Faith at the Edge

“Many of us, it seems, need the visceral unity of group worship, the shared symbols of ‘organized religion,’ the spiritual grit of religious discipline, the (at times) daunting authority of institution. I was afraid that if I tried to go it alone, I’d be tempted to take the path of least resistance, to create for myself a relationship with God, that, more than anything, pleased and reassured me. Worse, that allowed me to remain aloof and critical. My decision to proceed was not so much brave as it was desperate. I’d found something that spoke directly to the crying need within me and did so in ways that I could not command…”

– Paula Huston, from “The Sacrament of Matrimony”


  1. “when I left my father’s house, I felt the separation so keenly that the feeling will not be greater, I think, when I die. For it seemed that every bone in my body was being sundered.” St. Teresa of Avila describing leaving her father to enter the monastery. Reassuring?
    not so much. mcm

  2. Matthew Lickona says

    But isn’t that her point? That if she didn’t do the Catholic thing, she’d risk making her religion reassuring and pleasing and nothing more?

  3. right, I think that is what St. Teresa is saying as well.
    that it isn’t about our “feelings”. i was quoting that to support what Paula said. i think we can’t even expect to be reassured once we are inside, necessarily, either.
    there may never be a reconciliation of our feelings and our faith. it shows how little we can trust ourselves, i think.

  4. Matthew Lickona says

    The Catholic Church: crushing your feelings into powder for over 2,000 years…

  5. it really does say something that it has lasted this long doesn’t it. mcm

  6. j. christian says

    there may never be a reconciliation of our feelings and our faith. it shows how little we can trust ourselves, i think.

    I would just note that, for those of us not raised in the faith and therefore not receiving the sacraments, grace might work through our feelings in some way to move us emotionally to a different place. As much as I like to think I read my way into the Church, I can’t deny that reason only played a small part in my conversion. Probably more important was seeing the frescoes of Fra Angelico at San Marco in Florence, especially the one portraying the appearance to Mary Magdalene. It sort of knocked the emotional wind out of me. Something about being on the outside looking in, and the image of Christ pulling away, “Do not touch me.”

    I wonder if distrust of our feelings is sometimes just a reaction against the opposite tendency to elevate them to the point of subjective sacrament?

  7. Anonymous says

    i wouldn’t deny that god uses our feelings…i guess i, personally, have just been struggling with, at what point are our feelings no longer a good guideline? when is that point where we truly do have to allow “every bone to be sundered” or to sweat blood as christ did before his death? i really feel like i just could not have another child right now. however, i know somewhere deep down, that i am called to have more children. is it possible to reconcile this? i am not sure. i only know that i have to trust and obey (thankfully) the authority of the church. i see this in paula’s thoughts. gratitude that we do in fact, have an authority to go on. does that make sense? mcm

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