Monday, November 24, 2008


I had a new friend, and I went to meet his family.

The family were Catholic. So, nominally at the time, was I. Their house was full of icons: a cross on the wall, a statue of the Blessed Mother, an Infant of Prague stood in one bedroom.

Inwardly, I scoffed.

I had been trained to do this, but didn't realize it at the time. I was smart, educated, worldly. I read books, studied philosophy. This kind of thing - this "iconolotry" - was for peasants. Clearly, these people had a peasant strain in them.

Boy, was I wrong. Certainly not for the first time, and surely not for the last.

Of course, you have to be willing to submit yourself - without assurance, science, or proof positive - to a belief that there is something more to our existence than live, scramble for food, procreate (maybe), die, and disappear forever. But having once submitted, it isn't over. The submission, the surrender, is continual. It must be done again, and again. It's like love. Real love, of course, not "falling" in love. It must be done again and again, in the face of doubt, despair, anger, pain and sorrow. And while it's never quite as difficult as the first time (the submission), it never gets easy.

Icons, a particularly Catholic thing, are nothing more than signposts. They are like little arrows scratched on trees in the woods, assuring you that you're on the right path back home.

I recall one night driving from Geneva to Dijon. The road was rural, the night was dark, and we had no idea of where we really were. We drove along in the dark, hoping we were headed in the right direction. With welcome relief, we finally came upon a road sign with the welcoming arrow and kilometre measure. I can't tell you what a happy sight that simple sign looming in the headlights was.

Touching a rosary in your pocket, seeing a statue on your bedside table, or a little cross on the wall as you leave your house in the morning is the same sort of sensation. It's just a reminder that you're on a path headed somewhere, and that you haven't lost your way. It's a chance to refocus, to set your mind again on God, make that little act of surrender. Just for one more day.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sinful Vote?

During the announcements at Sunday's Mass, our priest stood on the pulpit and explained to us that if we had voted for Obama in the recent election, we should go to Confession before we tried to receive Communion - he was unequivocal about the fact that by voting for a man who outspokenly defended and endorsed abortion (at any and all stages) we were committing a mortal sin. I was surprised, but I can only say that I am profoundly grateful that some of our priests and even some of the American bishops have found the courage to be forthright about our obligations as Catholics.

I just don't understand how anybody, Catholic or not, can think that unless we respect human life - at whatever stage - anything else matters.