One TRUE Church in a time of fake news and fad diets...
(I'm realizing as I begin writing this post that a good percentage of my blog analogies depend on diets and weightloss.) I am and have always been perpetually on a diet of some sort and, as that might suggest, have always struggled with being overweight. Conveniently enough that struggle is very analogous to a life of faith and good fodder for blogging. Perpetual sinners always trying to figure out how to be holy. You get it.
My diet du jour is the Ketogenic diet, you know the one; low carb, 'good' fats, cult like following? So far, it's great but this blog is not about that, so I'll let you do your own google research. I've been doing this particular diet faithfully for about 2 months now. The more successful I am at it, the more I want to learn. I've read a lot about the 'science' of it, the benefits, how to be more successful, and the things that cause failure. I'm all in and feeling confident. But then yesterday, while scrolling my newsfeed, I came across an add for a diet concept called 'Carb cycling'; wherein you don't restrict carbs all the time, you introduce days of higher carbs in an effort to rev up your metabolism for more fat loss during low carb days. It was intriguing (if for no other reason than the possibility of being able to eat a potato every now and then) but I digress. Following the intrigue I frantically googled "Keto vs. Carb Cycling" and followed it down the rabbit hole. I discovered lots of articles that said that Keto was superior to Carb Cycling backed by medical professionals and those who had experience with both and I felt justified. But then I discovered an equal number of resources that claimed the opposite, also backed by medical professionals and those with experience and then it happened...doubt and despair. I began to question the last 2 months, all of my decisions. Maybe my success has not been real, maybe i'm not losing fat I'm just losing muscle and I'm going to just be a
We've all experienced this right? Especially with health information. This new documentary on Netflix, 'What the Health" has made everyone I know question everything. I mean, cajuns are becoming vegetarians!? "What the actual health!?" I've heard that its all true. I've heard that its a boatload of ugly, dirty lies. Who can we believe!? Is there a diet truth?
Well, I don't actually know. And, as you may have guessed by the title, this post is not actually about diets or health. See, I've set you up there with an analogy, as I tend to do, to make a point. But the point isn't coming yet so just hang in there. I have another story to tell.
Last week an acquaintance of mine invited me to meet her and a group of people at a coffee house. The group included Catholics who have begun attending a large non-denominational church in town and have essentially found a relationship with Jesus there and a community that they had not in the Catholic Church. This particular church consists of a majority of lapsed Catholics just like them. The meetings purpose was to try to 'bridge the gap'. I had no idea what that meant and I honestly didn't know if I was going to attend. I sat in my car after work and looked at the sky. In the direction of my house were black clouds and rain. In the direction of the coffee house was sunshine. I'm not saying the Lord wielded storms to get me there or anything, but I am saying I'm pretty sure the Holy Spirit knows I don't like lightening. The meeting was not what I expected. I thought there would be disagreement or debates and there was not. This particular meeting (as I am hoping there will be more) consisted of prayer and listening to each other. I learned that those now attending the non-denom church still appreciated the rich truth of the Catholic faith but also felt inspired and convicted by the powerful community and charity of their 'new' church. Also at the meeting were 2 religious sisters and 2 brothers from a local, very traditional religious community in our area. There we sat, latte's in hand 4 young and beautiful, full habited souls who have given their lives radically to the Lord and 4 lay people desiring to do God's will sharing our journeys with the Lord freely with each other and joining in prayer. It was beautiful and It was not what I expected my Thursday to look like.
One of the people at the meeting who now attends the non-denom Church was an acquaintance of mine from years ago. She is one of my earliest memories of what it looks like for normal, beautiful, young people to have a genuine relationship with Christ and the Catholic Church. She has spent her life ministering to others and teaching them about that same faith. I was indeed surprised to see her there. Her being at another church seemed impossible. But, through unfortunate, tragic and difficult situations that I could not fathom, she finds herself in this place at this time. After the meeting she and I went out for dinner and continued our discussion. I tried to just listen, not something I am typically good at. I am a fixer and when it comes to the faith, I am an explainer. I'm a teacher at heart, I have a theology degree and years of experience working in the Church, a love for apologetics and a confidence of faith that I did not have in my younger years. I am at the core of my being CATHOLIC, with all capitals. But, as I sat there and listened to her story I didn't have any answers to give. Not because the answers ceased to be true, but because I knew she already knew all of them and that this moment was not a time for her to learn, it was for me.
