Blogger Steve Skojec got a lot of attention for his Pope Francis skepticism this past Fall. I noticed on a blog aggregation site a link to this extended essay that kept him up half the night putting together. Look at it. I’m not recommending reading it–necessarily. I gave up about 500 words in–I looked at the pictures and the headlines and I got the gist. These kinds of blog posts make me nervous when they well up in me. I can’t speak for others, but they tell you a lot more about me than about what I write about.
That kind of material has a better landing place in my journal than on these e-pages.
How does the Christian recognize, discern, then deal with foreboding? Is it a supernatural warning from God? Is it a product of our mind, a reminder of childhood or previous trauma? Is it mob psychology? Is it a sign?
Last question: I answer yes. But not how some people see it.
I had a very difficult personal stretch of about 12 months from mid-2011 where my brother died in a car crash, my wife underwent two major surgeries, one with the specter of cancer. The year after that, we had the arsonist burn the parish church and personal upheaval hit about half our parish staff. Did the year one experiences help me get through year two? Perhaps. Was God testing my mettle? I wouldn’t put it that way. I was given opportunities to serve my family, then the next year, to serve the parish community–parishioners and staff colleagues who were hurting, confused, and in pain. I did my best. I prayed a lot. I did not turn to apocalyptic utterances attributed to the Blessed Mother. I didn’t need to.
I could decide that two or more bad things make for a trend, but I’m not convinced this is a Christian approach to misfortune.
With Steve, I’m also not convinced this is a matter of perceiving greater world trends. With 2005-06, conservative Catholics appeared in ascendancy in most aspects. The Iraq War could be minimized because the GOP controlled the American government, B16 had law-n-order promise in Rome, and Catholic bloggers were back-slapping and exchanging awards and getting non-conservatives in trouble. Compared to eight, nine years ago, it’s not as fun for some.
Today, there’s a Dem in the White House who won two elections, and a Jesuit on the Chair of Peter. The investigation of women religious has vanished. Conservative darlings in the episcopacy have been smudged for everything from overpriced bronze window frames and whirlpool baths to misdemeanor convictions. Harbinger of the Apocalypse, but who am I to judge?
The good thing about not looking for the apocalypse when things are going bad is not to put any credence in a chain of events that might make one cheer.
God will call prophets, to be sure. But more often, God is calling me to pay more attention to my life when events line up to frustrate or worry me. If the young miss has dropping grades and anxiety about the SAT, is it time to go on the warpath about standardized tests being a corporate money maker and not a student indicator? Or do I look at my parenting skills, and put them to task to address the needs and concerns of my loved one?
In other words, when I get a negative feeling, should I be looking at my self before drawing conclusions on people around me or on the world situation? Is it more likely God is calling me to speak to the world, or address my own life, possibly my own sins and failings?
If a Catholic is feeling worried about Pope Francis, I would pay attention to that. But I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that the Blessed Mother shares that concern from her image on a piece of toast in your kitchen. Maybe that sense of foreboding is about that worried Catholic. And no more.