21 December 2006

Always 3 o'clock in the Morning

Generally speaking I've mixed feelings about most Catholic newspapers. That's as it should be, I suppose. Everyone's got an agenda in everything we read, and it's rarely our own -- or at least, not exactly -- and so a certain amount of furrowing of brow and pursing of lips is to be expected. And The Catholic Herald is certainly no exception in that regard.

Still, it has its strengths, and one of them is Ronald Rolheiser's syndicated column, which I could read online, but which I like to take in as I'm putting away my paper. He has certain themes he returns to again and again, drawing deeply on the writings of the likes of St John of the Cross in considering our experiences of depression, alienation, isolation, fear, and doubt.

His current column, dated 17 December just so you know when it gets archived, talks of our spiritual need to rediscover our innocence. It's a fine one, especially where he remarks that:
...the challenge is not so much to come back to the innocence of a child (something we could never do, even if we tried) but to see the knowledge and maturity that we've gained from all our years of learning and experience not as an end but as a stage, a necessary one, on the journey to a still deeper place, wisdom, fuller maturity.

What that means is that it is not just important to learn and become sophisticated, it is equally important to eventually become post- sophisticated; it is not just important to grow in experience and shed naivete, it is equally important to eventually find a certain "second naivete"; and it is not just a sign of intelligence and maturity to stop believing in Santa and the Easter Bunny, it is a sign of even more intelligence and deeper maturity to start believing in them again...

To be an adult is precisely to be experienced, complex, wounded. To be an adult is to have lost one's innocence. None of us, unless we die very young, carries the dignity of our person and of our baptism unstained through life. We fall, we compromise, we sin, we get hurt, we hurt others, and mostly we grow ever more pathologically complex, with layer after layer of emotional and intellectual complexity separating us from the little girl and little boy who once waited for Christmas in innocence and joyful anticipation. And that can be painful.
I like that. Pretending things don't hurt, that work isn't necessary, that there's not wickedness out there and all manner of demons within -- that does us no good whatsoever.

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