So I find myself sitting at the UF Health Science Library watching CompTIA A+ videos and other computer and programming tutorials on one side while my girlfriend is over across the way studying for her upcoming MCAT test. Lately I’ve had a desire to learn new skills and do something with computers. It’s weird but I’ve found a deep interest in these topics, and quite frankly with all the meltdown happening in the Roman Church as of late it’s nice to bury myself in something that’s not so ecclesiastical in nature!
In terms of ecclesial affiliation I am Orthodox for the most part, but have never actually been received into any Orthodox Church. For various reasons I decided to take up the Benedictine Office again a few months ago and I haven’t really regretted it. While I love the rich nature of the Old Rite Slavic Office and Services I find that the Benedictine Office is best for a layman like me who actually likes to try and find the time to pray as much of the Office as possible, not to mention the Eastern books do not have very distinct seasons ( at least not in prayerbooks) like the Western Tradition has with, say, the riches of Advent.
These days whether one is Catholic or Orthodox you’ll be hard pressed to find parishes in either church that actually offer a full scale immersion in the liturgical year, and so for those of us who want this as much as possible the Breviary at home supplemented with little extras like cooking seasonal dishes, reading stories and folklore and or lives of saints is indispensable. The Benedictine Office gives a framework for full scale immersion, and like I never tire of saying, it’s lifeblood for some of us, our only real connection to any kind of ecclesial life.
I’m back to doing to the home alone thing. I don’t recommend it to others because it’s hard and many probably look at me as some sort of ecclesial pariah or heretic for doing so, but I must follow my conscience in not being in communion with Pope Francis and the modern episcopate, and I can’t attend an Orthodox Church because I don’t have one near me.
As a thought experiment I’ve often asked myself what if I had, say, Clear Creek Monastery nearby, or some other more Tradition friendly Roman parish? Would I ever have gone the home alone route? Would I ever have come to be agnostic vis a vis the claims of the papacy and Roman Catholicism? I can’t answer that, but I imagine I may have stuck it out, I mean, at least I’d have some semblance of liturgical normalcy mostly in line with the Latin Tradition . Still, the doubts about Rome and its current cultlike ultramontanism would have eventually nagged my conscience enough to probably do what I’m doing, or eventually seek refuge in Orthodoxy.
One thing that has helped me is to take something I learned from my Old Orthodox Prayerbook and pray for priests and bishops daily, but in my case I’m agnostic about just who these bishops and priests are and what ecclesial body they belong to. I often say I want to be in communion with whoever actually holds to the true Faith. At times the only solace I have is that on the calendar there are the saints, and the saints are somehow interceding for us. We are in communion with the communion of saints, and that extends out beyond time and space into eternity. I also take solace in knowing that there are others of whatever ecclesial affiliation that share my doubts and struggles and probably my love of the Divine Office.
It is sometimes very difficult to have these struggles and I ask myself why I can’t just believe in a simple way like some, or get lost in tangled and convoluted legalese and nuances the way some trads do, but the truth is I am who I am, and I am neither a simple guy nor a trad in the sense I’m talking about.
The hardest thing for me is feeling mostly alone, and having very few who even understand the struggle at all, especially in the modern world which is largely irreligious. Amongst believers you have those that think the claims of their church are self evident and anyone who thinks otherwise is just blind, dumb or both, and on the other you have those that simply don’t care one way or another. There’s not that many that I’ve ever come across outside a handful of internet characters who understand this.