Alios salvos fecit, seipsum non potest salvum facere. – St. Mark 15:31
This year will mark the ninth year since I had come back from my short time in atheism and agnosticism, back to belief, to Christianity, in its most ancient form (arguably), Catholic-Christianity. In my years as an atheist I had put out much effort to attack the treasured beliefs of the church, visiting campus Bible studies, wearing offensive anti-Christian t-shirts, and attacking the Bible in a debate against capital punishment.
As a non-denominational Christian I vehemently opposed the pagan accretions which infected the Roman Church throughout the centuries. I tried to convert friends and family out of the
. Coming back home to that very Church, I attacked the atheists, agnostics, Protestants, Orthodox, the defenders of same-sex marriage, etc. Many folks who have since become my good friends were attracted to this passionate defense of the Church and Her teachings and vehement offense against Her enemies within and without the Church. But there came a time when that energy fizzled after a few years, only to be re-directed towards the internal politics within the Church of Rome. The modern Church didn’t seem to be Herself anymore, as She once was. She wasn’t like the Church I read in the books written and made popular before the Second Vatican Council. Soon, the crosshairs were on the liberals, the progressives, the “Novus Ordo”, the new Mass, the vernacular, the charismatics, the New American Bible, etc. Popish Church
Heading up a very active organizational apostolate in support of the pre-Vatican II form of the Holy Mass, the old theology, the old catechisms, I thought I had finally found what I was looking for. I would have peace. I found many things, but peace I did not find. I found even greater frustration, even greater political infighting, even greater opposition, even greater hypocrisy. Where was this perfect Church I had fallen in love with? Where was this perfect Church that I thought I read in the Scriptures? Where was this Body of Christ that was without blemish like our Lord was? I loved the old teachings of the Church which the modernists didn’t think twice to discard after the Council. But, I also missed the community, and at the very least, humanly inspired charity towards others that I had experienced in the newer model of Catholicism. I found no lasting comfort in either community, apart from the other. I was lost. Then I found a person who understood exactly what I was frustrated with. She understood me and my goals. She is now a very important part of my life.
I have since come to realize that I sought a perfection which did not and cannot exist this side of eternity and this side of the final judgment at the end of time. I failed to separate the divine dimension and the human dimension of the Church. This much was actually promised by our Lord, that in the Kingdom, there would be weeds and wheat. Furthermore, I failed to realize that the reason why I was not at peace was not because others were not living up to the prescriptions and proscriptions of their stated creeds, but because I was not either. I was and am still a sinner, and I need the grace that our Lord won for us on Calvary’s Cross, mediated and dispensed by the loving hands of the channel of that grace, the mediatress of all graces, Mother Mary.
For many years I focused so much attention and energy on helping others and their problems, personally, socially, psychologically, spiritually, doctrinally, etc., that I ignored my own problems, ironically, personally, socially, psychologically, spiritually, and doctrinally. This preoccupation on the needs of others, especially at the cost of neglecting one’s own needs has been referred to in self-help psychology as “codependency”. Certain personality types and temperaments tend to be more susceptible to this phenomenon. I am one of them. I have always wondered why I had observed so many folks give of themselves to their students, their church, their clubs, their work, and all the while they didn’t realize their own families were in trouble.
While an undergraduate, in my very first class in psychology, I had read about codependency and was convinced I suffered from it. I printed out so much literature, read it, and forgot it. That is, until I was reintroduced to it by my Love. I resisted her suggestions that I suffered from it. Then I read her suggested book, Codependent No More. The chapters that I read seemed to tell my story.
It is true. Now what? I am working on it. I am a work in progress. We all are. I was not going to wait until I was free of codependency to write about it. I opened up my pocket New Testament today and the reading was from St. Mark, chapter 15, and being in the second day of Lent, the Crucifixion narrative was very appropriate. But, one sentence really stood out for me this day, Alios salvos fecit, seipsum non potest salvum facere. It was the mockery of the Pharisees towards Jesus, He saved others; himself he cannot save. How often do we think we can do it all, save the world, and fix our problems, on the steam of our own efforts. We are not perfect, we need others, and we need to help others too, but first and foremost we need to help ourselves. And so, we need God, who is our strength!
Fortitudo mea, et laus mea Dominus, et factus est mihi in salutem: iste Deus meus, et glorificabo eum: Deus patris mei, et exaltabo eum. – Exodus 15:2