Inner Compass

Sometimes I’m just tired and sometimes I’m tired of being me. Today I’m both.

With the downward mobility that has become my lifestyle over the years —  from pursuing a dream to working at a series of professional jobs (some of which I enjoyed more than others) to just doing a  job to keep a roof over my head — I now find myself working at a convenience store. I was hired as assistant manager with the understanding that I would be trained to take over various managerial tasks.

To date, the only managerial tasks I’ve taken over have been staff scheduling and weekend bookkeeping. Neither has been an improvment over working behind the register. Weekend bookkeeping  means I work every weekend. Staff scheduling means I’m the scapegoat for staff dissatisfaction with their hours — which gets my goat, because I do what I can to give employees the schedules they want.

Currently, that means I’m working the graveyard shift three or four days a week and days a couple days a week. Because of the split schedule, I am not able to develop a routine, which means I’m not getting the sleep I need for any kind of emotional equillibrium. Molehills are becoming mountains at a fast and furious pace.

Today I’m disgruntled with God, with the way he created me and with the way he has chosen to shape me with life experiences. On good days, I’m grateful. I see his hand at work in my life, drawing me into a more intimate relationship with him, peeling away the distractions one by one until there’s little left but my love for him and my desire to reflect him into the world.

It seems to me, though, he could have made the way easier. One of the impediments to an easier life, one of the crosses I bear, is an inner compass that compels me to do what I believe to be right. Another way to phrase that: I’m stubborn (though a female relative once told me Gales men are stubborn, Gales women are tenacious).

Whether stubborn or tenacious is the correct descriptor is to some extent irrelevant. More to the point is that damned inner compass which either makes me a prophet or an idiot, an inner compass guided by something beyond myself and human understanding.

I was in fourth grade when I first became aware of this compass, though Ididn’t identify it as such at the time. In geography class, we were studying segregation in the South. I was outraged by it, outraged that people could treat one another in this way. Nothing the teacher or my mother could say did one thing to change my attitude. Segregation was  wrong. Period. Non-negotiable.

Racism in any of its subtle guises still offends me. Last December, a catechist at a local church was annoyed with Hispanic members of her parish bcause they had decorated the church for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“It’s Advent,” she said self-righteously. I mentioned cultural differences and the importance of that Marian apparition to the Hispanic population, that Our Blessed Mother had appeared as a poor peasant not as one of the ruling class. “Well, there’s nothing poor about the Hispanics here,” she said, as though hard-earned properity should wipe out their cultural heritage in order to favor hers. Racism in a subtle guise.

Too often these days, that inner compass is leading me to a place outside the mainstream church, at least the church in America. Currently, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is leading the charge in the war against President Barack Obama under the guise of standing up for religious freedom. My moral compass says, “This is about politics, not religion.”

Granted, not all of the bishops have hopped on the bandwagon personally, but those who dissent are doing little to stop the conservative bishops from misleading the faithful. Jesus placed healing the sick and caring for the poor above all of the petty religious concerns of his day, and I have no doubt that  for Jesus the issue of birth control would be a petty issue.

The bishops appear to have forgotten that Jesus chastised the Pharisees and the scholars of the Law, saying, “You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk” (Luke 11:44). One of the reasons for condemning them in this way? “You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them” (Luke 11:46).

For the Magisterium, men who know nothing of the role intimacy plays in a marriage or of the challenges involved in raising a family, to determine that couples should not use birth control is nothing more than indulging in the very act that Jesus condemned: “You impose on people burdens hard to carry.” That is not to deny the spiritual benefits of refraining from the use of artificial contraceptives.

The use of natural family planning can undoubtedly transform the physical intimacy of marriage into another aspect of a couple’s spiritual journey, but those who are not called to grow spiritually in this way, should not be made to feel they are committing a sin. Nor should this issue be used politically.

Too, the Church’s hypocrisy regarding birth control  isn’t lost on me.

The phrase “natural conception to natural death” especially irritates me. In consistently applying this standard, the Magisterium would have to stand against a great many medical procedures that take place in Catholic hospitals every day — among them, open heart surgery, (most surgery, in fact), chemotherapy in the treatment of cancer, insulin injections for diabetics, experimental treatments for disease. None of these  is “natural;” they are all modern efforts to wrestle death from the hands of God.

Why single out married couples and birth control? Why make it into a major political issue, masquerading a political agenda with the guise of religious freedom?

But, on a more personal level, what is to become of me? I cannot endorse what I do not believe. Nor, with the way some bishops are refusing communion to the faithful who speak out against them in matters such as these, can I bring my concerns into the public arena. (Only because my blog has so few readers do I dare express my concerns here.) 

How do I live, needing the grace of the sacraments, but finding myself estranged from a powerful (though misguided) movement within the church? What was God thinking when he gave me this inner compass?



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