Friday, September 2, 2022

Letter To Boniface


I hope it's ok I write to you--not related to writing or Catholicism directly, but just as one early-forties Catholic guy to another. I don't know why I thought you might be able to relate or understand, but taking a chance you might.

By the way, I read the Matt Foley piece you had on USC, and it almost moved me to tears as well. I grew up in the nineties on SNL in it's heyday and loved Chris Farley and had a soft-spot for him, but mostly it touched me because of the gritty struggle; addiction is such a tenacious mf; having a 25 year nicotine addiction myself, which I just recently stopped cold turkey a month ago (not the first time, but hopefully the last), I know that feeling of shame, dejection, and feeling like maybe you're never really in the clear. I have always recognized how dependent I am on grace, and take to heart the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians, "take heed, lest you fall." I come from a sinful past, not the grittiest but not the prettiest either; in any case, it doesn't matter much how it compares to others. We are all slaves bought with blood, ransomed when we had no power to lift ourselves from the miry well we had fallen in.

One thing I have been struggling with is a bubbling over, frothing disgust almost which lately the devil seems to be capitalizing on. Beneath the surface, I think, is disappointment--feeling like no matter what I do in the faith, my kids will cede to the culture and apostatize. That no matter how lonely I am in my faith walk, no amount of friendships will plug that hole (which is reserved for God alone). And even just the disappointment with my men's group, and how my expectations for things that last are maybe the cause, when in most cases they just can't sustain themselves over the years and fade away. I have a very Augustinian heart, and find that even as my faith and prayer life is deepening, that my disgust with the world and the things in it has been increasing. I find myself wearied by life, and praying for a swift and early death.

But, I cannot hate my brother(s) and still love God, as scripture says; for I would be a liar. I feel in my bones this tension of needing community, social things, being able to lean on people, and being disgusted with this need, seeing it as a kind of weakness. And yet, solitude which may be deepening for my prayer life and faith, is hard to bear for long periods of time. In this limbo, there's tension rather than peace, like I'm on a kind of rack where my limbs get stretched til they pop their sockets. 

Part of that disgust bleeds over into my own trad circle--a kind of self-righteousness and insularity that doesn't go outside itself. I find I have this calling, it seems, to do the corporal as well as the spiritual works of mercy, as it is what we will be judged on (our charity): feeding the poor, clothing the naked, visiting the sick. I used to do all these things as a "normie" Catholic (I have been trying to get back to the prison where I ministered to inmates, but the prison used COVID as an excuse to continue to close things down to visitors), and yet I see none of this intentionally spoken about or prioritized by the traditionalists in my circle. Maybe they do, and I just don't see it. But I'm afraid of how I will be sentenced at the judgment for my resting on the "well, trads don't do that stuff, that's for SJW normie Catholics, we pray our rosary and attend the TLM which is more efficacious" mentality. 

When I think of my judgment, in fact, I shudder, and I'm not even being dramatic. I'm doing all the "right things"--daily rosary, half hour mental prayer a day, First Friday/First Saturday, Mass, adoration, spiritual reading, etc. And yet I know that kind of perfection of the saints is a long way off due to my selfish nature, unwillingness to suffer, lack of charity to my neighbor, self-love, sins of the tongue, etc. I have no hope but by grace, and I'm not even joking. 

I am so incredibly lonely, despite the fact that I have lots of friends and a great wife and family. I realize, too, I don't really have the grounds to complain about being lonely either given all that. But there's just something gnawing at me, a kind of sadness at this constant liminality of the relationships I do have. I have been hoping this longing would lead me into a greater depth of prayer, but again, it foments into disgust with the world, and yet lacking the sweet consolation of the spiritual. I just have this tension, and sense of loss, and disgust with myself and the fact that what I want from others I can't even actualize in myself for their sake--that is, selflessness, and being there for others when they most need it.

I realize my disposition is more of a female nature--again, it goes back to this disgust at this seeming need to have connection with other people, to share deeply, to love and be loved fraternally...and yet for most of the guys I interact with, this just isn't a thing or a need for them. Most are content to just work and be with their families, and I should be too as a man. But I'm not, for whatever reason. Maybe that longing for the things that will never be in this world is what keeps pushing us closer to God, who can and does satisfy these unfillable longings, and THAT is their purpose. I can't connect with women (because it's not appropriate to my state in life) and I can't connect with men (because of this deficiency in need) and so I try to connect with God in this deep, strange sadness and it's just...silence. The dark silent host that doesn't speak, doesn't affirm, but just IS.

I've gone on long enough. Apologies in advance for laying this on you. I just thought maybe you might understand some of this "wrestling with the angel" and having your hip popped out of socket. 

God bless you, and take care.



  1. It's odd that "traddies" don't do as many corporal acts of mercy. Didn't actual Catholics before 1962 attend the TLM AND do more corporal acts of Mercy? I guess what I mean is, don't let your current time in history and generation keep you from being a 100% Catholic saint! The actual Saints in Heaven are rooting for us right now.

    1. I thought of this also before. But the corporal works of mercy is a must and readies today seem to only be about prayer and liturgy. You don’t hear about trads doing works of mercy much.

    2. I agree, though again I want to give trads the benefit of the doubt that these could be "hidden works." I see a real force for renewal (as I've written about before) in "tradition AND charity"--the two are far from mutually exclusive.

      Funny timing though--our diocesan TLM parish that we attend just happened to have a sign up sheet this Sunday for a variety of corporal ministries--St. Vincent de Paul, our parish soup kitchen, clothes pantry, etc. Hardest part for us lately was finding viable opportunities to serve post-COVID, but this solves that problem and takes the excuses off the table. Deo gratias.

    3. "It's odd that 'traddies' don't do as many corporal acts of mercy..."

      Well, if we're talking personal experience then mine is the opposite. I've been to several different so-called "traditionalist" (normal Catholic) groups/parishes and they do plenty corporal works of mercy. I don't think the Novus Ordo parishes lack it either. I've been to dozens of different parishes across 5 states in the U.S. Just my experiences I guess.

  2. I was about to mention depression, but I see you have that covered in other posts.

    Get checked by an OCD specialist for this condition. I was recently, and it has changed my life. I'm close to your age, and had it for 20+ years without knowing it (I thought it was depression, anxiety, spiritual attack, moral weakness, forgotten childhood trauma, vitamin or hormone deficiency, etc -- you name it, I thought I had it). OCD is not what most people think it is. Compulsive handwashing or arranging objects is only one, and not a particularly common, manifestation. One of its properties is the game of whack-a-mole it makes you play: it's one thing one week, another the next, and something else the next. You never quite know what's upsetting you, and as soon as you deal with one anxiety-inducing problem, another pops up. Another property is intolerance of uncertainty. Another is the need to figure such-and-such a thought out, and a sense that something terrible will happen if you don't do so. Another is perfectionism. Chronic doubt is yet another (goes with the terror of uncertainty). OCD tends to manifest most in those things that are important to you -- so for Catholics, it will naturally be their spiritual life, their family, rendering justice to their employer, etc.

    Most clinicians don't know how to spot OCD -- it takes a specialist. I saw three therapists who treated me for depression/anxiety, and it helped a little, but wasn't dealing with the root cause. It was only once I saw a specialist that I started making progress, although the therapy (a form of CBT) can be done on your own as well.

    Some professionals estimate that 2% of the population has OCD. I've no idea of the veracity of this, but it's plausible.

    Check this out for a start - in particular the part on mental compulsions: