Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Evangelical Catholicism--Oxymoron or No?

Warning:  this post will be about religion.  It's also a little bit whack.  If you're not in the mood for that sort of thing, go back to looking at the cat pictures.   There seem to be a lot of them on Facebook just now.

The other day, I asked a priest friend of mine who he hoped would be the next pope.  He replied that while he didn't have a specific cardinal in mind, he really hoped that the next pope would be evangelical.  My first thought was that it sounded like he wanted the pope to be Southern Baptist.

In further conversation, it turned out my priest friend and I had both stumbled upon the same book (I'd picked it up as part of my Lenten reading):  Forming Intentional Disciples: the Path to Knowing and Following Jesus.  I'm not sure what I expected the book to be, but it wasn't what I got, which was a careful, data-supported view of why people leave the Catholic church, where they go once they leave, and how to get them to stay.  According to the book, the biggest source of dissatisfaction most Catholics have is that they don't feel a personal relationship with Jesus.  They don't have a feeling that they are using their gifts in service to God.

Personal relationship with Jesus is right up there with evangelical on the list of phrases you don't often hear Catholics say.  Which is probably why, despite feeling that I DO have a personal relationship with Jesus, and DO strive to listen for a calling and use my gifts in His service, I feel fairly uncomfortable writing this blog post about it.

I'm going to tell you one of my Jesus stories.

Several years ago, a note in our parish bulletin said that Faith In Action was holding a volunteer training at a particular date and time.  FIA actually works out of a building owned by St. Anne Church, and I knew some people who worked there, but I'd never thought about working there myself.  My children were still in elementary and middle school, and I was busy.  Very busy.  But a voice in my head--let's call that voice Jesus--I told you this post would be whack--said go.

Go to the volunteer training?  Why on earth?
I asked why several more times.  I didn't really want to.  I had nothing against FIA, but it was nearly summertime, and I was very busy.

So I went to the two-hour training session.  I didn't realize it at the time, but FIA very rarely asks for new volunteers.  Right now we don't have space enough to take on any more.  This was, I believe, the last training session ever held.

Good, said the voice.  (We'll call it Jesus.)
Ok, what next?  Was I now supposed to volunteer?  In summer?  Vacation time?
No.  The voice was quiet.  I was puzzled, but relieved.

I had a nice summer with my children.  Then, once school started again, the Voice in my head suggested I give FIA a call.
Well, okay.  Turned out they did need a volunteer, they were one short on Wednesdays.  Fine.  So I came in and worked for, I think, 3 consecutive Wednesdays.  It was fine.

The next week I was sitting at my desk, working on my latest novel, when I got a phone call from a woman I'd never met.  She sounded extremely hesitant, almost embarrassed to be making the call.  Her name was Donna, and she was, she told me, the president of the board of FIA.  The director--the person who handed out the money each day--had just quit.  The director, whom I'd met 4 times, (most of the volunteers had worked there for years) had told her I was the person she should ask to be temporary director.  Clearly, Donna thought this was whack.

My very first thought was that I had longstanding commitments on Tuesdays and Thursdays I would hate to give up, even temporarily.

Before I could say so, Donna added, "of course, we're closed on Tuesdays, and Jim White has offered to work Thursdays, so I'm actually only asking you for Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays."

Cue creepy music.  Cue the Voice in my head--we'll call it Jesus--grinning.

"You probably are being called to do it," my husband said, "because I can't think of a single other reason why they would ever ask you."

I was the program director for eight weeks, until the board had time to hire a good replacement.  They did offer me the job.  Please say no, I said to the Voice.  Jesus.  I love doing this but I need time to write.

No worries, said Jesus.  Go back to your books.  But thanks for stepping in.

I told you it was whack.