Saturday, July 25, 2009

Confessions Of A Bookworm Part 3

This will be my last installment of my "Confessions." In the first two installments, I described how one could follow my life's story by looking at my library. Last week I ended with my baptism into studying the Catholic faith. Let me explain for my Protestant friends who may be shuddering right now.
I had mentioned that I had discovered the three book set by Phyllis Tickle, The Divine Hours. Those books introduced me to liturgical praying. This is simply praying, chanting and singing the ancient prayers of the church in a formal, structured, and historical manner of praying. For me, it was the thing that began to bring a spark back into my prayer life.

And then a major event happened. My job took a sudden turn when after many years of working in Sunnyvale, my company split into two locations. One section moved to South San Jose and the other to Sacramento, California. Guess where I was sent to? I spent the next four years commuting to Sacramento from Sunnyvale, a suburb of San Jose. (Suburb of San Francisco for you City elitists) For me, this was my exile into the desert. It was, if I may draw an analogy, my Babylonian exile.

I look back on it now and see it was my reformation period. God had to break me down again to bring me up. My spiritual life was tumbling. That may come as a surprise to some of you that are close to me. But I can cover things up pretty well. I would drive up to Sacramento early Monday morning, work ten hour days, and drive home on Thursday's. Every other Thursday, I'd have to rush home, gobble my dinner and then my wife and I would hustle off to our small group meeting for our church. So by the end of the week I was exhausted.

My spiritual life went totally dry. And my work life showed it. In many ways I was the proverbial double minded man, unstable in all my ways. I was up by 3:15 in the morning, at work by 5:00 AM. I was off by 3:30 and in bed by 7:30. I became totally discouraged. But, something happened in those down times.
I kept reading. And when that little lady in the Catholic Bookstore introduced me to some Catholic books, something happened.

Let me back up. There was a Catholic radio station in the Sacramento area, KSMH that actually peaked my interest. Immaculate Heart Radio has stations all over the west now including one in San Francisco, KSFB. I couldn't stand the Protestant station that played some of the dumbest programming I'd ever heard. I began listening to Catholic Answers, a question and answer program out of San Diego. Folks, these guys are good and for real. You don't have to agree with all they say, but you can't deny these folks are born again Christians.
Anyway, that led me to this little bookstore. I bought a couple of books and I was hooked.

I had never read such powerful and profound stuff. It was all new to me and at the same time very confusing. I was a very anti-Catholic person. But I was discovered these writers I was reading were solid. I ended up buying the Magnificat prayer book each month. The Magnificat is a great little guide to daily prayer. In ten or 15 minutes I could pray a hymn, an Old Testament passage, a Psalm, a New Testament passage and a Gospel passage. Included were little homilies (messages for you Protestants) and a description of the life of one of the Saints for that day.

After a year or so I decided that I needed to buy a Catholic Catechism. These Catholics are terrible communicators. The Catechism is the foundational beliefs of the Catholic church. It is an extraordinary book. I recommend it if you are going to have a loving relationship with Catholics. Catholicism is very dense. What is plain to them is gobbledygook to the average Protestant. They speak an entirely different language. If you are ever going to understand them, you need to understand what they mean when they say something like, learn to adore the Sacred Heart. I found out that they weren't worshipping a literal heart, but that the Sacred Heart is simply a symbol of the sacrificial love of God. So when you hear them speaking of the Sacred Heart, think sacrificial love and you'll get the meaning.

And so I started gathering books. I learned that the Catholics are terrible communicators. It's no wonder 75 percent of Catholics don't attend mass. They couldn't teach their way out of a paper bag. With few exceptions, most of what you read is so out of touch with how we communicate daily, it becomes meaningless. A part of the problem is that so much is translated from other languages, like Latin, German and French. The sentence structure is stilted and very formal. The translators are so concerned with interpreting the exact meaning that they ignore how people communicate. It becomes dry dusty prose.

But for me, there is water beneath the desert sands of dryness. God took me into a study that has gone on for nearly ten years. It's taken me that long to really begin to understand how Catholics think. I wanted to think like a Catholic so that I could understand them. Now let me bring you to my library. I now have a collection of some of the best books of today's Catholic church. Has it brought me to consider swimming the Tiber and joining the Catholic Church?

In a short answer, NO. I've spent too many years in foundational study of the Bible to be swayed that easily. Why? I simply can't accept the exclusiveness of the Catholic church. I'll go more into that on another blog, suffice it to say, the Eucharist which is at the heart and core of the Catholic Church, in practice today, violates the universality of the gospel as I see it. I don't deny Christ in the Eucharist. He's omniscient and is present at all times in the Eucharist. But to deny anyone who belongs to Christ from the table of the Lord is simply wrong.

Well, this post has become too long. So, I lied, I guess when I said I'd wind this up. I'll do a part 4 in a few moments to give you a break. I'll discuss where my library stands today. Or should I say, how does my library today reflect my present spiritual walk?

To be concluded in my next post.

1 comment:

  1. I had to chuckle a bit, because I went through some similar things in my acculturation. Prayer cards, for instance. The (usual) picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus reminded me of the picture of the headless horseman. Really. I'm a little embarrassed about it now that I understand the concept, and I've even come to like and use pious pictures in my meditations, at times. But it was a whole other world.