by Lorraine Murray
Ignatius Press (2008), 150 pp.
In many ways, the personal odyssey of Lorraine Murray is remarkably typical of many naive young Catholics of the 1960's. She endured the joys and sufferings inherent to families—colored in particular by her parents' vices and virtues; she was marked by her Catholic school experiences—both in the classroom and through the vicissitudes of her peers; and she inched her way along the rails of a culture whose faith provided a comforting backdrop to everyday existence. She was well-catechized, well-educated, and launched with enough affection to know that the radical ideologies that broad-sided her in college were a fundamental attack on everything that her parents, teachers and priests had carefully inculcated in her. And yet she jettisoned that formation and embraced the glittering zeitgeist with all its sham thrills.
Lorraine states clearly that her choices were her own, and that she freely chose to abandon faith and attack the institutions that had sheltered her so carefully. She recounts honestly that much of the new ideas she encountered didn't make sense, didn't feed her spiritually, and didn't seem to ring true—but she continued down the existential path regardless. She grasped at sexual "liberation," although it didn't win her the soul-mate she craved, dabbled with drugs despite the discomfort they gave her, and devotedly studied the radical texts, despite their incoherence and irrationality.
She recognized that each choice created its own natural trajectory, and the weight of the culture degraded and demoralized those who didn't have the strength to stand apart. Thus wedded to her path, piling mistake upon mistake, she carefully outlines the ways in which she shredded her own conscience, and attempted to still the small voice railing from within.
Ultimately, we must attribute that inward gnawing to the sacramental graces that rested deep in her soul. What set Lorraine Murray apart is her stark honesty, her ability to unravel the tangled elements of her intellectual journey in order to find where she went astray. Her trek to the heart of the lies is instructive for all of her readers—and priests in particular, who need to make sense of the feminists who still riot and rumble for influence in various corners of Holy Mother Church. After dallying with nihilism, sexual libertinism, and the drug culture, she mistakenly attributed the disillusionment that followed to the stark realities of adulthood, not realizing that the soul was fitted for love and joy. She'd rejected such notions as childish expectations that had to be tossed out with the toys.
When her husband began a journey into the Catholic Church, Lorraine accompanied him—led by her own persistent voice within, and they both discovered through excellent (and available) priests that there is more to the faith than her childhood memories admitted. It has credible answers to profound questions that were left unanswered by her feminist texts. She began to make sense of her mother's selfless faith and heroic death, which the daughter had previously blamed on God's neglect. She saw that there was more love than she’d imagined behind her father's silence and realized that there had been extraordinary communion between her parents.
The critical element, we soon discover, was not intellectual at all. This is essential to the work of all who defend the Christian truths against those who attack: the arguments may be superfically academic, historical, or anecdotal—but the root of the gulf between argument is spiritual. As Lorraine came back, piecemeal, to the fullness of faith, it became obvious that the obstacles to the deposit of faith concerning the meaning of human sexuality were not based on reason or intellect but personal sin—one sin in particular—that proved spiritual blinding.
The patience of each priest was evident, and the power of the sacraments was clearly manifest. The reunion of this precious soul to God required the exposition of the elements of faith combined with the precise application of the channels of grace, for in the end, her ability to see the injustice and degradion inherent in contraception and abortion could only be brought about through humility, repentance, and conversion of heart.
The personal healing was a slow process, requiring layers of lies to be removed. Her forthrightness in dissecting the process leaves us not only with a beautiful tale of a prodigal daughter returned home, but also a reminder of the darkness at the heart of much of feminism. While many take their anger and arguments at face level, they mask deeper lies and unfortunate choices that wear at the soul like acid. The threefold answer lies in sincere love for the wayward soul, a readiness to defend the authentic dignity of women at the heart of Catholic message, and recognition that the battle is more spiritual than academic. Neglect of any of these elements will leave a gulf between the broken feminist and the authentic richness to which she is called by our loving God.