This sounds like one of those philosophical mind puzzles like theorizing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, doesn’t it?
Daniel Berrigan, S.J, poet, peace activist, and Jesuit priest was once asked this question, whether faith resided in the mind or the heart. He replied that faith is rarely where your head is and rarely where your heart is. Rather, he claimed, “Faith is where your ‘ass’ is at.”
What he meant by that answer is that it is really where we put our bodies and actions, not what we think and feel, that reveals our faith. You might substitute “gut” for “ass” in this quote… Have you ever just “known” something deep in your gut, even if it defied rational logic or scared you half to death?
My experience of my initial call to religious life was a bit like that. There I was, finishing up my Master’s degree, in a pretty serious relationship, only half kiddingly telling people my long term goal was to be Chairman of General Motors (gee, I’m sure glad that plan never came to fruition…) So when a simple question from a friend about religious life caused me to go weak in the knees, it drew me up short.
My mind told me, “But I’m an engineer, Steve and I have been talking about marriage, this doesn’t make sense!” My heart told me, “Yikes! What do you really want from me, God? The nun thing can’t really be what you want me to do – it’s too scary, and besides – I like to party and be on the wild side!” But deep inside, once I stopped rationalizing and running, I KNEW that this was what God was inviting me to. And it was my faith, that faith in my gut, that drove me to do what I knew I had to do, despite all the logical and emotional arguments I had lobbed at the very idea of a call to religious life. Yes, I did put my ass on the line, and it wasn’t my head or heart that led me to do it.
That was such a foundational experience for me, and the memory of it has served me well in similar moments of desperation or confusion, like realizing I had a problem with alcohol, or facing the truth about my sexual orientation. And every time I am willing to trust my gut, that place where God says to me, “Stay with me. I love you,” it leads me to a place of deeper integration and truth , often through chaos and pain, but isn’t that what the Paschal Mystery is all about?
Like C. S. Lewis said (from my previous post), “God’s compulsion is our liberation.”