I'd have seen that as incongruous with this priest's deep orthodoxy and reverence for the liturgy (as, no doubt, would he), since such chalices aren't generally permitted. But in the dream there was a reason for this chalice--for as the priest concluded the elevation, he came out from behind the altar, walked over to me, pressed the chalice against my forehead, and asked, gently, "What do you see?"

I peered into the depths of the ruby-red Precious Blood, and a distinct picture began to emerge. I saw a mountain, completely encircled by a road which led up it in a spiral. About halfway up the mountain was the Ark of the Covenant. Two groups of people were carrying the Ark--but one was trying to carry the Ark up to the summit of the mountain, while the other was trying to take the Ark back to the mountain's base. As they struggled with each other, the Ark would go up a little and back down a little, but the end result was that the Ark remained in the middle of the mountain.

Out loud, though, in answer to the priest's question, I said, "I see Israel and Judah, contending with each other, throughout the ages, down to the present day."

And the priest asked me, even more gently, "And what does it mean?"

"It means, 'Be faithful,'" I replied without hesitation. I then woke up completely, the way you sometimes do after a vivid dream.

I've had plenty of occasions to think of that dream since then, and this most present occasion brought it to my mind again. There are bound to be times when sincere Catholics disagree with each other about the specific application of some definitive teaching, and this debate we've had about lying, about Live Action, and about the moral law is an example of that time.

But whether we agree more with this gentleman (as I do) or with this one, we are, for the most part, trying to answer that command--not merely a dream, but the general command to Christians everywhere: be faithful. This is not a matter where some Catholics are dissenting from something that has already been clearly defined, such as the morality of abortion or artificial contraception. Those sorts of settled matters don't really allow for varied interpretations, and the Church has been very careful to be very clear.

The Church will, at some point, be equally clear about whether sting operations, citizen journalism, police work, spying, witness protection programs, childhood traditions such as Father Christmas or La Befana or St. Nicholas, etc. must all be unequivocally condemned as immoral lying, or whether some are exceptions, or whether (though I rather doubt it) all of them are. The question we have to ask ourselves is: what if the Church declares that I am wrong?

I've said before: if the Church ever condemns the St. Nicholas/Santa Claus pretense as immoral lying, I will publicly retract every word I've ever said or written on the subject and write with equal energy to fight against the practice, as I've previously written in favor of it. Similarly, if the Church ever declares that citizen journalists may licitly say they are who they are not and make other false statements in the line of their work, I will apologize for having taken the opposite position and make it clear that I am willing to be guided by the Church in this as in all matters.

Because what matters more than online moral theology discussions and Internet bloviating and the joy of blogging is the message of that dream of mine: be faithful. It is my intention to follow Christ and His Church in all things, come what may.

12 comments:

freddy said...

Lovely, and quite refreshing! Thank you for your kindness as well as fidelity. I have to admit that I didn't see what I could possibly add to this discussion when your first post included, "The truth is that no matter how much we might wish to believe that Live Action's tactics are morally sound, we ought to know better than that." and I was still, and continue struggling with the issue.

Long, long ago, in my first year of college, I came face to face with the fact that my high school religion courses had not been, shall we say, helpful in teaching me my faith. I had absorped a great many false and even heretical ideas. Surrounded by people of great wisdom, faith and love, I found that I had a lot of pride to swallow and a lot of learning to do. I still do, and I've been very blessed to have in my life wise people who are both kind and patient.

God bless you.

Charlotte said...

But is being faithful and being obedient the same thing? I am struggling with that question in my life right now in a big way.

Alisha De Freitas said...

Your dream and the description was simply beautiful. I actually do think there is a deep spiritual significance.

Reading your and Mark Shea's posts about lying have really got me thinking about the morality of lying. I thank you for these writings.

texasmama said...

Did you see Janet Smith's very recent article (just posted to Catholicvote this evening)?
Lisa

Siarlys Jenkins said...

"I've said before: if the Church ever condemns the St. Nicholas/Santa Claus pretense as immoral lying, I will publicly retract every word I've ever said or written on the subject and write with equal energy to fight against the practice, as I've previously written in favor of it. Similarly, if the Church ever declares that citizen journalists may licitly say they are who they are not and make other false statements in the line of their work, I will apologize for having taken the opposite position and make it clear that I am willing to be guided by the Church in this as in all matters.
"


Not meaning this as an insult, but as something I've thought about before, it strikes me that this is exactly the way good party members handle things in communist parties. I particularly have considered this before, because I have some years back known a few avowed communists who were raised in good Catholic homes, who defended their approach to "indoctrination" by citing church use of the same term.

That doesn't make it automatically wrong for the church, but it strikes me as a reason to pause over ANY promise to instantly retract what seems to me (or you) as good, right, and reliable, the moment a designated authority weighs in to the contrary.

There must be some good reason you believe that lying is lying and is never acceptable.

Anonymous said...

Texasmama - thank you for the reference to Janet Smith's article. Just read it and found it very thought-provoking.

bathilda said...

@Siarlys. thank you for your posts. they make me fell less lonely when I read this blog. I don't believe that absolute obedience to the church is possible for me. I think it is against our nature to blindly follow even though our own thoughts, experiences and our hearts are telling us something different. To feel that the Church is never wrong is to think that the Church has never been wrong. On that point, I, and indeed, history, beg to differ.

Susan Kehoe said...

Bathilda,
I strive to be a faithful and obedient Catholic. But that does not mean that I follow blindly. I always study why the Church takes a certain stance. But I trust the Church because the Church has Christ for her head. Jesus promised that the Church would not err in the matter of faith and morals.

My experiences,feelings,thoughts and even my heart can and have led me astray. Faith and reason guide me to God.

Bathilda said...

@Susan K: I guess that faith and morals doesn't include raping children, corrupt popes, corrupt bishops, corrupt priests, torturing heretics, forced conversion, genocide, and did I mention condoning rape? I did? Which of these isn't about faith and morals?

rdcobb said...

Bathilda: What you are describing is the immoral actions of individual people NOT official Church doctrine. The Church as an institution put in place by Christ is our guide for discerning the truth and doctrine, but just because we have been told what is right doesn't mean that we always DO what is right.

And Red's not talking about blind obedience. She's talking about trust and humility. She is putting her trust in an institution that does not discern anything without extreme deliberation and that knows that it will be accountable to God for leading others astray, and she is being humble enough to admit that she may not always be the smartest person in the room (although she is indeed very wise any many areas).

bathilda said...

I knew you would say that. I know that there is a difference. I just don't separate the two.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I would be the first to agree that Red is not talking about blind obedience. Red thinks very carefully about her faith, and the obedience she talks about is sincere, entirely voluntary on her part. She CHOOSES to submit to the hierarchy, because she truly believes it is right. Ditto for Susan Peterson.

There are reasons I have not made the same choice. I find the statement that the church never errs to be in blatant contradiction to the many errors the church has made. The Borgia Pope and his children are one good example. The fact that the Roman church got the counter-reformation under way by acknowledging the error of selling indulgences, and cleaning up various other sins, demonstrates a sincere desire to reform, but also that there was much filth in the church.

The argument that that was not "The Church," that was "individuals within the church" is a distinction without a difference. The authority of the church is exercised by men. If the church cannot err, then those men who are endowed with church office cannot err in the conduct of their office. And they have erred, grieviously.

If it is church canon that cannot err, rather than the men who hold office, then we are back to "sola scriptura" by another name. I believe canon says one thing, you believe canon says another, and there is no authority on earth who can tell us which is right, or that we are both wrong... because those are the men who can err, as distinct from the church which cannot.