Tuesday, November 13, 2007

For the Love of Submission

One of my stranger memories, which gets even stranger in the re-telling, is of laying on the floor in my non-denominational fellowship, something like 18 years ago. What was I doing there on the floor, you ask? Being prayed over, of course. I don't remember the details, but I imagine that I had been "slain in the Spirit" and two women known to have gifts of prophecy were praying for me. One of these women, who had quite the headstrong edge to her, suddenly exclaimed, as if she had just gotten some strong spiritual whiff arising off of me, "Oh! You have SUCH a submissive spirit!" She was really overwhelmed by whatever reality she mysteriously encountered.

I don't claim to have the ability to explain anything I just wrote theologically. But I can attest that I have always been a person in search of a proper place to submit myself. I was just reading an article in Traces tonight (May 2007) entitled Obedience: A Matter for Reasonable Men. I found it very affirming in that it discusses how obedience, or submission to proper authority, is the first act of reason, and that which preserves reason.

Personally, the crux of my conversion to Catholicism was in seeing that God had intended and given a charism of authority within the Church in the role of the papacy through Peter. I remember Scripture lighting up as I read Acts and saw Peter's role, not created by him or resting in his personality or his talents or even his faith, but bestowed upon him by the Holy Spirit. As I read Catholic and Christian and the documents of Vatican II and saw the teachings of the papacy, apostolic succession, and the authority of the Magisterium, I was both delighted and terrified. God had established authority, given as a charism. How wonderful.

I had experienced submission to human authority and found control and corruption. I had also had the experience of desperately trying to prop up a few well-wishing words offered me and make it into a shelter of authority that might protect me. For years I had what I can only call a longing for true authority, to submit myself in true freedom.

I was confused, at first coming to the Church, that Her authority was by no means heavy-handed, controlling or specific. These had been my images of "good" authority. I found I had more freedom under the Church's authority than I knew how to handle. But I quickly found that I could flourish in this environment. My humanity heard the call, like Lazarus, to "come forth"!

The Traces article made a beautiful point, that "obeying the Church", or "submitting to the Church", are simply other ways of saying "loving the Church". Oh, and I do. This is so misunderstood by many outside the Church (and perhaps even more within the Church!), but the last thing the Church's authority is is coercive. If my Bishop tells me my parish is closing, I might have some hard moments, but I will go with his plan, even if I don't see the wisdom in it or like it, because I choose to express my love for Christ and His Church by being united with my Bishop.

I absolutely love having a rightly-established authority that I can submit to. It is my freedom, my protection. Even if my Bishop were a corrupt man, or, heaven forbid, our Pope were, I can still trust that the charism of the Holy Spirit operates through them for me. My heart absolutely leaps with joy at this.

No comments: