Wanting to Believe

star1During what would turn out to be my mother’s last stay in the hospital, she told me that one of the things she regretted was that she didn’t do more to get me and my siblings to remain Catholic.   By that point in our lives, I had moved on to a tenuous agnosticism.  It was typical of my Mom that she stated her disappointment in terms of her efforts not in us, but it was still hard to hear.  Mom loved Christmas and it is at this time of year that I think of her most.   Several years after she died when I was missing her on Christmas Eve, I made my way to the midnight mass in our local Catholic church, hoping to find something.  The church was packed and as I stood in the back listening, hoping to have my spirit lifted, I realized the rituals meant nothing to me, although the holiday itself still did.  I left after about twenty minutes.

It’s not just because of my Mom’s memory that I find myself wishing at Christmas time that I could believe in the whole Christmas story.  I can remember how it felt as a boy to sing O Holy Night and really believe that it was the night of our dear savior’s birth.  It is a beautiful story and I envy the joy it seems to bring to those who can believe.  Being spiritual but not religious at this time of year is a little like being a harmonica player at Symphony Hall … my little song is nice but it’s lost in the grandeur.   And yet … I can’t lie to myself or make myself believe.  Is that what the God that made me wants me to do?  I can be spiritual not religious by choosing to believe in a Higher Power but that requires a certain minimalism in my faith.  I can’t go beyond what my reason can accept and much of the beautiful Christmas story lies in that territory.  Most days, I’m happy just to have my simple faith after decades of doubting that I would find faith at all.  But I have to admit, at this time of year, I’d like more.  I sometimes find myself Wanting to Believe.

But I still love the season.

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