I am a convert to the Roman Catholic Church. When I entered, a friend who attended the liturgy approached me afterward and said, “I have no idea why anyone would want to do what you just did, but welcome.” Ironically, this is the same friend who later provided me with both the phone number of her friend, a Religious of the Sacred Heart with whom I now live, and the name of Xavier.
I think she had an idea. But, I do wish she was around to ask me again about my reasons. Marian is one of many people over the years who have known me, tilted their heads in curiosity, and wondered aloud “How does this work for you?”
I wish they would ask me again because while I do have a longer, and I’d like to think thoughtful, answer, I now have something pleasingly concise. How does this work for me—being fully me, made simply and complexly in the image and likeness of God, a member of the Roman Catholic Church, a member of a religious congregation?
“Et-et.” Both-and. Yep, that would do it.
This was Peter’s abridged version of Catholic theology that he offered in the 10:30 homily this past Sunday. As I considered its deep resonance in my being, however, I realized that somehow I recognized in four letters and a punctuation mark one of the best (and most pleasingly alliterative) ways to explain the richness of my thirty nine years worth of living.
For me, life has always been both-and. It was how it was explained to me as a child, it is how I have experienced it inside and out. Thunder scares, rain makes crops grow. You’ll get new sneakers… in the color they have in your size. I have tasted hate in my own mouth and I’ve feasted on love. I have known illness and health, wisdom and foolishness. I have moved many times and have friends in many places. I have created, I have wounded. I have been wounded, I have been healed.
This musing took me back a month or so to the Feast of the Sacred Heart. We had nearly eighty people through our house. At one point I was in the kitchen alone, sitting on the stool in the corner by the stove with my head leaning back against the wall and my eyes closed. If anyone had come in then and asked me what I was doing, I’m not sure my response would have satisfied…though I myself was quite content. My answer? Listening—simply listening…finding great joy and satisfaction and gratitude for being able to “lift away” enough to listen-wide, to get to the larger sound of the whole event and know, based on that sound, that people were happy and having a good time. That is one of my favorite things to do sometimes at events like that—shifting back and forth from macro to micro to macro… for me, it is a matter of “letting go” enough yet still remaining tethered to here and now. Macro-micro.
God loves me and challenges me; God frees me and holds me bound; God calls and answers, speaks and listens, gives and receives. God Is, God became human, God gave us the Spirit. Intensely et-et.
It is my utter faith in this reality, the et-et of life and of my being and of God, that makes it all work for me. There is a roominess there that allows for uncertainty and understanding, good days and bad, frustration and joy, and all of the multitudes that Walt Whitman claimed when he asked and proclaimed, “Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large and I contain multitudes.”
So does the cosmos, so do ecosystems, so does God. All from an unshakeable foundation of love. We are all from and bound for love. That, for me, is the constant. The hyphen that connects.
Et - Et.
It certainly keeps it all interesting, that much is for sure.