Dr. Mary Marrocco is an associate secretary for the Canadian Council of Churches. She is also a teacher, writer and lay pastoral worker. Her column, Questioning Faith, features topics about the teachings of our church, scriptures, the lives and writings of the saints and spiritual writers and theologians. She can be reached at email@example.com.
At the words of his wife, Jim shrivels inside himself and speaks thereafter in infrequent monosyllables. She thinks he is sullen.
Shawna becomes belligerent when her supervisor criticizes her and stalks out.
It was Sunday morning, and I was leaving the hospital. A woman was sitting in the foyer; she smiled pleasantly, but a bit anxiously, her white hair framing a friendly face. She’d finished her appointment early and wondered when the bus would come to take her to the mall. My car being nearby, I offered her a ride over.
Labour Day came early this year, along with those September-school-starting feelings. Even for those of us who’ve been out of school many years, they can be startling. If you’re a parent of school-age children, perhaps you’ve been “getting them ready,” assisted as always by advertisers who prod weeks early. If you’re not, you may remember the years when you prepared for term-time, possibly with competing feelings.
Our culture makes it easy to ignore death (up to a point). The reality of death can get lost among our flurried lives, just another “issue” we might or might not decide to put on today’s to-do list.
In far-away Turkey, in a certain village, two different images of a gift-giver had a kind of cage-match, and one of them won mightily.
In Demre, near the ancient city of Myra, a bronze statue was donated and set up in the town square. It was a likeness of an ancient bishop, a man of compassion and wisdom. The bishop was St. Nicholas, because Myra was his see in the fourth century, when he is thought to have lived. He stood on top of the world, this lover of the poor, his feet mounted on a globe. Recently, he was taken from this prominent place and put in a back courtyard. Atop a pedestal, in his place, was put a jolly red Santa statue. Apparently the change was made because Santa is more popular and better-known than St Nicholas, his forerunner.
Andrea told of her longing for a soul mate who would connect with her and love her as she was. She wanted to be a person, to be someone. In a way, she sought salve for the perpetual sense of “not good enough” from her parents’ divorce of long ago. She felt like a ball of anger, sometimes. She also felt like a person with a quest, revealed in art. And a quest for the divine, sensed but unexplored. For Andrea, yearning had tipped into addiction. Her best friend was alcohol; when everybody and everything else failed her, the salve was there. Somewhere down deep she hated this best friend, but it seemed to enable.
One came from a gentle, soft-spoken man named Allan. He suffered terribly as a child, abandoned by his parents, in a country at war. A man of great faith, he works hard to keep from going to hell after death, because “I’ve been in hell, and I don’t want to go there again.”
How do I get out of hell and get to God? Since hell is so prevalent on Earth, it’s an urgent question. I suspect it’s a fairly common one. Not everyone would consider their lives hell. But at least they might ask: How do I get out of suffering and struggle, anxiety and loneliness, depression and suffering, and get to God?
After one class on Christology, a teacher-student said to me, quite seriously: “Are you saying the church teaches that Jesus was actually God? That God really became a human person? I don’t know if I believe that!” Bill listened so well, really taking in church doctrine, and actually let the question be raised in himself.
They spoke, and their pro-life descendants are still trying to speak, but with voices muffled at times, impaired by connotations of “pro-life” as narrow-minded, anti-woman, blind, hate-filled, uneducated and so on. Whatever the origins of those connotations, however inaccurate they may be, they have their effect. Many find abortion abhorrent but would never associate themselves with “the pro-life movement.”