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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Dubious Approach to Veritas

I've always had a soft spot for Doubting Thomas.

Perhaps it is because I am always second-guessing my every action, always looking at every scenario in a "what if" light, and ultimately, falling back on the most important, tried and true mechanism of decision making that I know.  I ask my husband.

It is a very feminine thing to do, and I'm sure meets with no small amount of disapproval in a society that expects me to ignore all advice from such sources, but I respect his use of logic and reason, his very linear approach to problems, his absolute answers.  Then, like all women, I do what I want to do anyway, having firmly reconciled his good opinion to mine.

Decisions and doubt play no small role in our lives, be it the secular side or the sacred.  We are most confident in our desires and needs only in our earliest years, before the gift of reason assails our infant urges to scream and cry when hungry or pained.  Our confidence fades as we learn to walk, finding the world a much larger and more confusing place than that which our hands and knees had shown us.  We learn to express our desires through the civilized art of conversation, only to find that others interrupt or refuse to lend an ear to any oration that is not to their liking.  Our doubts grow as we see the obstacles that are tossed in our path, those things that seem designed to keep us from succeeding in this life and others that could very well keep us from salvation, if we do not overcome them.  We are all doubters, in some way or the other.  We are all novices at belief in ourselves, in our culture, and even in our God.

I must admit, when I first encountered Catholicism, I most certainly was a doubter. (The less generous among you would have called me a heretic, actually.)  Belief in God and Jesus?  Certainly.  Belief in Eternal Life?  Absolutely.  The Real Presence...well, maybe.

It is odd, in thinking on my Baptist days and our rare version of the Lord's Supper, to think how seriously we approached the unleavened bread and grape juice, how whatever remained was carefully buried while we sang solemn hymns, how we left the church quietly, reverently, to go back out to our friends and family.

As an Anglican, we mimicked the Mass in our Eucharist, the Olde Englishe Thous and Thees rolling off of the Reverend's tongue as smoothly as they flowed from the throats of the small but competent choir.  The congregation was in place by the gospel and remained quiet and still until the fourth verse of the recessional hymn, the radical believers lingering until the candles were extinguished on the altar.

I had found in these services a mystery.  There was an eternal why that they could not answer. There were actions and steps that could not be accounted for within their doctrines, beliefs that required an enormous leap to reconcile with behaviors.  It was this gap, this doubt, that allowed me to approach Catholicism at all, as a skeptic, as a critic, questioning all without expecting answers.  That was what made my conversion so very absolute.

There were answers.

For every gesture, there is a reason.  For every phrase, there is an antecedent. For every doctrine, there is a source.  Catholic teachings are not based solely on fragmented scriptures, they are not subject to the perpetually evolving social mores of a secularized state.  They are unchanging in the face of conflict, firm derivatives of natural law, witnessed and supported by sacred tradition.

Here is Truth.  Here is Christ, present in the Holy Eucharist, present on the altar, present in the Elevation of the Host, and my doubts are fractured anew each time the priest breaks the Host in his hands over the chalice that contains the Blood of Our Lord.  His hands are plunged again into Christ's side, his fingers feel the wounds of Christ's hands and feet, and in witnessing this, I cry, as Thomas did, "My Lord and My God."

Credo.  I believe, and it is a beautiful thing.