Let’s Review, Part 1

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June 6, 2013 by lucieromarin

New topics can be added almost endlessly; it seems worthwhile, then, to pause for a moment to summarise the discussions thus far most closely related to Catholic roadkill. You’ll find the fuller discussions under ‘Anger,’ ‘Bullying,’ ‘Celebrity’, ‘Healing,’ and ‘Roadkill.’ These are the bullet-points.

1. What do we mean by ‘roadkill?’ 

By this we mean those orthodox Catholics who are in some way casualties of the culture wars, but whose wounds have been inflicted by their experiences with orthodox (or supposedly orthodox) communities, apostolates, or formation. At its mildest, it is experienced as physical or emotional burnout. At its most intense, it leads to apostasy.

2. What are its main causes? 

The main causes of this burnout are:

i) Exhaustion, caused by constant and strenuous physical activity, often coupled with intense psychological or emotional investment in that activity;

ii) Disappointment, either about the material or spiritual results of that activity (or the lack of said results!) or about persons, communities, or institutions in which one has put a high degree of trust;

iii) Neglect, either in that the person has neglected his own needs for the sake of an apostolate or group, or in that the person has been neglected at a moment of great need, such as during a time of illness or convalescence;

iv) Bullying;

v) The absence of any acknowledgement of this phenomenon between orthodox communities, and the absence of any practical form of outreach to these casualties.

3. Is it necessarily a disaster?

No. Not at all.

4. Is recovery possible? 

Yes. Suggestions as follows, in no particular order:

i) Brooding, vengefulness, bitterness or in-fighting, which are all unhelpful. Casualties must avoid these responses…

ii) …but they must also be allowed to describe experiences and to mourn the time, health, or hope that has been lost;

ii) Holiday! This is not frivolity; this is refreshment, perspective, and new discovery;

iii) Make a list of the good things that have been part of the experience of apostolate or community. The good is as real as the bad. It is both a necessary part of perspective on one’s past and an guide for decisions still to be made;

iv) Make a list of good deeds and worthwhile moments in your life, and remember that God sees them;

v) Identify the real causes of negative thoughts or feelings. Would you hate your state-in-life so much if someone hadn’t patronised you earlier that day? Or if the sermon had been on a different topic? Chances are, something other than truth and reality is making you feel that way.

vi) Discipline anger. Yes, I said discipline – especially if your anger is fed by brooding. Make sure the thing you’re angry about has actually happened!

viii) Learn to resist gyrovagues and cholerics. Remember that young cholerics have themselves been bullied into bullying you; resisting them is good training for them. Remember that choleric bullying feeds on intense emotion; the longer you smile and remain calm, the faster the choleric will go limp and walk away. Do not tell anyone why you cannot attend his talk/Mass/function/conference/anything. The correct response is, “Darn it! I can’t make it! Give me some flyers, though; I can advertise it to a few people.” Put the flyers in the bin later if you need to. It’s not a sin.

viv) Learn the difference between education and marketing, and ask yourself how much of what you received was faith or vocation education, and how much of it was marketing.

v) Read up on those saints whose vocations bore absolutely no relation to vocation as it was marketed to you. It might be a bit much to suggest you let them inspire you (their lives were pretty awful!) but you can ask them to help you.

vi) Ask the Holy Souls to help you with the sensation of having been left behind (if that’s something you experience apropos vocation). But don’t ask them about it on your holiday! Your holiday is a time for fun!

viii) Don’t be too quick to judge the persons responsible for running you down and leaving you by the side of the highway. It’s easy to attribute this particular Cross to the mere fact of being religious or of being orthodox. This is overly-simplistic; at best, it can  make you whiny and judgmental; at worst, it can make you an apostate. The former is not classy; the latter leaves you without the Blessed Sacrament.

5. So then, how did it happen? I mean, if orthodoxy is the true faith, how can it create casualties?

Excellent question. I’m too tired to answer it now, and will answer it in the next post. I will say, though, that this question can be asked in order to destroy faith, and it can be asked in order to save it. Mine is the latter intention.

3 thoughts on “Let’s Review, Part 1

  1. Cojuanco says:

    Because orthodoxy is espoused through the mouths of sinful men and women, who thus accompany the truth with sinful actions. Though I suspect you were going to give a more detailed answer.

  2. Amanda says:

    Some other questions:

    1) is it worth going back to the beginning and working out when and why exactly you chose to put your trust in this particular religion (Christianity), this particular institutional manifestation of the religion (Catholic church), this particular sub-sect of the institution (orthodoxy, or whatever it’s called), and this particular community/parish etc?

