Saturday, August 22, 2015

the gathering is not optional

Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. 
Your people will be my people, and my God your God. 
(Ruth 1:16)

Friendship is one of the most misunderstood and greatest blessings of human existence.
One of the reasons to love to the book of Ruth is that it has an image of positive female friendship that proves that positive female friendship did in fact exist pre Fey-Poehler. (barely)

The above quote was (part of) the first reading yesterday at Mass.
And I was at Mass with all the elderly suburban folks who I one day aspire to be.
After so many masses in grand, empty churches in the city, it is a delight to walk into very mundane, small chapels where nearly every seat is full--even at 6:15 AM.

During the reading, I looked at the pair of friends near me who had matching fluffy white hair, wrinkles around their smiles, and matching pink striped shirts. These women were gathered together at Mass, just as my friends and I do. They had the same joy in one another, the same joy in being together, and the same joy in sharing this common faith.

One of the beautiful friends of my heart gave me a book entitled Love and Salt, which chronicles the spiritual friendship of two young women--fresh out of grad school and newly married--through their Lenten correspondence to each other as one of them begins her conversion process.

Their letters follow them through new jobs, first years of marriage, pregnancies, miscarriage, and all the daily in-betweens. One of my favorite passages is when the two friends (it is hard to think of them as anything else besides Ruth-Naomi or Frodo-Sam) visit a reliquary. They are rather disgusted by the bizarre, gory sight of relics which may be relics, and may just be the bones of a small animal uncovered by grave diggers. It is a very macabre sort of subgenre of Catholic devotion.

And, to a newly converting soul, rather daunting. But Amy does not balk. Reflecting upon the moment and the deeper, hidden holiness she found there, she writes to her friend and companion:
"And what showed it to me, that glimmer of holiness beyond the bones, was your presence there. At the time it took the form of a dare: I'll stay if you stay. If you can believe despite all this, then so can I. We stood there, amid the skulls, in awe of our shared desire to still believe, the desire our unspoken dare seemed to reveal."

And I think that moment so accurately captures what these friendships of faith mean to me:
perhaps I am not so crazy to dare to believe in rituals that seem to ancient and dusty. Perhaps these strange traditions and ancient rites that the rest of the world finds to be rather embarrassing, backwards, and incongruent with our ambitious, feminist, educated personalities, are actually just as full of beauty and richness as we believe them to be.

Perhaps this strong and silent desire that seems to pull me away from so much actually pulls me towards you. And it pulls both of us towards something--Someone--larger, deeper, and greater than we could ever understand alone.

Perhaps I can take this leap of love, because you are taking it as well. If you have the courage to embrace all the bizarre and humbling details of this faith, then I can have it, too.
If you still talk about confession and confessors, and finding forgiveness in the words of absolution, then so can I.
If you still reverently bow before the monstrance, and genuflect before the altar, then so can I.
If you can pray Our Fathers and Hail Mary's, and recite an ancient creed with full heart and voice, then so can I.
If you believe, despite all this, then so can I.

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