Better than a Klonopin.

klonopin VS.  communion_wafer

It’s the 4th week of Advent, the preliminary weeks leading to Christmas that are recognized by the Catholic Church (and also, I believe, all liturgical or “high churches” like the Episcopalian, Lutheran, and Orthodox churches).   In the Catholic faith, Advent extends beyond Christmas itself, to the Epiphany (Little Christmas), which is celebrated on January 7th.

I have missed the previous two Sundays, and felt like sleeping in today, too, but made myself go, because I always get so much out of the Mass, especially the Eucharist, which the Mass leads up to.   Sometimes laziness wins though, and I always regret it later.  I wasn’t going to let that happen again today!

As a pretty liberal Christian (even for a Catholic), I don’t think non-church attendance is necessarily a sin.  I don’t think church attendance is necessary for salvation; only having faith is. Many people are able to live a Christ-like life and stay close to God and retain their faith in spite of not belonging to any church.  They are self-disciplined: they pray every day, read their Bible, read devotions, and ask God for forgiveness when necessary.   I’m not one of them.  I need to have a church to go to, otherwise I get lazy and “forget” to stay close to God.  I start slipping back into the “world” with all its shallowness and banality and fail to act the way Jesus did.   I slip back into sinful and toxic thinking and start nursing doubt.

So today I went to Mass, and as always happens, I left feeling uplifted and peaceful in my heart.   The Eucharist (communion) is powerful medicine for me.    I admit I have doubts about some of the Catholic doctrine, and issues with some of its rules.   However, my church seems to emphasize God’s love over the hell-fire and brimstone scare tactics used by so many other churches to get their adherents to comply, including some of the more conservative Catholic churches.   My church isn’t constantly preaching about abortion, homosexuality, or sin.    Every homily (analogous to the sermon for Protestants) is preceded by readings from the Bible, and the homily itself based on Biblical verses about God’s love and how much Jesus loved us, so much that he died for ALL people (not just a selected few, as Calvinists believe) so  all of us can achieve salvation.

The highlight of the Mass is the Eucharist, which is really a re-enactment of the Last Supper.   I do believe, as a Catholic, that the host (communion wafer) and wine actually becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ once it’s ingested.   I believe this because of what it does to me inside.  Once I ingest, I always feel a warm liquid feeling of peace and loving feelings in my heart, and this overcomes any worries or negative feelings I may be experiencing.   That tiny sip of wine certainly isn’t enough to alter my mind, so I know it’s much more than a physical effect; it’s a spiritual one.  It’s the Holy Spirit inside me working on my heart and soul.    During the Eucharist, and for a few minutes following it, the choir sings softly about opening your heart to the Lord and his Divine Love.   I spend the next few minutes kneeling, thanking Jesus for this gift of Himself, and praying for it to do good things within my soul.  It always does.

I also notice that during the week, I feel more loving toward humanity, get less irritated and worry less, and good things seem to happen.  I also seem to have a clearer direction of where I’m going spiritually.

The feeling I get from partaking in communion  isn’t unlike taking a Klonopin!   But it’s so much longer lasting and I feel like it actually changes and opens my heart, which a Klonopin (which only reduces anxiety) can never do.

In spite of our differences…

benedictine.crucifix

My dad wasn’t perfect and I don’t idealize him or his memory.  Lord knows, he wasn’t a great father.  In fact, he could be a pretty lousy father and he even admitted it later on.  But I loved my dad.  Deeply.  He was my rock, even though he could erupt at any moment like a volcano.  And I still love him, no matter what kind of “baggage” we had together.

My dad wasn’t crazy about Catholics, even though he married a lapsed Catholic woman (my mother).  I was sent to a Catholic school starting in 5th grade, for two reasons–the first one being that the public schools in my area weren’t very good and I’d get a better education at a Catholic school (Catholic schools are notorious for providing an excellent education and they do value a well-rounded worldview).  The second reason was because I was being bullied in the local public school.

In my Catholic school, I found a refuge away from the dysfunction at home.  I loved my school, and I loved the Friday masses, even though I was not allowed to participate in Communion.  It sometimes felt like my real home.  The nuns there took me under their wing.  I thought they were angels and (except for one of two of them who could be mean) I was always in awe of their kindness and compassion.  I loved the quiet and peaceful way they moved.  I loved their softness. I loved the way they seemed not quite of this world. These were the qualities I was starving for, coming from a home full of anger, chaos and sharp edges.

Because of my positive introduction to Catholicism, I was always attracted to it, in spite of not agreeing with all of its doctrine.    The Church has changed a lot over the years, since Vatican II, and embraces science rather than denies it.  Science, too, is about the truth.  I feel that the Catholic church is the “thinking person’s Christianity.”  Of course, I know it’s not the only one.  I know denomination doesn’t matter; it’s a matter of personal preference.  I love the liturgy and the history and the mystery of Catholicism.   But that’s just me.

I do have issues with their stance on abortion, birth control, women in the priesthood, and homosexuality.   But these things don’t affect me directly.    I believe with all my heart that the Communion wafer is not just symbolic.  Every time I partake of the communion wafer, I feel filled with the Holy Spirit and know this is Jesus’ gift to his people.

In April of 2015, after nearly a year of preparatory classes (RCIA), I became a Catholic during the Easter vigil mass.   My father, in spite of his misgivings about the Catholic church, gave me this Benedictine Crucifix, which hangs in my room across from my bed, so Jesus is always the first thing I see when I wake up.

Thank you, God, for giving me my new faith, and please help strengthen me in that faith, especially now when I’m in so much turmoil. And thank you for my Dad, who although we had our issues, was able to put aside his prejudices and give me such a beautiful gift from the heart.