Monday, November 5, 2007

Why did I leave?

It never fails that when a person continually rubs you the wrong way and challenges your ability to love, one day, out of the blue, they'll surprise you with the most piercing statement. And all the animosity which, you know you must for Christ's sake hold at bay, melts away like ice on a hot day.

She hobbled through the door last spring a half hour into class time. She made such an entrance that I knew here was Christ disguised. She was a fallen-away Catholic having spent decades dabbling, first with the Pentecostals, and then with the Mormons. She was trouble spelled out with capital letters.

Every question she asked was just this side of insane, but it was my duty to answer with as much charity and intelligence as I could muster. Eyes were upon me and I prayed constantly for patience. The times she was absent were times that I was relieved and the class seemed to be relieved as well. There was no pattern to her attendance, absent for weeks and then suddenly making an appearance, my heart sinking when she struggled into her seat. Then lifting bright eyes toward me, I would think that she looked suspiciously manic.

Incomprehensibly, she has an affection for me and treats me with warmth and respect. Guilt would wash over me whenever annoyance toward her would rise up. She would smile and say, "Hey, sweetie! How've you been?"

One of the more infamous discussions we had occurred when she wanted to know what little thing she needed to do to get the "prayer machine" to give what she wanted. It took all my self-control to not answer with sarcasm. My husband keeps reminding me that God brought her to this place and to this time and that I was "standing in the gap" for her. I am reminded of Isaiah: "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out."

She is that for me, that tender bruised reed trampled upon by life's vicissitudes. But desire for God smolders within her and though people tell me she doesn't belong in RCIA, I know my husband is right, that she is here now for a purpose.

I have spent the last three weeks teaching the catechumens about Real Presence and Eucharistic Adoration. I invited them to come to Holy Hour to learn about adoring Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. My Bruised Reed objected and demanded to know why she had never heard of Eucharistic Adoration before. She peppered me with questions as to how to go about making a Holy Hour. "How can you just stare at it for an hour? Isn't that like wasting time?" she asked. Silently, I gave thanks to Romano Guardini and said, "Yes, it is an hour of wasting time for God's sake." I gave her the simple Jesus Prayer to try doubting that she would come.

I should know better than to doubt, because last week, she came. And all throughout the hour her head was bowed in concentrated effort. After the Benediction, she hobbled toward me, embraced me and clung to me. She said, "That was the most beautiful thing I'd ever experienced. I just kept telling Jesus that I love him. Was that alright?"

Emotion caught in my throat. Yes, indeed, telling Jesus over and over about her love was adoration in its simplest and humblest form. She put me to shame with my stack of devotional books and purposeful Holy Hour. "Unless you become like a child..." I thought to myself. And here was my Bruised Reed with that simplicity of heart.

Yesterday at class she stunned me when she said, "Why did I leave the Faith? It's so beautiful. How could I not know how beautiful it is? Where was I all these years? I had it all along but didn't know it."

I caught my breath knowing it was a moment of transcendent encounter. I smiled at her and said, "Welcome back." Tears were running down her cheeks.

I knew then that we were there for each other's salvation.


frival said...

Wow, Argent. I found it hard to breathe just reading that story. God does indeed draw straight lines with our crooked lives (to lightly mangle a phrase). God certainly is sending you some very interesting souls.

Argent said...

Yes, God is sending some interesting souls. It's almost like birthing children--this whole process of waking them up to Faith. There's an intimacy to it that's kind of scary at times because you're introducing them to an immanent God and teaching them to walk and talk with God who is the ground of their Being. If I think too hard about it a little bit of fear creeps Eucharistic Adoration is like the air I have to breathe.

frival said...

I think you just made an extremely quotable quote. "Eucharistic Adoration is like the air I have to breathe." Keep thinking like that and you'll be more than just fine.

Cure of Ars said...

That was the most beautiful thing I've read in a long time.

Anonymous said...

Now I have tears in my eyes, too. How brilliant!

Ebeth said...

Wow, That's all I can say it wow.

Too bad "he who would not be named" doesn't see what can happen!!