This weekend I lived at beautiful St. Fidelis Church, situated unexpectedly on the Kansas plains. Oddly enough, I never went inside the church proper, but I’m told there’s a large mural behind the altar, of Fidelis being butchered by Calvinists. It made me wonder how many people have been dispatched to the merciful arms of God by wicked men claiming to do His will.
I spent a good portion of my time in a small chapel, learning prayers that preceded the Roman Catholic Church. I came with a great weight on my bones, a weight that overwhelmed me in that tiny chapel. I fell to my knees there, and prayed with quivering shoulders and trembling hands, done in by grief over the past, fear of the future, the knowing that this present ground is sand, that my feet must soon move forward or backward. Each way bears a cost; one of the great lies of men is that the path can be traveled without suffering. Another great lie is that we can stand still and read books and let our paltry knowledge carry us into the arms of God. We have to walk, with heavy, stumbling feet.
I prayed in that shadowed chapel until there were no words. I prayed beyond the words, into the silence. The silence is what we fear, the silence when the presence of God can neither be denied nor deflected with vain prayers and empty mumblings. I wept into that silence. I laid myself bare before it. I realized how little I know about prayer.
It’s easy to see why so many of us — Christians and pagans alike — spend lifetimes running from the living God, our hands stopping our ears, our mouths babbling prayers or blasphemies, all in an effort to avoid the great silence where God speaks to man. That silence is a fearful place, but there is love there, the great love of a parent. There is mercy too, and strength for the uncompleted race.
Who would have thought, those years ago when I first began to study doctrines, that they would all fall to dust on the floor of a little chapel in back of a church standing silent in the middle of America? I suppose He’s always worked that way, even with the likes of me.