I needed some time to contemplate my life and faith. I was raised with protestant parents, saved in a protestant church but became Roman Catholic in the last year of the 20th century. Since then, there have been times when I have stepped from the church to get air so to speak. But this was different.
Catholics, and maybe protestants as well, have a period known as the dark night of the soul. My definition and tradition, this is where one thinks God has stepped from your life and you seek Him in earnestness. The fall of 2021 was mine.
I had gotten back into my faith fully in the last couple of years after issues that affected me and ended the family unit I had known for 20 years. At that time, the stress had caused my health to falter and my spirit to cry out. For the first time since being a Catholic, I hit my knees, wept, and prayed. It led me into my Catholic Christian faith unlike before.
But for some reason, this fall had played havoc within my mind and spirit and I needed to refresh, think, and clear the cobwebs. So, while not leaving my faith, I stepped away from the building that had become my church home. I had only planned on it being about a month. What it led to was something I had not really expected.
What it led me to, instead of free wheeling life and secular enjoyment, was deeper. It led me to deeper scriptural study. Instead of just one translation, I started using multiple including translations like the King James, New American, and New International. But it also included the Stone edition Tanach and the Douay-Rheims. In the mix of these, I started finding new influence and messages that hit my spirit and mind. It called me to self examination. This then led to a deeper prayer life. And to deeper study.
For all of this time, I had attended a Methodist church with a couple of my children and found that, like the Catholic faith, believed not in only a bread and juice remembrance of the last supper of Christ and His apostles, but in the beautiful truth of the words of Christ himself when He spoke “This is My body…and this is My blood”.
This self imposed sabbatical and longing search went beyond the month I had expected and lasted until the 3rd week of Dec this year. A former priest had passed and I went to his viewing, out of the respect that I had for him. As I stepped into the first parish I ever attended, and my Catholic home for most of my time in the faith, the noise and chaos faded away. There is that sanctuary, among the scent of the decades of incense and visuals of the life of Christ and the saints, that small still voice came. Not like a voice or whisper, but something more distant yet comforting. Only 2 words, “you’re home”.
This, the 4th Sunday of Advent, I returned to the little parish I had stepped out of months ago. As I sat there, taking in the visuals of Advent and the liturgical music and homily, I found myself with an inner peace that I had not had in awhile. Like someone who had left home and traveled the world, only to return to the place he was raised, I had indeed come home. That type of peace can only truly be found in a home.
During my 50 plus years I have been protestant and Catholic, Christian and pagan. During my walks outside of the faith of Christ, the pagan pantheons never answered, spoke, or given me any divine inspiration. And of my 25 years as a Christian, first as a protestant Christian and now as Roman Catholic Christian, this is the first encounter with that small still voice.
While the pagan pantheons are once again raising their heads, and yes infighting between Christians and the Pope himself having and promoting heretical ideas, have I seen for myself that one light and hope in this world of darkness. An old country tradition is to leave a candle lit in a window to guide home those that wander off from the homestead. Mine was the only light brighter than a million suns. When others have dimmed and gone out, this light will shine for an eternity.
The revelation of the Apocalypse witness and recorded by St. John on Patmos said that the Light of God will be so bright in Heaven and the new Jerusalem that there will be no need of a physical sun. That is the light that leads me, that calls me, and the comforts me.
What I thought was to be only a few weeks brought me back at a perfect time for a new beginning. What a better place and time to start a new and refreshed path than at a little cave hewn out as a place of birth for beginning of our Salvation. To behold the One that created the whole of everything and yet started His human life the way we all do.
May God the Father always guide you, bring you unto Himself through Christ the Lord, endow you with the Holy Spirit in wisdom and guidance, and comfort you on your journey through this temporary landscape of life.