As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m sort of an irreverent Catholic, so if that offends you… please skip this post.
Say what you like (and people do) about the Catholic church, nobody does ceremony quite like they do. I suppose it’s all the centuries of practice marking occasions with the proper pomp and dignity .Just as in the past, the modern priest ministers to a flock that comes from all walks of life, is struggling to manage real life, united only by their faith. Masses offer music, candlelight, affirmations and kindness… and (if you’re lucky) a gathering in the church hall afterward with the promise of coffee, dessert and companionship. A nice thing this.
At a lovely remembrance service I attended for my mother, the priest delivering the sermon had no trouble fitting his message to the mood of the room. Bereaved souls in various stages of grieving… many with some pretty serious questions for God. Others hanging on for dear life to their faith… sorely challenged, wondering why goodness wasn’t enough to spare them.
We can all agree (even that priest I’d imagine) there are a lot of things that don’t add up in this world. Things that are horribly unfair, that make us shake our fists with rage. Bad things happening to the best people. Illness and war and the misleading of the masses. Things that any thinking person has to wonder how He lets pass. I expect these are the reasons at the heart of atheists arguments. If God was all the faithful say He is, why doesn’t He stop the suffering?
All part of the plan.
The engaging priest conducting our service was quick to assure us, there IS a plan, we just don’t have access to the blueprint, at least until we die. Once we pass from this life (where awareness of the plan might prove beneficial) we will be given complete and perfect understanding of God’s plan without even having to ask. What an amazing idea. How will it be to understand… to see the reason behind what seems senseless… to have our pain fade to nothing. To see there was a reason for everything.
Something like hindsight, only better.
Believing in this after death understanding is what gets so many of the grieving through each and every lonely day. It keeps many more on the straight and narrow. As awful as we feel when bad things happen, when we suffer unfairly — believing there is a reason (as yet to be understood) does something for the pain, makes suffering just a tad more bearable. The Catholic church understands this most human of needs and never misses a chance to cater to it, most especially in our weakest moments.
As I said, nobody does bereavement better.
Religious skeptics have it so much harder, especially during tough times. No church offers them comfort — the loss is an ending in the truest sense of the word. They see little evidence of a larger plan in their own lives or in the world at large. They credit no guiding hand, acknowledge no synchronicity or superior intelligence. Sometimes it’s hard not to agree with those who cast organized religion aside, especially considering all the pain and suffering that litters the history of all religions.
That’s going on today. Right now.
I’d be lying if I said there are times it’s hard not to cede the point, religion continues to be responsible for a whole lot of pain in this world. Yet there is beauty too, and bravery and the willingness for some number of hearts to believe, despite everything and without hard proof, that there is a reason for all things. Even bad things.