Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Vigil: One Year Later

Lastnight was Easter Vigil. Liturgically speaking, it was also my Catholic birthday. I'm one year old today. I decided to make a pilgrimage to the church where it all happened... I admit, I kind of wanted to re-live the moment, but I was also curious as to how it would feel being an observer. I saw some familiar faces, got big smiles & hugs & knew I might never see some of these people again. It left me with a twinge of sadness & regret for ever leaving...

When we entered the brightly lit sanctuary after all those readings in the dark, it was not quite as dramatic as I remember. The bells weren't as loud or as joyful... The Gloria was familiar, but seemed... lackluster. The lights actually felt a little too bright & I wanted to slink back into the bosom of the night. There was absolutely no incense this time around (which was something I was really looking forward to). Maybe they abstained for the pregnant catechumen. Maybe someone complained they used too much last year. Who knows. I remember how it stayed in my clothes for days, like the scent of someone loved.

I think my greatest moment of joy came from gathering around the baptismal font to watch people be dunked thrice & smothered with anointing oil. After each one, we would clap & sing "Alleluia!" as they padded out to change. But overall, something was missing from the evening... I just couldn't put my finger on it. By the end of the night, I was more than happy to get in the car & drive the hour or so back home.

Easter Vigil 2012 Part 1
Easter Vigil 2012 Part 2

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Passion of the Wholly Weak: A Rant, A Revelation & A Prayer

Warning: This post may be graphic.

God, if You were a man standing before me right now (forgive me), I would rip at Your clothes & beat You & try to kill You. What do You want with me? I want to swear, kick & scream at You... and then what? Would You send me to hell for my irreverence? Or would You find compassion in Your heart to stay? Would You still want to save me? Would You walk away & tell me I was just being childish? Would You smite me? Would You say anything? Or would You wait till I was spent? God, if You were a man here with me now, I would cling to You... in rage.

I'm tired of responses like  “Remember Job", Give it to God" or "Lay your burdens at the foot of the cross”. What does that even mean? I'm not content to stand there & gaze up at Christ. No, I want to climb His bloody body & beat Him all the more, even as He hangs there in agony. I want to tear at His flesh limb from limb & sink my fingers into His deep & seeping wounds. I want to scream in triumphant rage as He screams out in pain & gasps for breath... and I wouldn't stop till His last. 

Surely these aren't the words of a Spirit filled Christian... Would I not always treat Father, Son & Spirit with the utmost respect?  Would I not always feel compassion at the abuse & crucifixion of Jesus? I always thought I should...

The “passion” of this Holy week is often told from a sort of watered down, doe eyed perspective- the women wept & mourned kind, quiet Jesus, the victim of a wrongful death at the hands of murderous Jews. Of course my response should also be one of horror, infinite sadness & ultimately, profound thankfulness. But on the contrary, the crucifixion reveals to me precisely the lack of compassion I have within... It reveals my lack of interest in being a disciple, even my disbelief in what Christ has actually done for me. For the 1st time in my life,  I want Him to feel all of my hurt & loneliness & pain on that cross. I want Him to suffer because of what I've suffered. And whats crazy is He was willing to do just that before I ever came along. He knew I would need this- and He submitted himself to my rage because no one else could take it. Each wound inflicted on His body may as well have been from my hand... and if by His stripes I am healed, His utter brokenness was necessary for my wholeness. I can't deny the sense of satisfaction I get from knowing this. 

In the same way, my own utter brokenness is also necessary for my wholeness. Could it be that the suffering of Jesus, of God in the flesh, actually reveals the depth (& potential for redemption) of the suffering I've experienced in life? Could the force of my rage at His supposed “good pleasure” (that brought me into existence) actually serve to uncover His profoundly unfailing love for me? If He hadn't suffered & died such a horrible death as a human being, where would I be? I think I would still be raging... beating at the air... unable to connect... unable to find resolution. 

His story is my story. He wanted to love & be loved in return & what did he get? He was falsely accused, despised, beaten & killed by the objects of His affection. But He had a power I don't- its a power I can only receive by clinging to Him, even if I cling in rage. Its the power to forgive, to love, to remain. As I tear into Him, I somehow begin to see myself more clearly... His Blood is my blood... so many wounds... so much blood. My suffering not only becomes His & dies with Him; but His resurrection will become my own.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pope Francis

I was on my way to work when I first heard "Habeamus Papem!" on the radio. Yes, chills ran through me & I couldn't help but feel caught up in the excitement the people at St. Peter's & around the world were no doubt experiencing. While I remember Pope JP2 & converted under Benedict XVI, Francis feels like "my pope" specifically. I can't explain why... 

Today I got to watch his first Mass & was surprised by a few things: many of the cardinals didn't sing or respond, though there were definitely some who did. When the camera panned through the rows, many seemed genuinely bored, some looked mildly annoyed & too few others had a look of reverent repose on their faces. These are the men who lead us... these are the men who picked our Pope... and I feel torn. I could envision mountains of scandal passing before some of their eyes unchecked or ignored. Many of them seemed woefully indifferent. One of the men who accompanies Pope Francis reminds me of a young Mr. Burns (of Simpson's fame)... From the time he stepped out on the balcony, he appeared  frustrated, watching the Pope's every move like a man (unsuccessfully) trying to potty train a puppy. He was present again at the Mass & I'm not growing any more fond of him each time I see him... Though I've been a Catholic almost a year now, I must admit, I'm still suspicious of many who represent the Church on the world stage... Maybe they were all just exhausted. The lot of them are senior citizens afterall... I imagine all that travel & ceremony would be taxing.

That aside, I like what I know of Pope Francis thus far. While he may be visibly humble, simple & dedicated to the Gospel of Christ crucified, he's also got quite a streak in him. He's not timid about letting people know what he stands for. In 24 short hours, he's forged his own path, boldly moving beyond "traditional" expectations of pomp & circumstance. As long as you haven't been living under a rock this week, you know he took the name "Francis" after that great saint, Francis of Assisi. He declined the red papal cape & gold pectoral cross most popes don when they're 1st introduced to the world. Instead, he appeared in a simple white cassock & wore the cross he had always worn.  His movements were not boisterous like other popes before him. He was very still when he came out & when I watched the video later, I tried to imagine what was going on in his head... was his heart beating out of his chest? Was he thinking "Oh crap?" Ok, probably not.  "Good evening", is what he finally said after a long awkward pause & a smile. He invited the crowd to pray an Our Father, Hail Mary & Glory Be for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Later, before extending his blessing to the people, he asked them to pray for him first. The crowd fell silent as he bowed his head... He spurned the papal car & rode the bus with the cardinals afterwards. He postponed his 1st Mass the next day because he wanted to go to a basilica & ask for Mary's intercession instead. He doesn't strike me as the superstar the media & even the Church wants to make him out to be. He is one of us, a face in the crowd. Even at his first Mass, he didn't draw attention to himself.  It was almost as if he wished to melt into the wallpaper. Clearly, he wasn't interested in being singled out or adored.

What will become of his pontificate? Will the Church, Her clerics & the rest of the body pay attention? Or will we just yawn & go on about our business as usual? After all, isn't our "royalty" the equivalent of say, British royalty anymore? The way some Catholics treat the sacraments & live their lives, you would think so.

May God bless Pope Francis.
Viva il Papa.