I’ve Never Felt So Trapped

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

In the last 5 years especially I’ve become greatly disillusioned with Christianity. I wouldn’t say I’ve developed a disillusionment with it as I have a familiarity that has led to all sorts of problems. They say familiarity breeds contempt. I don’t know. I find myself being more irritant with other Christians. I feel like that servant in the Gospel who is complaining about the length of time his master is taking at returning. He then sets about beating his fellow servants over the head with a stick.

That’s how I’ve felt over the years. I got sick of the lefty liberals in the Church and those pesky right-wing radicals who want to resurrect an old form of Irish rigid Catholicism. Then having to discover that the ones left in the middle are middle-aged yuppies living in the 1980s be they clergy or write for Irish Catholic newspapers that only your granny or seminarian “nice intellectual boy” buys. Old fogey clergy and laity on the admin level and androgynous unattractive priests really makes being a Catholic hard. I’m sick of listening to people talking about the sun spinning in the sky and seeing Jesus on their slice of toast. I’m well and truly sick of it.

This disenchantment with literally everything Catholic led me to become a bit of a recluse. I’m a recluse in the Church sense and also one in the worldly sense. I’m alienated not only from the commune of the world but that of the Holy Churches of God.

I tell my wife jokingly that, “Why don’t we leave and go somewhere we will be happy? Maybe we can start a new religion in America where it will be tax-free. With 350 million inhabitants we’re bound to find someone stupid enough to believe our religion is the true one, right?”

The truth is that, because of the nature of my conversion, I’m stuck. Yeah, I’m trapped. I feel horrible saying it but I’m well and truly grounded. I don’t have the freedom others have to make the major life decisions they do. If I did, I’d have to force myself and it would be a sort of spiritual suicide. I may do it, but it would not last very long. I love the Lord and can’t turn my back on Him. I owe my very existence and presence right here on this blog to Him. At the same time, I’m forced to deal with the world in and outside the Church and I don’t like it.

It’s like the story of Peter, James and John. The Lord reveals Himself to them and they want to stay there and never leave. Who on this earth would ever want to go back into the jungle that is the world? It’s like that. Once the Lord gets you, all you can think about is getting out of here for good. I can see why Peter and Paul embraced Martyrdom so readily. But you also have to be careful, because, with such newfound knowledge of the Lord, you can end up going crazy. If we are not careful we become like that servant who gets bored waiting about the place for the Lord return and set about treating everyone harshly.

That’s what happens to me sometimes, I admit. People are amazed to hear that while I’m no bright star, I find it hard to stomach Christians and the whole corny aspect of religion. I’m not joking with you when I say this but if it were not for the manner in which God approached me I’d be down the pub right now getting drunk. In fact, one night I went out and got drunk thinking that, “If I sin really hard it will go away.” Have you ever seen Tim Allen in the movie Santa Claus? He’s turned into Santa and grows a big white beard. He then shaves the beard off and it magically grows back instantly. That’s what it was like for me. I woke up the next morning only to realize it’s still there. I went and shaved my head thinking it would go away but after 10 minutes of walking out of the barber’s shop, it was still there. He said, “Are you sure you want me to skin your entire head? I mean, you’ll look like a skinhead.” I then read in scriptures Jesus say through St.Paul that once God gives something he never takes it back.

Then I encountered a Nun who saw it. I was only 23 at the time. We were at their vesper prayers in Dublin and invited along as part of a vocation live in for priests. The vocations director wanted us all to meet the nuns for prayer. I stood there not having a clue what was going on. I’d never encountered the Divine Office before only the Jesus prayer and Rosary. I pretended to sing along and flip through the pages while looking around.

A nun caught my eye and she was not praying. She was not looking at her book but directly at me. She must have been in her 40s at the time. She was smiling and literally staring at me. I began to feel a little uneasy about it. I couldn’t understand it. The night before this all happened by the way I’d told the vocations director my conversion story so what happened next came as a shock more to him than it did to me.

When the vespers had ended we all went for tea in the kitchen. She came running through the doors, grabbed the priest and me and then pulled us together. She said, looking at my head and breathing heavily as if in awe or something, “I sense something Divine about this one father.” This very liberal and androgynous type of priest went white. The reason for this is because of what I’d told him the night before.

He jumped a bit and said, “Oh Stephen? Oh yeah, don’t I know it.” Turning to me he said, “Stephen Sister X has the gift to be able to see….” at that moment he was cut off as all the sisters barged in. He became distracted. She walked away and the whole conversation dissolved. I had been left standing there thinking. . . “Maybe it’s real. . . ” I was too shy to press the matter further. The priest later ignored my request to become a priest and wouldn’t return my phone calls.

We never spoke again and it turned out he was a very liberal priest. Bad advice from him…bad advice. He would say certain sins were not mortal etc. You couldn’t listen to him. I was surprised at his unwillingness to ever speak to me again. I thought, “Maybe she spooked him and I spooked him and so he’s decided to write it off.”

I don’t know. Recently I booked a neurologist in the hope he’ll tell me I’m hallucinating or have some nerve damage just so I can have some excuse to return to the old me and laugh at the entire journey as one big self-delusion. All I know is that I’ve been alone with my little problem since 2008. Ever since speaking very liberally to everyone about it, in the beginning, I only keep my story with one priest under the seal of confession so that he would not go around talking about it.

Another priest I told under the same seal but only because I was required to by the diocese policy that I must go to a direct parish priest. I remember just sighing with great sorrow thinking, “I have to go and spend 30 minutes with a new person telling him everything.”

You see, I decided maybe it’s not God. I’ll go and get an exorcist. The priest listened and proclaimed it was of God. I told him not to be so accepting of it. He said he could only find me an exorcist if he truly thought it was not of God.

Strikingly this is the same priest over the summer who visited my house for the diaconate and the same priest who cancelled my application for the diaconate after I complained about the vaccine mandate for seminarians on social media.

Anyway, what a dilemma I’m in. That’s when I thought, that’s it. I’ve had enough of this Church, enough of this thing that’s going on with me all these years and I’m outta here. I’m going to fall into the arms of St.Paul (Eastern Church) and not look back. If only it were that easy.

Lord have mercy.

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