Spiritual Practices and Attitudes 9 - I Sought and I Found
Notes by Michael Whelan SM
A few years before he died, the monk, Carlo Carretto (1910-1988), returned to Italy from the Sahara Desert, after many years living among the Bedouin. He wrote a document entitled, “I Sought and I Found”. There he tells of his inner journey and his struggles with God. He concludes the document with a letter to the church. The letter begins:
“How much I must criticise you, my church and yet how much I love you! You have made me suffer more than anyone and yet I owe you more than I owe anyone. I should like to see you destroyed and yet I need your presence. You have given me much scandal and yet you alone have made me understand holiness.
Never in the world have I seen anything more obscurantist, more compromised, more false, yet never have I touched anything more pure, more generous or more beautiful. Countless times I have felt like slamming the door of my soul in your face – and yet, every night, I have prayed that I might die in your sure arms! No, I cannot be free of you, for I am one with you, even if not completely you. Then too – where should I go? To build another church? But I cannot build another church without the same defects, for they are my own defects. And again, if I were to build another church, it would be my church, not Christ’s church. No, I am old enough. I know better!” (Messenger, Jan-Feb., 1989, 15. The piece originally appeared in the U.K. Catholic Herald.)
It does not help us to become fixated on “them,” whoever “them” happens to be, when we are talking about the Church. Our identity within the Church is found in our common baptism. We the baptized are the Church and we have a great responsibility and possibility at this time. Each of us must invite the Spirit of God to take us where we have never been before and, by implication, thereby take the Church where she has never been before. This is part of our prophetic vocation. We may not make it to the seven o’clock news for doing this, and it may cause us much suffering, but it will be right and good and beautiful.
The Good News is always good and it is always news. It is hard to remember that when we are in pain. But we must remember it! We must also remember that our world belongs to God, it is in good hands. Our lives belong to God, they are in good hands. Our Church belongs to God, it is in good hands.
Excerpt from Michael’s Aquinas Academy Jubilee Lecture, 2005: “Passionate about the process, detached about the outcome: Living creatively within our institutions”. The full text of this and the other Jubilee Lectures can be found in Issues for Church and Society in Australia, edited by Michael Whelan, St Paul’s, 2006.