Tuesday, March 14, 2017

J'existe

Soeur Christine and I used to eat our lunches together in the garden of the Angelicum. We'd sit there on the garden benches, birds chirping in the bushes, Dominican brothers lazily taking their post-lunch strolls - and we'd quietly discuss mundane bits life, switching between French and English, talking about classes.

Through it all, we very rarely discussed God. God was there embracing the garden, penetrating our friendship, breathing life and grace into simple joys. To talk about God would have been redundant.

Flannery O'Connor wrote "I distrust pious phrases, especially when they issue from my mouth. I try militantly never to be affected by the pious language of the faithful but it is always coming out when you least expect it."

When I hear people perpetually bringing things back to a spiritual context, or being overly dramatic about life's connections to God, or speaking casually about spiritual things (particularly if they're 'trying to discern God's will' -- that line deserves to die a thousand deaths), I find myself instinctually becoming unsettled. At first, it seemed that maybe my spirituality was lacking in some respect. These people HELLA went to Church and Holy Hour and Bible Study and Praise and Worship and then TALKED ABOUT IT ALL THE TIME afterwards. Holy Hotcakes! Then it seemed like such people couldn't possibly keep that up ALL the time. Where was human-time? Did they human? Then it turned into active mistrust.

With all their thoughts fixed above, they forgot how to bring it down on earth. Faith and works are the PB&J of Catholicism. These people were so caught up in seeing God that they couldn't see God's visage in man. Often enough, I've found myself injured in some way by individuals like the above who rationalize away a lack of compassion and empathy, minimizing your pain by giving it some spiritual spin - either to themselves or when presenting it to you.

The roommate could justify showing an appalling disregard for your personal belongings or comfort because she was doing *good things*! This man could be callous because he's discerned something and, guess what, homie - you're not part of that so scoot because God's will! Oh. Did you think he'd TELL you that? Hah. No. You were supposed to figure that out on your own! This woman could practice her flagrant spirituality during Mass, even though it's distracting and affects those around her, because That's How She Worships.

In all of these instances, the individual places themselves not in the service of others but in service to their own inclinations, wrapping them in a cloak of holiness, sitting back happily content that they did nothing wrong. The poor people in the pews are simply not holy enough to see how this loud spirituality doesn't hurt them! The poor woman dropped like a hot potato was insignificant since she no longer figures in the grand scheme of things for this individual. She'll be ok because God has other plans for her!!! The poor roommate comes home to find her belongings haphazardly shoved into a little cupboard because some priests were coming over for dinner - and did you know priests are coming over for dinner!? Sorry, did you have to study and wouldn't appreciate that? Do you hate God or something?

The priest at my local parish just held a healing Mass. He looked out over his congregation and began to cry at seeing our pain: he was with us, he was compassionate, we were not insignificant. And he had only a few simple words for us - that it was good, Lord, that we were here. No telling us that suffering was good for us because heaven and stuff. He simply affirmed our reality, our brokenness.

Pious language just stinks to high heaven of rationalization to me. People are there, people are breakable, and people deserve the most human response you can possibly give to what they're going through or might go through because of your actions: a Christ-like response. Love is what actualizes us - our very beings are ontologically oriented towards Love Itself. We must act in love - we must live the truth if we are to be human.

Josef Pieper wrote:
"Reality is the foundation of ethics. The good is that which is in accord with reality. He who wishes to know and to do the good must turn his gaze upon the objective world of being. Not upon his own 'ideas', not upon his 'conscience', not upon 'values', not upon arbitrarily established 'ideals' and 'models'. He must turn away from his own act and fix his eyes upon reality."
-Living the Truth
That is why I distrust people who regularly use pious language - because it makes me fear that the proper order is subverted and I am flinching in anticipation of the possible people who will fall victim by the wayside. Except that not all people who fall will have a Good Samaritan in their lives to help them up and put them back together.

Don't justify things first by appeal to ultimate ends. That's consequentialism. Justify things because in there *here* and the *now* it is the Christ-like human thing to do in relation to the final end, because it is the thing that is best for both you and others.

And, even though I constantly violate this (I'm pretty sure I will not let someone merge on my commute today...even though it would be better to...), it's still something to strive for.

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