Sunday, December 15, 2002

When I was growing up, I always thought God was boring. God meant sitting in hot buildings, packed with people, and being told to sit still and shut up, when you couldn’t because you were fidgety in anticipation of fireworks or parades or something else a hell of a site better than sitting still and shutting up while some boring old man droned on about stuff you didn’t understand. God was what got damned when you were too fussy with your food, or wouldn’t stop running through the house, or when you spilled or broke something. God was incomprehensible, and terrible and was going to get you if you didn’t bless your mom and dad, and grandma, and the cousins that you didn’t really like when you said your prayers. God was boring and bland, if not a horror. And I think Mencken said it best when he said that “The chief contribution of Protestantism to human thought is its massive proof that God is a bore.”

One of the things I like best about Catholicism is that its saints aren’t boring old men in polyesther. I love reading the stories of the martyrs and saints, because they’re people worthy of emulation. They live amazing lives. They’re heroic. They’re not kicking back in the suburbs, working to buy a bigger SUV. They’re out grappling in epic battles with the devil. They’re miraculously healing the faithful. Like St. Perpetua who had the presence of mind to put her hair up while she was being gored to death, because she didn’t want to look like she was in mourning at her martyrdom. Like Padre Pio, who suffered with the stigmata; who wrestled with the devil, and would emerge victorious though badly beaten; who miraculously healed the body and spirit or those who believed; who even had the power of bilocation. Like St. Daniel the Stylite who holed himself up in a church to cast out demons; who was so ascetic that he lived atop a column for decades; who was so inspiring that he threatened to usurp the heretical emperor Basilicus himself. Like Mother Teresa, who saw Christ in the face of the dying, and carried lepers and those whose very limbs had been chewed off by ants, on her own back so that they could die with dignity, and not in solitude. Like Pope John Paul II who heroically defended the dignity of man in encyclicals like Humanae Vitae in spite of a world which was embracing to birth control, abortion, genocide and ethnic cleansing; who threatened to lead a revolution against godless and bloody communist leaders who destroyed cultures, churches and human lives; who forgave the man who tried to assassinate him; who worked toward ecumenical harmony.

I’ve always felt that there was something empty in the Protestant God who manifested salvation by providing his elect with good fortune. The Calvinists hold that you can tell who God’s elect are, by their ability to store up material wealth and a good reputation in the community. The Catholics hold that you can tell who’s closest to God by seeing how much they suffer for God’s sake. The really great saints have always suffered for and with Christ. I think the Catholic view reflects a deeper understanding of Christ’s message.