Catherine Doherty (see Feb. 18 post) was a woman of prayer who could rightfully be called a mystic. She was a mystic who was equally comfortable spending days in silence with God, or sitting in a diner having coffee with an old friend. Her mysticism came out of something very primitive: a core belief that human beings belong in the presence of God.
I recently read a passage from one of Catherine’s classics, Molchanie: Experiencing the Silence of God. In it she describes a spiritual journey into the silence of God. She tells of the temptations she faces, the things she sees, the ways she experiences God. The passage that had my attention was her description of the Church, which she encounters while on this pilgrimage of prayer. She sees the Church torn apart. She fears for the Church.
I could identify with what Catherine saw and what she feared. We all can. We worry about our Church, like we worry about our families. We wonder what to do to breathe life into her, to serve the folks falling through the cracks, to restore the image of the Church as something beautiful but humble.
I found Catherine’s words very comforting, because she reminded me what Christ does for his Church, that he loves her more than I ever could, and that I too can rest “among the pines” in the knowledge that the light of the Church is continually renewed by Christ himself:
“From a vantage point in gentle mountains I saw the Church…. There she stood, above the tree line, shining in the rays of the noonday sun. She was beautiful and simple, with her doors wide open, and into her streamed rich and poor alike. As I beheld the Church, awe took hold of me. These words from the Old Testament came to me: ‘Take off your shoes; the place is holy”….
When I looked again, the scene had changed. A disruption, a dismemberment or tearing apart seemed to be taking place. The doors through which so many people had passed were being barred. I shook my head and tried to clear my eyes, for they were filling up with tears. I couldn’t believe the people of God were causing all this turmoil! But they were. Each had his own idea of the Church….
As my father had taught me to do, I lifted the ‘two arms’ – of prayer and fasting – for the Church. At the same time I realized that the Church was the beautiful, shining Bride of Christ. He had said that the gates of hell would not prevail against her. I knew that she was his beloved, and that he, God, was all tenderness, all love, towards her. She passed in front of my eyes, the beloved of God....
Yes, I saw the Church torn apart. I was going to weep, but then I saw Christ putting her back together again, she who had come from his side. There was music in the air, and she became whole again. So I was at peace for a little while, because I knew that the Church is forever being restored and renewed in her Lord. We celebrate his resurrection from death once a year, but he restores his Church every moment of the day and night.
I relaxed among the pines. It was night. Brighter than all the stars and the moon was the Church, shining in the darkness.”