catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 22 :: 2008.12.05 — 2008.12.19


Some keep the Sabbath

God wastes nothing. God is the memory that forgets no one.
Joan Puls

Forgive me. I have sinned. It has been twenty-eight years since my last confession. All right, I’ll admit it-I’ve never actually been to confession, at least not in the “talking to a priest behind a screen in a small (some might say cozy; others, claustrophobic) telephone booth-like setting” sense. Nevertheless, I have confessed. It’s just-well, it’s just that it’s been a long time since I’ve confessed out loud and to another person. You’re right, it’s true: I am metaphysically constipated.

Our experiences, our life histories, are sacred. All our efforts to learn-our relationships, our accomplishments and our failures, our pains and joys-are sacred. The birth of our children, our landscapes and pilgrimage places, our fears and our visions are sacred. Nothing human is foreign to the Spirit.

I read this passage by Joan Puls aloud today to my husband. This was our church: sprawled across a dog-haired couch, our coffees on the side table, we read and talked and slurped and prayed. Not very liturgical, I know. Add to that, I was still in my pajamas and neither of us had showered.

Further, it wasn’t the Bible that provided the meat of our “service,” but rather, this very book, Seek Treasures in Small Fields, by little known author and Catholic nun, Joan Puls. I had picked up the book several years back at the Madonna House, a unique organization made up of a collection of unassuming buildings and a collective of dynamic Catholic Christians who run a bookstore, second-hand gift shop and “training centre for the lay apostolate” in tiny Combermere, Ontario. Speaking of treasures in small fields, this is exactly what the Madonna House is-an unexpected gift amidst a rural backdrop of trees and rocks and very few year-round residents. Had I not been directed there by my husband’s family, who is familiar with the area, I never would have known that such a place existed. I’ll tell you this much: I would be the lesser today were it not for this book-less comforted, less inspired, less challenged. The eloquent way in which Puls articulates the nuanced struggle that is the Christian search for meaning never ceases to enthrall me. When I don’t want to be a Christian, Joan Puls is somehow always able to convince me otherwise. In the violet dark nights of my seemingly stilted soul, there are few voices powerful enough to resonate within the hollow cavern of my heart. The cast of the mid-nineties television show Northern Exposure is one of those voices, but that’s another conversation entirely. Joan Puls is another.

Church today was but one example of the many patchwork services pulled together by me and my husband, arising out of our desperate desire for a narrative within which to understand the chaos that is our lives-ours, and everyone else’s. I don’t pretend to understand much about what this whole whirligig of reality is all about, and I certainly can’t claim to know what’s going to happen at the end, when the jig is up on this primordial sphere and it’s time to come clean to our Creator. And that’s it-that’s about as far as I can get in terms of my theology: there is a Creator. I am the created. In terms of logistics, it is both totally irrational and entirely plausible that this same Creator is a shape-shifter; that this same Creator should appease our need for narrative to slice through chronology and share human skin for a few years. Logical or not, rational or not, for me, this transcendental tailspin is not the main crook in my (spiritual) craw. As far as the tri-unity of God is concerned, I’m okay with not “getting it” intellectually this side of the Great Beyond.

Fact is, I need to know that regardless of whether or not I go to church (in the traditional sense, meaning that I shower and drive or walk somewhere outside my house to meet up with other showered individuals), espouse the “right” doctrines, or dig the “correct” dogma, God is going to be there-not the God that I have constructed in my little grey cerebrum over the years, but the God, the G_d, the mystery that has defied the categories, essays, churches and words that I have so fat-fingerdly tried to manipulate [him] into to fit my circumstance.

Like every other Thing on this tirelessly complicated planet, the path ends in paradox. The God who is mysterious must also be the God who is incarnate, concrete: both the concrete that we use to build our churches and the concrete that marks the path between my house and my neighbor’s. And this brings me back to confession. And to Joan Puls. This morning, after reading a chapter from Seek Treasures, I did something that I haven’t done in a long, long time. I confessed out loud. I confessed out loud and I apologized to my husband personally and in his stead as ad hoc priest and parish. No curtain tore, no fire erupted, no armless hand wrote on a wall. This was not a momentous occasion in terms of content (what I confessed was pretty commonplace) but it was the very act of making concrete the mystery of my heart-the desire to be known, understood, heard-that made this confession important. Joan Puls said, “Nothing human is foreign to the Spirit.” These words just won’t leave me alone. Nothing human is foreign to the Spirit; nothing human is foreign to the Spirit. In those brief moments of quotidian confession, God’s mystery embraced my raggedy attempts to reach him. God bent over to translate the S.O.S. and my feeble apology was consumed by his divine cosmology, His love made incarnate in the eyes of my husband.

And that was Church for Sunday, November 30, 2008. Later, my husband and I gathered in the fellowship hall to make dinner and do the dishes.


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