It's been a slow and awkward transition, not to mention a humbling one. It's hard to go from having all the answers to having very few, but since most things in my life have taken that trajectory, it's starting to feel like a familiar pattern. What's less familiar is the peace that comes from believing in the whole process instead of seeing the visible Church like some dead, contaminated thing.
The day after the big announcement my anxiety was through the roof over a work-related issue. Anyone who has ever had to fight back a crying spells over normal, everyday challenges knows how irrational and uncontrollable these things are. You will hold onto anything that might make you feel normal again or that will explain where the feeling is coming from, everything from "Maybe I didn't sleep enough" to "maybe I have some really terrible illness that I don't know about" to "maybe if I could just focus and start working I would be all right." It was at this point that I googled "prayer to St. Dymphna" on my phone, a saint I've never prayed to before but probably should have.
I followed the link to a prayer for perseverance. Just what I needed; perserverance in daily duties, yes? No. It was about keeping the faith until you die. That sent me into an even worse tailspin of frustration and painful memories--years of my life being told that the everyday stuff didn't matter as long as you save your soul in the end. "Sure, it's easy to die in the faith when you have nothing else going on," I thought. I looked on Facebook and saw a million (more or less) of my friends weeping and wailing and asking for prayers for the church "in this time of crisis" and making passive-aggressive comments about how actually now that they think about it, it isn't even like the pope really mattered that much back in the day, all while posting pictures of St. Pius X and [insert dead pontiff of your choice here] and a few of Cardinal Burke.
And then I remembered a book I read a long time ago. I don't know what it was called or even that I liked it much but it was about a girl who had travelled through time and had a wound on her leg that wouldn't heal. She never got any older and was able to slip back in time for short periods, which she did in order to see her family or to keep looking for them or something like that, and then she was brought back into the present time. Her modern friends figured out that each time she slipped into the past, she was "re-set" to that same age and if she stopped doing it she would start growing and her leg would heal, etc.
I really hate time travel books. I also hate taking lessons from fiction. But it was somehow worth thinking about, because whenever I start to feel a bit of distance between myself and the old ideas, I go rushing right back to them just to see how different they look now. There's a short term satisfaction to be gotten out of those exercises, but I'm realizing they may be doing more harm than good. I'm also facing the fact that I may have to distant myself from some friends. That is not going to be easy.
Two final things: When my head was spinning around for something to hold on to, I did, for a moment, find comfort in the thought that a pope had been chosen and was now in charge. It gave me a solid moment on a morning that felt like quicksand. Secondly, an emergency in the building sent everyone outside and no one knew if it was a real fire or just a drill. "If there's smoke, do you think it will be white or black?" one woman asked.
Well, I thought it was funny.
Well, I thought it was funny.
Final final thing: I keep hearing rumors that Pope Francis doesn't care about smells and bells. I don't want to get caught up in the liturgical fight because I now sit in profound puzzlement through terrible music at the Novus Ordo most Sundays because the drawn-out, hours-long TLM increases the severity of my TMJ, so I just assume the whole thing is one of the many trials that the Church has gone through since its beginning. But I will say that if we have a pope who will demonstrate through example that appearance matters less than internal disposition, then it stikes me that that is exactly what our current image-obsessed culture needs. And people think God doesn't know what He's doing.