In this world where science and reason reign as twin demi-gods, there is curiously a sizeable portion of intelligent Catholics being lured into the new age lair. There’s no shortage of articulate theologians and apologists what with Catholic publishers and websites swamping us with brilliant Catholic writers. Yet the baffling mystery of Catholics with one foot in the new age and the other in Church remains.
I’ll solve that riddle by parting the cobwebs of the new age skeletons in my closet.
As a teenager, dabbling in Ouija Boards and fortune telling cards was part and parcel of hocus focus fun. However, the new age charm tugged fiercely when I was in college and law school. Astral travel in psychology classes and field trips to occultists’ caves and gushing waterfalls were enticing alternatives to required classes on theology, philosophy, business and legal cases. There was always enough room in my bookshelf to squeeze in Deepak Chopra, Paolo Coelho, and The Celestine Prophecy beside the Enneagram. Enya caterwauled with a tape on hypnosis on discovering my former life and regular Zen meditation session. If yoga had been peddled on every street corner as it is now, I would have signed up for some twisty poses.
I have since gone to confession and submitted to deliverance prayers. And this I firmly conclude: my fascination for the mysterious unknown was triggered by the fact that though my mind was fed with substantial doses of input, my soul was starved for its own food. I longed to be filled with the non-material and supernatural. I craved magic that new age was happy to provide.
I don’t have a quarrel with theology (nor philosophy and apologetics) because those studies answered many of my mind’s essential questions. My unease is when the scholarly approach to Catholicism takes center stage to the exclusion and neglect of the mysteries and miracles of the Catholic faith. This creates an imbalance between the dual sides of a human body and soul.
Theology 101 hammered into my mind its very definition: faith seeking understanding. My professor was quick to reiterate that faith always comes first. Faith is a prerequisite to theology, otherwise the study becomes hollow and collapses like a house built on sand. Theology brings down the intangible to the realm of our human understanding. But faith elevates our souls to the level of the holy and supernatural.
Theology is brilliant but it is insufficient to combat the phenomenon of the New Age because theology presupposes that one has enough faith to seek it. The alarming rise of new agers highlights that many Catholics have atrophied muscles of faith or have lost the attraction to faith because we’ve either forgotten or choose to ignore the soul’s first and basic need: to be goose-bumped in awe at the supernatural. Chances are, the new age seekers are hungry to read up on soul food, not theology.
Faith in the pure unknown-ness of a Supreme and loving God –that’s something souls irrevocably need to understand and accept in humility. There will always be something beyond us that is a mystery. I am a mystery –to me, to my husband despite ten years of marriage, to my mother despite having been in her womb and her home far longer than that. The future, the Asian culture, the weather, the after life and who killed JFK are mysteries. Mystery is a fact of life and there’s no shame in admitting that. Nor in admitting that there are just mysteries of faith that lie beyond the earthly bounds of theology.
Catholics would benefit much from being in a state of constant wonder and amazement about the intangible mysteries of our faith: the transubstantiation of the Eucharist; the glory of the resurrection; the invisible graces of the Sacraments; the miraculous medical healings through Our Lady’s intercession at Lourdes; the incorrupt bodies of St. Pio and St. Catherine Laboure; the mystical gifts and powerful intercession of the saints; the Holy Spirit’s undeniable presence in the Bible and at World Youth Day; the powerful sacramental like scapulars and holy waters in the rite of exorcism; the protection and presence of the spirits called angels, and naturally the flip side of evil, the fallen angels masquerading as good in the new age.
Let the miraculous mysteries of our faith lead us into theology, which will in full circle point us back to pure faith. Then the seeming novelty of the mysterious new age won’t hold a candle to Catholicism.
© 2013. Anabelle Hazard. All Rights Reserved.