There was a gunpowder tension quivering in the air…
The words sat on the screen followed by a blinking cursor. It stared back at me as my fingers hovered over the keys. It wasn’t a bad start, but it felt wrong. Delete-delete-delete… My fingers extended in a miniature stretch, and then exploded into action.
He sat there leaning one shoulder on the wall, desperately tense from…
The cursor paused again. Damn. Still, not quite right. I raised my arms, reaching out to corners of my tiny attic room. I leaned my head back, gently rolling it around. Relax. Calm down. Get out of your head… forget the phone call, and just write.
Before my hands landed on the keyboard, I reached for my coffee cup. I took a sip, then a gulp, set the cup down, and closed my eyes tightly for a moment. Come on. What the hell is wrong with you?
I inhaled slowly, filling my entire chest with air. OK. Let’s try this again. Tap-tap-tap… I cleared the text and started anew.
It was impossible for him to hold the tense, flexed body forever, but that didn’t stop him from standing rigid in the slowly extending moment…
I released an audible “Blaaaahhhhh” as I removed my hands from the keys. No. No. No. I highlighted the line, and in a fell swoop sent it into oblivion. Colten, just write! My fingers returned poised in suspense like a drawn bow. The ideas and energy were there, but I was still stuck in the phone call. My lingering fingers twitched slightly—perhaps from the cold, the excess coffee, or even just the frustration. In a chaotic fervor, they hit the black keys…
My elbows planted themselves on either side of the computer. I held my face for a moment, knowing that I shouldn’t feel this way, knowing that I should be grateful or thankful, knowing nothing. Damn. Delete-delete-delete… I leaned back in my chair, and my hands found the keyboard again:
God. What the shit is going on?!
This time, I punctuated the line not with a pause but with my hands hitting the desk. In a single fluid movement—I stood, slammed the laptop shut, grabbed a sweater, and left my room for a short walk.
“So, we don’t know?” I asked.
“Well, it seems that the tests returned normal. Pretty well everything we’d want.”
“Ok. Good.” I paused before continuing, “But, then what caused the episodes?”
“Well, we can’t be sure. It could have been that you had vertigo which caused migraines—that’s not totally uncommon. Or, atypical migraines could have caused the syncope. That might explain the dizziness and weakness. Uncommon, but not out of the realm of possibility. Then again, it could have been some sort of virus. Whatever it was, it seems likely it’s done.”
“Huh… So, I’m cleared? I’m good?”
“Yeah. You are clear and good to go.”
“Yeah. Just—just be careful, and let us know if anything reappears—if any of the symptoms return.”
“Oh… So, they might return?”
“Well, Mr. Biro, we hope they won’t, but we don’t know.”
All clear, I thought. Yet, even with a resolution, I felt shorted. So, what was it? What had stopped me from running for months? What had stopped me from traveling internationally this summer? What had forced me to wear a heart monitor for a month? After all that—all I have are more questions.
When I returned from the short walk to my quiet room, I found myself struck by the words left on the screen.
The phone call earlier that morning had interrupted my day, but I continued my normal routine fueled by a feverish desire to continue onward. I took a shower, had a cup of coffee, and sat down to daily writing.
All the while, the anxiety bubbled below the surface: Be thankful it wasn’t anything serious. Be angry you don’t have answers. Why am I being so ungrateful? Why am I still worrying? Why am I furious? Why? No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop it from boiling over into the day or accidentally spilling into my writing.
As I sat staring at that the line on the screen, I felt comically guilty. It wasn’t that I had included God and an explicative in the same line, but rather, the sheer obvious humor of it all. How could I pretend this didn’t matter? How could I forget to pause with this, if only for a moment? How could I not bring this to prayer?
The sentence stared from the document, laughing at me. It wasn’t pretty, but it echoed the conflict raging within me. I was trying to bury my feelings and frustrations within fiction, yet this line felt like the truest thing I had ever written.
