In our world today, many different people are wandering. Some wander from one religious tradition to another as people select their clothes, while others come to their conclusions after years of search and study. Still, there are others for whom religious traditions are like impulse buys. You get what you get and then you worry about how you’re going to pay for it later.
Our culture it seems to me is very consumer oriented and religion has become another commodity on the marketplace. There is a television channel where I live that receives a lot of funding from a Protestant preacher (I don’t what else to call him). He reminds me of various salespeople that you meet. He’s very enthusiastic and brash about the Lord. He gets people to go to his two “campuses” (churches). Apparently, the place has everything that a person could askfor and, indeed, it appeals to a great many. I’ve heard that it is growing very fast.
Yet I wonder how fast this brand will wear off. Things cannot continue this way for long. Unimaginable growth is one thing, but things do have a tendency to come down. Sometimes, extremely fast like the stock market. Let’s face it, sometimes people move on from this church and go somewhere else.
Yes, people are searching, but what are they searching for? I’ve often listened to various programs on Catholic radio that feature converts. Many of them were searching for the Truth and many of them were searching for the historical Christian religion. It’s interesting how many of their stories are connected with the writings of the Apostolic Fathers and how they discovered that the Church had existed long after Martin Luther and various Protestant denominations said that it had apostatized. Indeed, the Catholic Church’s longevity is something that one cannot argue against. Christ made some promises to Peter and those promises are being fulfilled.
Yet there are people who do not search for Truth. There are those that seek to be comforted by religion. They are not your intellectuals or former preachers and ministers. They are ordinary people that have had it really rough in life, so to speak. Many of them flock to the Church because they know that its Sacraments can provide them with comfort and love. They understand that the Sacrament of Penance means that the slate is wiped clean every single time one goes into the confessional. For them, the Church is a place of hope and love. Something that is truly precious.
I remember years ago when I called a local hotline to talk about some problems that I was facing. One of the many questions that I was asked was whether I belonged to a church. In my community, churches are a dime a dozen. The local Catholic population is about 10%, while almost everybody else belongs to a myriad of different Protestant denominations, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and other beliefs. For a part of the western United States that is known to be unchurched, my small patch of land seems to be doing rather well for itself.
Yet being asked if I attended church was something that I found really surprising at the time. Like many other people, I attended my local Orthodox parish Sunday after Sunday. The place didn’t offer much to young people at the time and so I never associated the parish with socializing. For the most part, I thought that going to church was just what it says and nothing more than that. Of course, I participated in study groups here and there, but there was nothing else.
After my conversion to Catholicism, however, I have realized that the parish can be a place for socialization and fellowship. The thing is that the Orthodox parish of my youth was an immigrant parish and it was more of a social club than a parish to me. It was always about who was connected to whom and how much their grandfathers had given to build the church on the present property. The faith meant a great deal, I’m sure, but nominalism was also something that I found. Indeed, it was the nominalism that was so frustrating to my parish priest at the time.
In the parishes I attend now, it is much easier for a man to get lost in the crowd. It is interesting, though, that there always people that want to talk to you and make your acquaintance. I remember attending my first TLM in years and being greeted by all kinds of old ladies and being welcomed in. I’ve found that same sense in other parishes as well. There always seems to be a willingness to reach out to people and to meet them. I wonder why I never felt that years before.
Of course, things have changed at my old Orthodox parish since I went there years ago. There are youth oriented activities now and many converts are coming in. The future seems hopeful and I do hope that the place continues to grow and prosper outside of its original ethnic boundaries. For a variety of reasons, however, I do not feel a need to return to Orthodox Christianity. I am happy where I am as a Catholic and I’m sure that my spiritual wanderings have ended here.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
St. Joseph, pray for us!