I must confess, my brain cannot comprehend the entirety of the Catholic faith…
As I discovered the Catholic faith, having been lifted from the darkness of atheism through unwarranted grace, I endeavored to learn all that I could, since I languished for over 30 years in ignorance of God. I was so serious about it, in fact, that I re-entered school as a Theology major. Now, nearly done with my degree, the biggest thing that I have learned is that I am not as intelligent as I thought I was. I thought it would be easy, but I actually had to work at it. The glaring truth I learned about myself is that I am a simple person that does not do well when bogged down with details or complicated philosophical concepts. It is not that I do not understand, or that I am unintelligent—I am just...simple. I prefer to get to the basic root of things, the core, and work within that sphere. I find that the specifics work themselves out if you have a basic foundation laid. I have enjoyed getting into the details of the faith, since now my logical nature can rest easy knowing that the teachings of the faith have been hashed out to the smallest minutiae and are solid in their conclusions. But, at the end of the day, my simple approach to life knows that it all comes down to one thing: Love.
And that is all I need to know, really.
Thankfully, I don’t need to understand everything…
Part of my journey has been discovering the writings of Catholics throughout the centuries. I pick up little things here and there, nothing too heavy, nothing too philosophical. I gather and store, like a squirrel selecting the best nuts for harsh winter weather. Sometimes it all seems disconnected, like I am not getting anywhere or building anything. My approach seems chaotic and non-linear. I hear of other Catholics who read entire philosophy books, pore over Aquinas, read the Bible from start to finish, or follow a subject into its every detail. I cannot do this. I am a simple person. I like simple things. So, I hunt and peck, grabbing a seed here and there: a paragraph, a chapter, a reflection, a Gospel.
Inevitably, I run across little things that give me comfort in knowing that I am not alone, nor aberrant, nor wasting time with my simple ways. One such example is this short paragraph in a writing by Saint Francis de Sales:
“You see that the mountain of Christian perfection is exceedingly high. O my God! you say, how shall I be able to ascend it? Courage, Philothea! When the young bees begin to take shape, we call them nymphs. As yet they are unable to fly to the flowers, the mountains, or the neighboring hills in order to gather honey. Little by little, by continuing to feed on the honey which the old ones have prepared, the little nymphs take on wings and acquire sufficient strength to fly and seek their food all over the country. It is true we are as yet but little bees in devotion. Consequently, we are unable to fly up high in accordance with our plan, which is nothing less than to reach the peak of Christian perfection. Yet, as our desires and resolutions begin to grow, we hope that we shall one day become spiritual bees and be able to fly. In the meantime let us feed upon the honey of the many good instructions that devout persons of ancient days have left us. Let us pray to God to give us “wings like a dove,” that we may not only be enabled to fly upward during the time of this present life, but also to rest ourselves in the eternity that is to come.” (Saint Francis de Sales, “Introduction to the Devout Life: The Fourth Part of the Introduction Containing Necessary Counsels Against the Most Usual Temptations”)
O, God, you accept all of us, no matter how simple. I am the little bee. I am overwhelmed by the faith, so I feed on the honey prepared by the ancient ones. Feeding on the knowledge of a simple Little Flower is as good as feeding on the knowledge of a mighty oak and is much more digestible to someone like me. Each day, I am able to fly a little further. There may be an overwhelming amount of honey to feed upon, but that does not mean that we must do it in great gulps or go systematically from one line of flowers to the next. What matters is that we seek it out in all places, at all times, and remain diligent in our work. I will never be a great philosopher or theologian. I will simply be strengthened.
Saint Francis de Sales, pray for us.
Copyright 2022 Jessica Tucker
I wish this had a "Love" button. I have come to this same conclusion. My father tells me time and again "the greatest of these is love" and he has been my anchor of simplicity when I'm knee deep in Aquinas. ;)