If I’m honest with myself, it’s probably my most sincere prayer.
It’s almost impossible to make it through prime time news without hearing a story about conflict. If you’re like me, you’re also tired of hearing about it. For once, I’d like to hear about groups of people that have resolved a long-standing conflict or at least agreed to genuinely listen to what the other side has to say.
This is why for the past year, I have been drawn to the 500th anniversary of the separation between Catholics and other Western Christians. For several centuries, most Christians believed that other Christians would go to Hell unless they turned away from their heresy and came back to the “true faith.” Many times, parents would even disown their children if they married a Christian from a different denomination. As a result, many lies were spread, which further deepened the distrust, division, and hurt.
The Catholic Church, however, formally extended an olive branch to other Christians 50 years ago and showed a willingness to have conversations about our experiences over these past few centuries. More importantly, the Church invited all Catholics to get to know members of other Christian communities. It was through these conversations and mutual encounters that led Lutheran and Catholic representatives to formally resolve the disputes of the Reformation.1
Not everyone, however, is willing to engage in these conversations. One of the objections is that such conversations lead to both sides settling on the least common denominator, thus watering down the faith and ignoring the lived experiences of Christians everywhere. They are concerned that these conversations with other Christians aim to ignore the differences between Catholics and Lutherans and, even worse, that doing so would promote the idea that truth depends on one’s beliefs: the popular modern mantra of “What’s true for me might not be true for you, and that’s okay.” They conclude that ecumenism is just a Trojan horse for destroying the faith, and Christian unity through this method is not worth the cost.
This is not what Christian unity is about. Reconciliation involves starting with the one thing we all have in common – faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior – but it does not and should not end there. In our conversations with one another, we always remain connected ultimately with Jesus, as branches remain connected to the vine.2 Only through Jesus are we able to begin making sense of the divergent experiences of our common Christian faith. Only through Jesus and the love that He shows are we able to correct others in error and admit when we too have missed seeing a deeper truth.
Practically, what does it mean to remain connected to Jesus in these encounters? Catholics and Lutherans, who have engaged in this dialogue at a high level and who have studied the fruits of dialogue for the past 50 years, have suggested three areas we can have more meaningful encounters: learn together, pray together, and work together.[3. Adapted from the document “Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry and Eucharist.”]
The most obvious place to go to remain connected to Jesus is the Bible. Whether it’s in a church or in one’s own home, Bible Study groups allow us to begin hearing how the Holy Spirit moves through others’ experiences in the context of the life of Jesus and the context in which Scripture developed and is understood in our respective Christian faith traditions.
One of the most commonly missed opportunities for greater prayer together is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which most parishes do not promote. We can take advantage of the prayers developed for this annual event to remind us of the common faith we share through Jesus, and that we continue journeying with each other towards full communion.
Even though we cannot all receive Eucharist together, we can jointly live lives of service and thanksgiving. Already we believe that our faith calls us to serve others in their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Organize a group (maybe your Bible Study group) that regularly serves a marginalized population around your churches. Most importantly, discuss how your personal relationship with Jesus and your Catholic or Lutheran faith tradition calls you to not just serve Christ in others but let Christ in others transform you.
Through learning, praying, and working together, we come to experience first-hand both the very real pain of a divided Body of Christ and the hope that our common faith in Christ can lead to profound conversions of hearts. Christian unity is about remaining in the love that Jesus shows us so that even when we know where we stand and where they stand, we are always looking for the way to one day stand together.
Jubilee You’ve multiplied the many fruits of every gift You’ve given me: music, service, intellect, with love-begetting-love multiplied most; and now like a plant in a pot You ask me to rest; and looking up I see Your hand and feel grace shower down restoration, emancipation, readying me for Your coaxing forth the new growth, the new buds, the new fruits, the new gifts-for-the-world. At rest I receive what I need for next, what serves [...]
IgnatianSpirituality.com ® is a service of Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry.