One of the things that never ceases to amaze me about American culture is our reliance on “Dr. Feel Good.” No, I am not talking about the little figurines that abounded during the 1970s nor am I talking about the poem that was written by Yusef Komunyakaa several years ago. Rather, I am talking about our overwhelming reliance on psychiatrists and psychologists to take care of our personal problems.
I have been to countless counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists during my short life. More or less, I went because I felt misunderstood and needed a sympathetic ear. But at the end of the session, I would always feel empty. Nothing had been resolved and nothing new had been accomplished. Rather, I felt cheated because I didn’t receive anything helpful. Just empty and consoling words from a stranger that would walk out of the office at 5 and forget that clients even existed.
To me, the psychological professions have emerged because of a unnerving thirst on our part for self-validation and a thirst for belonging. Yet therapy can only help so much. Spilling your guts every week to a stranger is easy, but what happens after you’ve done it for years and years on end? Does a man that has gone for years really gain a better understanding of himself and who he is? Or does he merely repeat the same patterns that were always apparent in his life?
It seems to me that my own with the psychological professions were unsuccessful precisely because the cure for my problems was not something that I could find in a bottle or by talking to someone that I didn’t know well. My cure was a thirst and need for a community in which I could truly say with all my heart that I belonged to. It was something that I was not able to find at any of the colleges that I have attended save one. Yet attendance at that college was a fiasco in itself.
Yet I found that belonging in a place that I would never have expected. When I attended my first Mass years ago, I felt that I was instantly connected to the people around me. During the Kiss of Peace, I felt that I had found the community that I longed for. There is something about that moment which makes me go crumbly inside. Perhaps, it is the fact that we are all bound together by our love for one another and God’s love for us. Indeed, it is a bond that has been cemented so firmly into our hearts that it may be difficult for us to imagine any other way.
Belonging to the Roman Catholic Church means a great deal to me. Even though, it took me a few months and a couple of false starts to realize where Catholicism actually was, my own life has been changed in countless ways by the people that I have met along the way and the people that I will continue to meet until I go forth from this worth.
There is something about being in a church and feeling the presence of all those people around. Even if the parish is a hole in the wall in the worst neighborhood of town, I still feel myself to be a member of that community. Indeed, the Church is a universal community that does not exclude anybody due to race, gender, or almost anything else. From the beginning, Catholicism has embraced all kinds of people.
If you look through Catholic history, you quickly realize how abundantly it is permeated by the lives of these many different people. From the Twelve Apostles to our own day, the Church has not ceased to offer a place where people can meet the Lord.
While we belong to the Church, we also belong to Christ. He is the supreme source of our faith and hope. Without Him, nothing would be possible. It was from the Blood that poured from His side that this precious inheritance was born. At the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, each one of us receives Christ into our hearts and souls. At this Sacrifice, we are there together as a group and not as individual parishioners. Rather, our parishes represent miniature versions of that Church which has spread from east to west and to every corner of the world.
Our belonging is not merely to a parish, a monastery, a convent, or a mission. Our belonging is to the Church that was founded by Christ on the rock of St. Peter. Yet not only this, but Christ draws us also to meet others that have run that same race successfully. In a way that we will not understand until we are long out of this world, we also belong to that glorious Communion of Saints in which the entire court of heaven intercedes for us.
Indeed, the Church is a precious pearl of great price that so many are seeking to find in our world. Let us pray for them and ask God to guide them to Her.