Devotional practices are very important to some Catholics, but perhaps I never got the hang of them or the hankering for them. The many "mysterious" aspects of Catholicism seem to divide people: some are extremely attracted to the incense, Latin chanting, holy water, and candles, as well as apparitions, stigmata, incorruptibles, and other miraculous occurrences. I suppose I must be a sort of low-church Catholic, one who came along just as Vatican II reforms got going. I turned out to be a sort of "Kumbaya Catholic," one focused on praying for peace, feeling bad for the poor, and figuring that, since Limbo didn't exist after all, all those aborted babies were already safe and happy in Jesus' arms. I figured maybe they were lucky; they'd gotten the horror of life over with in one fell swoop and didn't have to experience decades of it (not that I think abortion is good or that there's anything wrong with nonviolently protesting abortion--but God knows I have the wrong personality for that kind of dedication and display).
That brings me back to the relic, which apparently I was supposed to use as I prayed for the miraculous healing of my liver disease/cancer. At the time, I was too overwrought to be thinking deep religious thoughts. I focused my prayer on asking for help in keeping my sanity in the face of the medical crisis, not on demanding a miraculous cure. I'm one of those who felt like it would be demanding too much.I didn't want to be like the old woman who prayed to her favorite saint, demanding, "If my prayers aren't answered, I'm switching to another saint!" When the person who gave me the relic learned that I wasn't fervently clutching it and praying for the miraculous cure, she seemed rather offended, suggesting that my reticence was tantamount to suicide.
I was rather taken aback. Since when is acceptance tantamount to self-destruction? What about surrendering to God's will? I don't believe that it's God's will to make people sick, but since the world is a rather spoiled paradise, I just prayed for the serenity and sanity to make it through to my natural end.
It was the perfect example of the palpable divide in the American Catholic community. I just don't quite understand how to bridge it.