In the course of discussing--of all things--the Confession of St. Augustine, a friend described the spiritual life as being like a cell phone. The more open we are to reception, the more we receive; and if we wander off into a cell-hole, reception gets bad. The point was in part that we need the fellowship of the church (areas of good reception, rather than cell-holes) and need to be personally open to grace.
It’s a great analogy but perhaps doesn’t go far enough. There’s a lot more spiritual gold to be mined from that comment in this season of Lent.
First of all, cell phones depend on real, objective realities. It doesn’t matter whether I believe in microwaves, or whether I disagree with physics, those things simply are. If I am going to create a cell phone that works, I’d better understand some basic truths and be willing to conform my technology to them. There is Truth and there is Authority, My job is to find and understand them and submit to them if I want to hear clear conversations on that tiny little phone in my pocket.
Cell coverage depends a lot on the carrier. The more towers, the better the coverage. Trimming away the technology tends to reduce the geographic coverage. There’s a difference in how well the various carriers cover the allotted territory and there’s a difference in the quality of reception depending on the technology. The details of faith do make a difference. It doesn’t do to trim away part of the Truth and expect the same kind of faith. Bend, reconfigure or ignore the rules enough and transmission fails altogether.
I’m going to need a phone. If I don’t have something to receive transmissions, the fact that microwaves are all around me is of no importance to me. I’ll never hear them. I need a cell phone to decode transmissions--and those transmissions are neither random nor dependent on interpretation. The phone I get is my faith. I’d like to avoid the carriers and phones that are prone to distorted reception and overlapping conversations.
The programming that makes it possible for me to hear clearly what is being said through that piece of hardware is the Magesterium, taking all those incomprehensible waves and turning them into sounds that make sense. One clear conversation, no warbles, no interference, as long as I stay within range and pay attention.
It’s possible to wander away from the tower a bit and still get clear reception. But eventually, if I go far enough afield, things get in the way of those microwaves and either I get no signal at all or it’s weak and unreliable. In an emergency, I might find myself without coverage. Stray from the Church, her community and her teachings and I put myself at risk. Just when I need most to make a connection, I might be left with no service. I need to remain in the Church.
Most cell companies have a family plan. It's important to be able to keep in touch with those who love me most, those who are at the ready to hear my problems and share my joys, no matter where they currently happen to reside. I am so very thankful that my family plan isn't limited by time or space, and that there's an entire communion of saints, in the here and now and in the hereafter who share my cell service and share my life.
Cell phones need to be charged or they’re no good. The battery needs to be connected to the power source every now and again. The sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist, and a vital prayer life recharge my spiritual batteries. Some folks have lithium batteries that need charging only once a week. I’m a Ni-Cad girl myself--I need to plug in at least once a day.
While I’m at it, it’s a good idea to update the hardware now and again. The freebie little phone that came with my plan as an introductory offer ten years ago will handle the basics of call reception, but won’t manage the applications that make my life easier these days and isn’t going to work as well as the updated version. An eighth grade understanding of the faith is not going to serve me well as an adult. It’s going to take some effort to make sure that my faith is adequate for my adult needs--and by the way, I might want to read the owner’s manual now and again to make sure I get the best results from my Carrier.
Reflecting on my journey of faith, I’m glad to be Catholic. More bars in more places.