Prickly Pear, the author of the blog, Far From Rome, has just posted a very moving statement on his blog announcing that he has finally decided to stop participating in the sacramental life of the church. Even though this has been my own path for over twenty five years (though I celebrate the Eucharist privately among friends), it still made me very sad for the present state of the Church. However, I had to remind myself of my own experience of peace and joy on the margins and my firm belief that the Spirit is 'permitting' the present disarray of the Church for her own mysterious and life-giving reasons. We are being led beyond the boundaries into the wilderness of faith. You can read Prickly Pear's statement here.
There is a movement underway here and I'm convinced its a movement of the Holy Spirit - showing us in such lives that the 'sacramental life of the church' (and I would include the Eucharist) can continue, flourish and survive outside the present formal obediential structures of the Roman institution (though this was not exactly Prickly Pear's intent in his statement, I'm enlarging here). Many of us are being called to witness to the life of the Spirit independent of the institution. When it is healthy, it can be an enormous help, but it is not an Absolute entity that is essential to the spiritual journey. When it becomes unhealthy, it becomes a danger - to young gay persons especially. The great Catholic tradition, however, is another matter, and here as well I feel many of us are being given the calling to maintain the living flame of this tradition in the wilderness of a very dark time. I have been doing this in peace and joy for twenty five years because 'outside' the doors is precisely where I encountered the living Risen Eucharistic Christ in my life. Occasionally, I stop in for a formal ceremony in Church, because I do miss the reverence and dignity a beautiful church can give the celebration of the Eucharist. But on every such occasion, I've been reminded interiorly that being a formal part of the institution is simply not my vocation. In other words, it doesn't seem to have been a conscious, deliberate, rational decision on my part, but more one of interior guidance and inspiration, for which troubling matters of conscience acted as a confirmation of the inspiration to move outside the boundaries, but not it's primary cause. One responds to the inspiration, of course, with a free act of will and trustful surrender, but the inspiration is wiser than we are and more far seeing than all of our rational motives. The Spirit is ahead of us on this one, way ahead. The bottom line for myself: peace and joy and the living face of the Beloved are found outside the door, not within the formal chamber of the church. And since so many of us are feeling this, what then is the Spirit saying by this powerful witnessing movement? We cannot claim credit for it ourselves, something very significant and powerful is being messaged here about the very nature of institutional religion. Peace, joy and love in the Spirit flourish on the margins of belief.