Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Spirituality: Don't ask

by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register

(From the Feb. 5, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)

Father Michael Savelesky Every once in a while we may find ourselves in a conversation in which we are looking for an up-front, forthright answer to a question — yet all we get is avoidance? For example, Dad asks, “Whatever happened to my Skil saw in the garage?” And the query is met with the grand silence of the monastery. The guilty one knows well what happened to it — he (the son) left it at his friend’s house where he used it to build a tree fort! But, like the now famous line from the movie says, the truth is hard to take. The consequences are too great. In the end the question itself is treated like an enemy to avoid. The response to Dad’s question, subsequently, becomes a vague mumble: “Well ... maybe you didn’t look hard enough.”

Of course, Dad well may press the question until the truth is uncovered (and may God have mercy on the soul of the liar!).

Such instances of avoidance — as dishonest as they can become — are relatively easy to detect and correct. One would think that with the passage of years, they would disappear. With maturity and advancing years comes greater honesty and truthfulness, right? Well, perhaps yes. And perhaps not.

As the result of good Christian formation most of us do learn the propriety of telling the truth. We grow comfortable with facing up to the consequences of our actions, even the consequences of our displays of selfishness and, at times, sinfulness. After all, maturity does bring with it some measure of responsibility. We need not avoid truth in our lives. Facing it will make us free. Is that not what Jesus advised?

Even as adults, nevertheless, we sometimes avoid admitting the truth about ourselves and our experience of life. Sometimes this happens in relationship to a particular event or circumstance. We just want to avoid the truth. Passing the buck or simply avoiding the truth becomes an inter-personal game we play one with the other. (Everyone loses, of course.)

While skim-reading the advertisement section of the newspaper the other day I became oddly aware of this question of avoidance. Page after page promoted the latest fashion in everything from shirts and blouses to table saws and snow skis, the implication being that anything else we owned was obsolete and certainly out-of-style. The reader just had to buy the new. After all, personal integrity is at stake here!

Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing inherently wrong with businesses championing their wares. It’s the attitude of needing something new all the time that caught my attention in a rather peculiar fashion. Much could be argued about the commercialization of the human spirit. What struck me was the looming question: Why? Why do we need something new all the time? Is this a hallmark of our culture? Perhaps it is. Beneath the commercial ploys and the need to make a living, I wonder if there is not a supreme avoidance of profoundly human questions — like, “Who am I? Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life? What is my destiny?”

These questions beg for an answer and nag at us all, whether or not we are conscious of them. They lie at the heart and soul of human experience and demand a personal response. Genuine questions of faith, they speak a truth to us in naked fashion and leave us uncomfortable. In our hearts, we recognize the need to face them ... someday. For now, it is tempting to avoid the question and give a distracting and disconnected answers.

Who am I? Well ... how about a pair of super-glow sneakers?

Why am I here? Well ... do your computer games include “Splash, the Sneaky Seal”?

What is my destiny? Well ... “how much does this super-sized TV remote coast?:

The answers totally are unrelated to the question of life. Of course, the dialogue never happens in such direct fashion, but the question-and-answer game goes on all the time. In our culture we tend to avoid the deeper questions of life — sometimes even for a lifetime. Can’t we see this avoidance reflected in the flurry of newspaper and television advertisements, insisting that we need something new and more exciting? Things can be produced and manufactured to meet that end, but they will never be able to satisfy the persistent needs of the human spirit, the soul. They have no power to save. They don’t include answers to the common but profound questions that pursue our hearts.

(Father Savelesky is pastor of Assumption Parish in Spokane. His book, Catholics Believe, is available from Harcourt Religion Publishers.) (Download an order form in pdf format to print)

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