I did all the things secular society says you should do to be happy. I tried to buy all the best stuff, avoid sexual repression, empower myself, and most importantly, strive to feel good and drive any guilt, fear or judgment away at all costs. Yet, at the close of my first forty years on earth, I reeled at how absolutely meaningless all of it had been. Although I had done good things for other people, I did it because it felt good for me to do it. Even my charity had been selfish in nature.
During this time, I turned to the Catholic Church for answers. What I found surprised me. I learned things like how and why bearing suffering has deep meaning and value. I learned about how the greatest freedom can lie in surrendering some of the "freedom" I have for a greater good. I took a look at society. I saw a wounded, hurting world, desperately and continually seeking a fix. Each person grasped for their own fix, whether it be shopping, porn, food or reality tv. People were looking anywhere and everywhere to soothe the pain and block the aching sense of meaninglessness in their lives.
I had often heard the expression, "Religion is the opiate of the masses," by Karl Marx. I assumed religion helped sugar-coat people's view of reality and gave comfort to the comfortless through childish stories. What I found when I actually started going to church was anything but that. My first day of RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) class, Deacon Tom told us, "We're not here to sell you heaven on earth." I knew at that moment, I could probably trust what was being said. No one was there to make money and no one was there to try to medicate my mind into some opiate-filled stupor. No one would want me to repeat to myself over and over that I'm perfect in every way so I could escape into a complacent haze. Even in Father Liam's class on morality, he taught us that everything immoral is a type of escape from the truth of reality. I reflected on it and saw that it was so.
True religion is hard work. Mohandas Gandhi, when contemplating Christianity, said, "Living Christ means a living cross; without it life is a living death." Gandhi easily and intuitively grasped the concept of the "cross." Suffering is intrinsic to what it means to be human and suffering gives meaning to life. All major religions of the world have taught this. It is only the secular worldview, based on "new age" type teachings and philosophies that do not.
I learned all sorts of absurd things in the secular world, like how religion suppresses sexuality, which causes psychiatric problems. The Church has focused on sublimation, rather than repression. The secular response to this misunderstanding was not the answer. In fact, when I look at the psychiatric condition of the world today, since the "sexual revolution," I see greater incidence of mental illness, with the added "bonus" that about half of all families have shattered into pieces through divorce or single parenting. No amount of material things brings true joy in life either. Lottery winners have a much higher rate of suicide than the material population. I realized most of what I had been told and sold as true was just lies, lies, lies.
I reached a point in life where if you asked me, "Laura, which would you prefer in life, to feel good or to feel anything the Lord wishes as long as it is His will," it was a "no-brainer." Of course I want God. I want to cope with reality. I want to embrace life on its own terms. I want life to mean something again. I will trade my secular "opiates" for the tough stuff because it is the only stuff that matters.