In search of faith

When I returned to the Catholic Church at the age of 29, I had a burning question:  What does it mean to be Catholic?

Every day after work, I went straight home and consumed the spiritual classics (which, alas, sailed right over my head).  I obsessively checked to make sure I wasn’t breaking any commandments.  As a result, for a long time, I utterly failed to understand what Catholicism is all about.

In the end, I realized, Jesus told us plainly:  the two greatest commandments are to love God and love your neighbor.  Catholicism is basically about love.

My next question was, how do I become a loving person?

Faith, hope, and love are the three quintessential Christian virtues.  And I’ve heard it argued that they go in that order:  faith in God’s goodness allows us to hope for good things in the future, and when we have hope for ourselves we then have positive energy to spare for loving others.

So that meant I had to start with faith.  And, as I would come to realize, accepting a creed on an intellectual level wasn’t enough.  I had to really live my life as if I trusted God completely that even when things looked like a total mess, they were going to work out somehow.

As it turns out, I am really, really bad at that.  I’ve met people who wouldn’t call themselves Christians at all who seem to do that better than me purely on instinct.  But I’ve come to believe the important thing isn’t to compare and nitpick and intellectualize things.  I just have to point myself in the right direction and keep walking.

I have a little angel on my desk now that says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.”  Throughout the day, whenever it catches my eye, I recognize that frustration, impatience and cynicism have crept into my heart, and I remember to return to a place of patient trust and peace.

It almost feels as if, three years after returning to the Church, I’m finally taking the first step in becoming Catholic.

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Why Cinderella retired to Asia

I had a very rare opportunity today.  I saw a production of Cinderella played straight.  I mean Cinderella wasn’t some butch feminist hero who saved the prince and then decided that she’d rather be a football player.  It was just Cinderella.

It occurred to me that the last time this happened in America was probably several decades ago.  Modern America reserves a special kind of rancor for the classic Cinderella.  If they simply didn’t find the story compelling, they could have let it fade into obscurity long ago.  As it is, they are still furiously stabbing its corpse.

Japan doesn’t seem to have a problem with Cinderella.  I’ve never actually asked a Japanese woman what she likes about Cinderella, but if I did, I suspect she’d say how romantic it seemed to wear a fancy ball gown and against all odds, to marry the prince.  If I were to argue that that doesn’t happen in real life, I suspect she’d give that politely alarmed laugh that says, “Wow, you’re taking this really seriously.”

To the Japanese, I suspect, Cinderella is a harmless fantasy.  To the Americans, it’s a broken promise.

I don’t think Cinderella was ever meant to be a how-to manual for marrying a prince, though (isn’t that kind of thinking like the stepsisters?)  I think it’s a story about being good.

As I watched the play, what struck me was Cinderella’s sincerity and hope in the face of suffering.  She didn’t have the power to change her situation, but she wasn’t cynical about it either.  She honestly did the best she could and trusted God with the rest.  That, to me, is true strength.

The fact is, every woman in town wanted to marry the prince, but only one would be able to.  And the one he chose was the humblest of all.

Actually, I’m pretty sure that does happen in real life.  Just ask Our Blessed Mother.