Many years ago, I used to know a law librarian who was studying the gnostic gospels. Over the course of several months, we would chat on the internet ever once in a while. At the time, I didn’t have many friends and so I felt a need to write to someone. We talked about many different subjects, but one of the ones that was constantly brought up was religion. You see, the law librarian was a practitioner of Wicca and he liked to question my beliefs. He wanted to me to think “outside the box.” Of course, I didn’t believe in any of these things about goddesses, spells, black magic, white magic, the summerlands, etc. All of this seemed to me a hoaky spirituality. More or less, it seemed like a rabbit that someone pulled out of a box. Of course, I didn’t tell my friend this at the time.
Several years later, we had the opportunity to meet in Los Angeles. We had an interesting conversations about many things including religion. He also told me about the fact that he was a Goth and so on. We kept in touch over the years and then, after I started grad school, I found that it was pointless for me to continue my conversation. The last time I wrote him was after my conversion to Catholicism, which he called an “an authoritarian faith.” A couple of days ago, I pulled him off of my networking profiles as a friend.
I suppose that my story is not unique if you change the details. People grow apart for all kinds of reasons and, sometimes, it is just better not to revive a relationship that is on the verge of collapse. I know that I would probably have stimulating conversations with this person, but I honestly do not believe that it would be in my best interests to continue in this relationship.
In my own spiritual life, I’ve found that the best friends that I have currently are those that share my religious beliefs and my ideas about life. Of course, we do bicker and we do have problems. However, we also have a level playing field because we can talk about the same things without butting heads all the time. Also, there is the additional factor that some of these friends are not intellectuals. This helps also because I don’t have to constantly defend myself against rationalist philosophers or whatever else.
One of the things that I have learned since my conversion to Catholicism is that it is a communal religion. In many ways, we function as one Body and we relate to each other in this way. In other religions, such as Buddhism, it is easier for someone to be an individual. There are the rules, of course, but the person is not necessarily a member of a community. The same goes for new religions like Wicca or neo-paganism. It’s not necessary to be a member of a community. One can be oneself and do whatever one wants to do.
In Catholicism, however, it is simply not possible. Whether we like it or not, we are all members of each other. Our friendships and the ways that we relate to each other are dictated by what has been handed down to us from the time of the Apostles. Even at Mass, when we are sometimes surrounded by people that we do not know, we are still members of the same Body. Yet this idea of membership has its own responsibilities and problems. We cannot be complacent. We cannot ignore each other. We cannot be mean to each other. We cannot do these things because we are told that we must love our neighbor as ourselves. Without the neighbor or the other person, we cannot call ourselves Catholics let alone Christians.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!