Losing Faith & Finding It Again

“Finally, there is another reason, well known to Job, why even good men must drink the bitter cup of temporal adversity: in order that the human spirit may test its mettle and come to know whether it loves God with the virtue of religion and for His own sake.” St. Augustine

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A recent reviewer of one of my books wondered if I was depressed when writing it. They were seriously worried for me.  I found this kind of touching. I probably was depressed at the time because I borderline always am. I no longer fret about it though. The sounds of train whistles and small planes buzzing in the sky bring me delicious sadness that I’ve learned to embrace.

Suffering is such a big part of the human experience I cannot imagine how to avoid writing about it. I used to worry that my characters were too flawed.  I suppose the real worry was (and is) that I’m too flawed. It’s a funny thing though because I’m drawn to and adore really flawed characters, historical figures and Saint Peter in the Bible — not to mention my family.

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A little grace …

But there is a delicate balance in life. Little graces abound in times of trouble and those things, even though small, sometimes transport our spirits far more than the big joys on happy days.

I’m drawn lately to the Catholic Church’s view of suffering and how even our sufferings can be offered up to souls waiting around their tombstones for some love. Suffering with purpose makes a world of difference. One word from a friend has brought me back to the Catholic Church this year with all its stupendous flaws and breathtaking beauty.

To walk into a Catholic Church, after years of time spend singing songs in plain white rooms and drinking coffee during sermons, is to walk into a visual, virtual heaven on earth.

While Notre Dame burned, my heart burned for Western Civilization with its novels and stained glass and deep theology. The smoke did not blind me to the scandals of the Church (and of all churches and all people). The smoke alerted me to the desert my heart had become.

Why did a Catholic Church burning have any meaning for me? What did it matter to me in America? It made me think of the death of beauty. The death of truth. The death of goodness.

Not that these things are dead. They sit waiting for us to return to them especially in times of suffering, but we’ve made the atmosphere smoky with lesser things. My adopted daughter takes selfie after selfie to find beauty in herself when the source of beauty comes from being part of a trinity of beauty, goodness and truth. A filter can’t do that.

A year of suffering in ways that some would find trivial made it impossible for me to stomach writing blog posts. I didn’t feel like faking and I didn’t feel like whining or bitterly debating politics. I read from the mystics and the early Church fathers and embraced the beauty and transcendence of the Latin Mass at the risk of alienating my husband. I realized that not pushing your ideas upon people too hard really does leave space for reconciliation and grace — especially in marriage.

The suffering of mine took many forms this year as time in a self-imposed desert can do, but it opened up a world of new ideas, of new people — here and in the great beyond, it brought the sacred back.

TRUTH. GOODNESS. BEAUTY.  Is there need for anything else?

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A farm trinity of beauty and cuteness!

25 thoughts on “Losing Faith & Finding It Again

  1. Welcome back. It’s lovely to hear from you again — and good to hear that something positive has come out of the hardship. Wondering if you ever read C.S. Lewis’s “The Weight of Glory” — the title of which comes from a verse in 2 Corinthians: For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” It’s my single favorite piece of his writing, as it focuses on what we gain through Christ. Praying that you keep finding comfort and grace. Cynthia

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    • Hi Cynthia! No I haven’t read that one but even the name of it gets me excited! The book I’m working on now I think will explore themes of heroism and glory in all its forms. Thank you for your prayers and hoping to chat more this year!

      A

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  2. Adrienne, I’m glad to hear from you again. I’ve been checking your blog to see if I’d missed something; now I know you’ve chosen to be silent. I’ve also been silent for a long time with my blog but for other reasons (lack of reader interest, so why should I put so much time and effort into writing what’s ignored?) I’m truly sorry you’ve suffered this past year. No one’s suffering is trivial, none of us has a right to judge you. In fairness, most of us can’t honestly judge ourselves; we hide behind excuses and personal fears. Your last blog posts mentioned concerns about your adopted daughter and your husband’s health. I wish you a happy, healthy New Year, and hope all is well with your family. Grace, hope, beauty, goodwill, truth or at least honesty – all worth embracing.

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    • Hi, girl! I really feel I’m making some sort of weird peace with suffering just now. I mean for myself. I hate to see others suffer –especially animals and children but every time I suffer it seems to bring me closer to the eternal. Can’t explain it well, but glad to hear from you. I remember there were plenty of people who loved your writing. I was one of them. You have a poetic soul which I greatly admire.

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  3. I love this post, Adrienne. A Christian, I have gone to non-denominational churches, as well as Lutheran, Episcopalian (Catholic “lite”), Baptist, and Presbyterian ones. When I was in Italy, I was astonished by the beauty of the Catholic places of worship there. There is something so beautiful in all of the places of worship, the simple and the ornate. I am moved by your inclination toward redemptive suffering, and I have experienced it many times. Thank you for this one.

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    • I used to think grand churches were a waste of money until I understood that they were meant to be the one place on earth where men of all stations could meet with the divine. It suddenly made sense why stained glass and the stations of the cross were illustrated for the many who could not read.

      All of the amazing paintings of the saints reminds us that the saints are with us and pray with us. I think the move toward a more simple form of worship brings the danger of erasing the sacredness and power of adoring God. I attend a Baptist church where everyone is sitting around drinking coffee and knitting during the service which is a little jarring after attending a High Latin Mass with incense and chant.

      Oh, well, that’s where my thoughts are at the moment. No the church has to get its act together about the abuse scandals, but a priest pointed out to me recently that the Southern Baptists have their own abuse scandals brewing but since the churches are “independent” most people ie reporters don’t make the connection.

      I’m so excited about this stuff I could go on and bore you forever! Thanks for stopping by, Carla!

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      • I am with you on this topic, Adrienne. I studied the Catholic mystics for my dissertation, which was based on the American Puritans. Fascinating perspectives on all sides!

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      • There are so many to choose from! I’ve been reading St. Faustina’s Diary. I thought I wouldn’t like it, but it is amazing –her insights and devotion.

        My favorite Catholic saints are St Augustine, St. Paul and St. John — but the list keeps growing! Faustina is right up there. 🙂

        What did you like about St. Catherine? Maybe I need to read about her next. 🙂

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      • I liked her eccentricities, although most of the mystics were similar in that respect. In her case, the radical things she did interested me. I suspect that she was a victim and took refuge in the church to keep herself safe, and it was certainly the right place for her. I think her body is still displayed in Siena, and if I ever get there, I will view it!

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