Everyone has a crisis of faith at some point in their life. I have had an on-going crisis of faith ever since I became a Christian. Now that crisis of faith is coming to a head. They used to say of the early Christians, “see how they love one another.” As Catholics, we believe that we worship the God who is love (1 John 4:7) and that the Son of God gave a new commandment to His Apostles before He died that they love one another as He loved them (John 13:34). This is what my heart searches for in the Christian Gospel – the lived-out reality of this new commandment. Yet, in my life since I have been a Christian, I have experienced more love, belonging, and acceptance with people who want little to nothing to do with God, or who believe in other gods, than with Christians.
Even now, I live in an RV park. I have experienced in the few months that I have been here more community and belonging than I have at my own parish or any other Catholic parish that I have attended. And when I was in graduate school, I was friends with people from many countries around the world and from religious backgrounds from Atheist to Muslim to Hinduism to elder worship. But we supported and encouraged each other through hard times, we spent hours talking about all kinds of subjects, they loved me enough to put up with me trying to convert them to Christianity; we had meals together; we took trips together, etc.. It was a true community that was formed solely because we were all doing one thing: trying to get a PhD. And yet, if I compare that experience to all my experiences as a Christian, I would have to say “see how they love one another” to my graduate student group rather than any of the experiences that I have had in Christian community. This for me is a crisis.
Yet, very few Catholics seem to care about this at all. I don’t really understand it except that it seems to me that most Western Catholics seem to view their salvation as an individual experience. They do not see their salvation wrapped up in the salvation of their neighbor. And before I go on, I fully admit that I am part of the problem that I am critiquing. This is why it is such a crisis for me because even though I can see the problem clearly, I cannot solve it on my own. Even right now, I lost someone I considered a friend in the faith. Reconciliation with this person is impossible on this side of eternity. And this problem seems to scale at every level.
But most Catholics are worried, constantly, about things that are simply out of their control such as what the pope does or does not do, what their bishop does or does not do, etc., while their own families and communities fall apart around them. I fell into that trap for a while, but God gave me direct experience with the bishops and nothing that I did or said to them made a difference. If I cannot reconcile with someone that I have known for years, how in the world do I think I can influence a bishop or the pope with whom I have no direct contact? Yet, this is what most Catholics focus on daily in their thoughts and conversations. Rarely do they think about those around them who might need encouragement, reconciliation, or support.
Then there are those Catholics who have escaped the trap of trying to control things that are not in their control. These Catholics, however, err on the other side by thinking if they only focus on their own soul and go on some Buddhist-like quest of the Catholic version of spiritual enlightenment, then they will see God. But Saint John’s Epistle, which I believe to be simply a commentary on Our Lord’s command to love one another, says that no one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God will abide with us and His love will be made perfect in us (I John 4:12). To me, that seems to be pretty clear that an individualistic faith life is not Christian. The example of the great mystics from the 15th and 16th century should not be taken to mean that the solitary, hermit life is normal for lay people, or even most religious. Christ could have said: “Love God alone.” He never did. Even when he spoke of the greatest commandment, to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, He also said that the second commandment is like it: love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). Do we think that we know better than the Son of God how we can be Christians?
So, I do not know where to go from here because as I said this crisis is a crisis for me because I cannot solve this problem alone. I believe the Church will die out for a period until we learn to obey the new commandment of Our Lord Jesus Christ. At this point, it’s so hard to want to bring into the Church the wounded people of the world, even if I could convince them, because there is so little love. And that is what wounded souls need, love, not more wounds.
Thou shall hate no person; but some you shall reprove, for some you shall pray, and some you shall love more than your own life.
The Didache, ch. 2
Dr. Natasha P. Wilson is a convert to the Catholic faith. Coming to the knowledge of God through contemplating the origins of the universe as a child, she was first baptized in a Protestant denomination. As she got older, she lived much of her life as a religious “none.” She began attending a non-denominational community about a decade ago until she was called home to the Holy Catholic Church in 2015. In her brief time as a Catholic, she has had many God-ordained experiences. Her desire is to live a Christian life in simplicity, and so she has taken up residence with her dog in an RV. Natasha is the author of her own blog called The Society of Saint Augustine and Monica (www.ssaugustineandmonica.com).