    2) Do people actually make good decisions about commitments in their teens and early twenties? It’s a time when emotions lead thought and there is very little life experience to help. It’s a time when people both want to conform and want to be reassured of their worth by feeling better than other people in whichever way floats their boat (righteousness, fashion, boyfriends, parental income, academic achievements). Even when they are ‘cynical’ (as many claim to be), they are mimicking people who really are cynical, but most of the time they are just plain naive about institutions, power, society, culture and don’t seriously critique the paradigms of success that are put before them before the adults they trust/the dominant culture/an attractively rebellious sub-culture. You don’t have to have taken the religious route into all this to be feeling like roadkill in relation to whatever expectations were engendered in you at that age.

    3) If one suspects one might not have made good decisions, or might have taken too much on trust, how do you go about disentangling what was worth having and what wasn’t? Is it even as straightforward as that? Because, after all, if you’ve followed a set of ideas immersively into your late thirties, they have become so fundamental to your existence that often apostasy or its equivalent is the only way to make a clean break. And even then… I’ve never been very convinced by the whole ‘born-again’ thing: you can’t change yourself that much.

    4) Most sets of ideas offered to young people are damaging in one way or another, especially, perhaps, if they are offered by institutions that want the young people to be molded into what the institution thinks they should be, rather than having the slightest interest in the young people as individuals. History being as it is, women bear the brunt of all this: few institutions were designed for their benefit, and most wanted to limit women’s options so that men would have willing unpaid domestic labour. Even capitalism, which looks relatively gender-blind, wants women to be as vulnerable as possible to consumer pressures, preferably from birth, but certainly as soon as they’re old enough to for stupid people to buy them their first ‘baby make up’ kit. Capitalism on the other hand, markets to men in a very different way, selling them items to emphasis their power over women, nature and the public sphere, while making it clear in advertising of domestic products that men don’t belong in the domestic sphere. Anyway. The question here is how do you unpick all the damaging ideas you’ve been given by patriarchal tradition, and yet leave enough standing to remain in the tradition? Again, I don’t think this question is specific to religions – I think a lot of women make choices that limit their options through trying to fit in with external ideas of what’s feminine/appropriate for women, together with the need to address all the vulnerabilities that have been inculcated in them by almost every major aspect of society and culture. Or simply because they weren’t confident enough to do what they really wanted to do, or even to work out what that might have been. “What can I do to be loved?” – by God, man, community – is presented as the female alternative question to the male question “What can I do to be a successful human being?” And whether it’s buying the right kind of face cream, or making sure one’s skirt is a particular length, it is all mind-bogglingly trivial and is absolutely guaranteed to have nothing whatsoever to do with being loved. But so many women squander their lives on this nonsense, not because, as misogynist tradition would say, women are inherently trivial, but because they’ve been told that the most profound human experiences will only be available to them if they are attractive – morally or physically. Sorry – that question disintegrated into a rant. I just hate seeing women being manipulated in these ways…

    • lucieromarin says:

      1) Yes; though I don’t think the question should only be precipitated by burnout; any member of any community (not just religious) should be keeping himself or herself honest about his or her motives. As one Prioress said to me, “No one enters religious life for the right reasons, but we stay for the right reasons.” No one is born with perfect purity of intention; we are, however, responsible for growing in that purity.

      2) Some do; some don’t; I don’t think people necessarily make bad decisions any more than they necessarily make good ones at any age. Where a decision has had unforeseen consequences, I think what matters is to be able to discard what was bad in it, without throwing away what was good in it. The same could be said of a situation in which people invest in a career or a relationship only to have it go catawumpus later in life.

      3) Slowly. I agree with you about the ‘born-again’ thing, whether that’s being born into a religion or out of it. This is among the reasons why I think it’s better to take a holiday than to stage a walkout.

      4) Well, the first thing is to check whether or not the ‘damaging idea’ is in fact damaging (feminists can also make mistakes!); the other thing is to check whether or not it really is part of that tradition. (If the main proponents of an idea are American, chances are it actually got into conservative circles via American Protestantism in the late eighties, early nineties.) Is it particular to one country? To one century? Did they ever canonise anyone who thought or acted unlike its proponents? Does the author mention Freemasons on the following page? Is he choleric? (I’m not saying that cholerics are necessarily wrong, only that the urgency with which an idea is expressed may have more to do with the temperament of its speaker than anything else). Upset because his wife left him? Is he only saying this because he feels he has to?
      It’s also important that this not be the main thing you talk about in prayer. Our Lord isn’t just an idea; He’s a Person. If you’re talking with that Person, (sorry, I know this sounds a little bit pious and possibly ‘magical’) the more these other issues take care of themselves. They just don’t sort themselves out quickly, which takes me back to the previous point. Even God didn’t create everything in one day!

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