The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Faith and Enchantment

From the Go Sit in the Corner Blog:

I was compiling quotes from George Balanchine on religion and I realized how right he was about one thing: children have to learn faith when they’re young, or they will never have it. Adult converts can have something – a turning over of mind and heart to the Lord, but the natural belief in the supernatural, the nearness of transcendence, the ritual will always be somewhat off. Can adult converts really have the suspicions that children can: that dragonfly wings sound like what one’s guardian angel’s wings sound like, or that the movement of the wind was the Mother of the Lord sighing just for you to hear it, or that the sun beaming through the window was Christ Himself wishing you a personal Good Morning? Perhaps, but adults have to struggle against skepticism to believe in it; it all comes so naturally to children. This is where the importance of the example of St. Anne and St. Joachim comes in – could Mary have believed Gabriel without those saints as parents? As a child, I believed that if I were silent enough, I could hear my guardian angel hovering around me. She had wings and was a bit naughty – if I sat in complete silence, the sound of the air conditioner coming on at the exact same moment as I appealed to her was her form of communication. Was I a crazy child who didn’t understand probability and coincidence?

My heart really did leap when I read this. AG has such a flare for writing, and all of the childhood memories recounted on this blog are traditional Roman Catholicism crystallized into words.

A friend of mine has admitted to me that sometimes he has problems concerning his faith. He is Catholic, intelligent, and very well-read, so at first I was a bit taken aback by this. But I think what is missing not only from the lives of converts but also from the lives of suburban cradle Catholics is a real sense of enchantment about what they believe. It is not about what we believe, it is about how we see what we believe. Judging from many Catholic media, both electronic and printed, I can see how many can have very severe doubts about the Faith. Many times there is real absence from them of a sense of God's all-powerful and "mischievous" hand working in our lives. That is probably due to not having been raised with religious images all over the house, family prayers, and a traditional sense that all things come from the hand of our Father God.

Perhaps I am judging too harshly, but this is why the Catholic discourse in this country can be so depressing to me. And that is why I like reading AG's blog. It is so human because it is so enchanted, it believes in beauty and miracles in a mature and yet child-like manner. I wish I could portray this on my blog, and I try to but more often than not fail. I am most proud of my poetry posts, and I read mostly poetry now with the little spare time that I have. Religion, as represented on the Internet, makes me become belligerent, pig-headed, and proud. Instead, the religiosity that I respect now is the one of the stories that my mother told me about how the Holy Infant of Atocha (pictured above) used to get up from His chair in the middle of the night and bring loaves of bread to prisoners. That is the type of cosmos that I want to dwell in, not one where I have to hold up the fabric of reality with my flawed, all-too-human arguments.


At 2:24 PM, Blogger Sean Roberts said...

Anti-Staretz often told me that the one thing I really needed as convert, but could never have, is a Catholic childhood. As time has passed, I see how right he was.

Even now, several years after my reception into the Church and the glories/horrors of uniatism, I still have a residual sense of self consciousness about my Catholicism. I suspect I will have it for the rest of my life.

At 8:11 AM, Blogger Archistrategos said...

Since you mentioned the Infant of Atocha, I might as well tell about the Holy Child of Cebu as well. AS the story goes, when Magellan first met with the rajas of Cebu, he gave the newly baptized rulers an image of the Infant.

However, this peace did not last long, and Magellan soon found himself besieged by Lapu-Lapu and his allies. Magellan dies, and the Spaniards leave the Philippines for several decades.

Then, when Legazpi and his men arrived, they were astonished to find the Infant's image being adored by the natives. He had been assumed as a rain god since the departure of the Spanish, but it was the same image that Magellan brought.

I remember being told how the Infant would sometimes take strolls in the palatial gardens of the basilica it was housed in. The clergy would always find little footprints in the ground, and when they checked the Nino, its boots were often muddy, and pebbled by grass. The situation grew to such an alarming degree, that they lopped off the Child's feet-- in the hopes that it wouldn't wander so much!

Though I wasn't raised in such a pious household, these stories always struck a chord with me.To me they always seemed more interesting than the boring "intellectualism" purveyed by most "traditionally minded" Catholics.

At 10:53 AM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

Dear arch.,

Thank you for that story.

I am a sometime visitor to your blog and am most impressed. Keep up the good work.

God bless,


At 10:52 PM, Blogger Patrick said...

Yes, you're quite right.


Post a Comment

<< Home