I felt as if we were two sides of a mirror speaking to each other; me who was on the side of a 'Catholic' life that by all intents and purposes is easy to live; supportive Parish community, husband who's annoyingly faithful (to me and the Church), good friends who are with me in my struggles and my joys, and her on the other side now having lost all of those things and having found rejection in the Church that has always been home to her. I was so sad. Not for her, necessarily. She's pulled herself up by her bootstraps, made a life for herself, continued to strive for holiness in the ways she can and even, in spite of the trial and mistreatment, continued to go to Mass and remain certain of the truths of the Church. For the first time in my life maybe, in that moment, I asked myself as I listened to her, "What would I have done?" and I honestly can't tell you. One question she asked during our divinely inspired dinner has stayed with me. "Does it matter that we have the fullness of truth if we're doing a horrible job at giving it to everyone?" I tried not to answer in my head immediately, as I tend to do. I thought about it and have thought about it since.
My experience reading about that other diet last night solidified some thoughts for me. In those moments something I had been very confident in the validity of (Keto) was questioned and I felt a tinge of despair. How can I possibly know whats true! Does it matter? Shouldn't I just stick with what works? Well, the truth is, as diets are concerned, there is probably some truth to all of it, some more true than others, some bogus. It is my duty to figure out what is the truth about my health because that matters a great deal. The ones that have the benefit of good marketing and backed by those who stand to benefit from that marketing gain popularity and followers. If I only did 'what works' at the expense of truth I may be skinny, but dangerously unhealthy and If I only did the things that had legit research but yielded no results I would probably remain fat and lazy. No, I don't think there is 'one TRUE diet' but diets and eternal truths are two very different things. Thus ends my struggling analogy.
Oddly enough, in my moment of diet despair I thought of Mother Church and I smiled. In the face of fake news and fad diets, outlandish presidents and a time bomb of a world, can we still trust a Church that claims to be the one TRUE church even while racked with corruption in the hierarchy, sinners in the pews and web designers who use comic sans font on the Vatican website?! The answer is a resounding YES! It is yes because the 'fullness of truth' is not simply a collection of doctrine or a catalogue of 'do's and don'ts. The 'fullness of truth' is a person and that person is Jesus Christ. A relationship with Him means finding out the whole truth about who He really is and letting that truth make me holy. That being said the answer is not a simple yes with a period at the end of it, the real answer is yes, AND... Yes, the truth of the Church matters AND because it matters we've got to wake up in the pews and figure out how share with our brothers and sisters in Christ (in the same pews as us and not) about a genuine life with Christ AND His Church. We've got to be willing to be with people in their suffering, to form life giving communities that fortify us, to live lives that support each other in the truth of the faith, the truth about marriage, the truth about sin and charity and compassion and sacrifice. I am lucky to be a part of a community like this and I am lucky to work in a Church where I see young adults formed in exactly this way and therefore will transform the future of the Church. So, in MY world, this is what the Church looks like. And that kind of community, in addition to the fullness of truth, well, lets just say if I had no other blessings in my life I may still be the richest woman in the south. But as a whole, the Catholic Church, starting with me, has a long way to go when it comes to hospitality and community. A long, long way.
So, does it matter that we have the fullness of truth? It matters more than we can possibly say. It matters so much that we are obligated to learn how to be bearers of that truth in an uncertain world. It matters so much, in fact, that we may have to humble ourselves to learn from our non-denominational friends about how to be in community so that they can share with us in the fullness of truth. Because, like St. Therese, "I choose all." and I choose all for my friends too. And, it turns out that thats what "building bridges" meant at that unexpected meeting at a coffee house on a random, rainy Thursday afternoon.
(I notoriously hate inviting comments on blogs because all you trolls out there can be so ugly, you know who you are! But this is one instance that I'd like to ask for your ideas on how to transform our Catholic communities to ones that not only have the truth but actually live and breathe like we do. So, comment away. Warning: Any comments that are unnecessarily ugly or feel the need to tell me the validity of carb cycling will be deleted. ;)