Monday, April 18, 2016

Particular Church

John Cardinal Neumann wrote,
To live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often

If that is so, perfection is just around the corner. Beginning May 1 I will begin my fourth assignment in 9 months. I will return to St. Augustine's to celebrate weekend masses for the Englsih speaking community. I will continue to live at St. Paul and work full-time at the tribunal. The reactions of some of my friends have been rather strong. For myself, it is a reminder of what it means to be ordained. 

On Sarturday we ordained three new deacons who, God willing, will be ordained priests. I was half the age I am now went I knelt down in St. John of Arc, and promised respect and obedience to Bishop Sullivan and his successors which you do at the moment you are ordained a deacon. 

 The promise is not one of blind obedience to an individual. I was not promising respect and obedience to the person of Walter Sullivan. The promise is an act of faith hope and love:

Faith in th presence of the Holy Spirit
Hope grounded in the knowledge that with God all thiings are possible, and
Love for the particular church. 

The Catholic Church has two levels, universal and pariticular and the pariixular church is not the parish it is the doicese.  The particular church I was ordained to serve is the Diocese of Richmond from Appalachia to the Eastern Shore, 33,000 sq miles. One of the things I most enjoy about my tribunal work is the ability to help people across the entire diocese. 

And while the decision making process for assignments may seem to the human eye haphazard, I believe in providence. I have seen too many examples in my life not to believe. Bishops prayerfully make the best decisions they can with the resources and information they have at the moment, and we all trust God with the rest. 

I pray in a special way for the people of St. Augustine that in faith hope and true Chrisitian charity we can together embrace another change. I truly believe that in God's providence  as St. Paulk tells us "all things work together for the good for those who love God".

To live is to change...

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Handle with Care

The Italians have a saying "traduttore, traditore" (translator, traitor). It's not that translators don't try to get it right. Two things make the task more art than science. Firtly, every language is inextricably bound to a culture. There are few words that have an exact match in the other language. Even something as simple a a shirt may have a variety of words depending on the exact kind of shirt you mean. 

Secondly while the translator tries to be objective and  translate the ideas of the author, some of the translator always shows through. Choices of words have to be made and those choices change the shade of meaning. 

I say this because there still exists the mythology that people in the Vatican work in Latin. In fact most including the Pope work in their native language or Italian. St. John Paul II thought in Polish, Pope Benedict XVI in German and Pope Francis in Spanish. Final drafts are then sent to those who are the few true Latinists to be translated, and the act of translating always alters meaning in some way. 

In the current document there are some striking choices. One is the title of Chapter 8 in Spanish "acompaƱar, discernir e integrar  la fragilidad", in English "Accompanying, Discerning and Integrating Weakness". 

Fragility and Weakness  for me are very different words. 

Spanish has weakness (debilidad) and the Pope uses it. But he seems to focus more on fragility, a word that speaks not just about the object but how we handle it. And he is not saying that some human beings are fragile. We are all fragile and should all be handled with care. In the document he speaks of imperfection and fragility. With God's grace we strive to heal the imperfections. The fragility we integrate. It is not something to be overcome. 

Sadly we must admit that at times we treat objects with more care than people. This Pope never says that we are to avoid hard truth. Sometimes the most loving word we can say is "No." But how do we say it? In what spirit do we say it, in condemnation or in love? Do we call to people from a distance or do we go to them accompany them, help them discern, and integrate the gospel into their conscience, and them into our community. This kind of individual care is difficult and cannot be solely the work of clergy. Every single member of the Church, every family must join n the effort if we are to be truly the Church founded by Jesus Christ. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The driving force

Every one of us, whether we are consciously aware of them or not, have certain principles, forces that drive our decision making. In chapter 20 of John's gospel we have the accounts of two individuals' encounters with the risen Christ.  Mary Magdalene and (today's gospel) Thomas.

Try and picture the two encounters. In the first with Mary Magdalene Jesus tells her "Don't hang on to me" The verb literally means to attach. In the second Jesus tells Thomas to "bring your finger...bring your hand".  The Greek uses the same verb for both "fere", bring or carry.  What's interesting to notice is what this implies about the location of Mary and Thomas.

The implication is that Mary is hanging on. And if Thomas has to bring his hand close, it must be at some distance. Both see Jesus. Mary's response is to grab on. Thomas's is to stay at a distance.  Thomas's response is understandable. What would our response be if we thought we were seeing a ghost, a reasonable assumption on Thomas's part.  But the Risen Lord is not a ghost. He is flesh and blood. He will eat with them to prove it. He tells Mary not to hold on because there one more step left in his journey, his ascension back to the Father. If we take a closer look, we can see that the foundational difference between the Response of Thomas and Mary is what drives them.

Thomas stands at a distance out of fear. His fear is born of  unbelief. We call him doubting Thomas. But again the Greek does not speak of doubt it calls it something much stronger. unbelief (apistos), the complete opposite of faith (pistos). Doubt is uncertainty. Unbelief is something more.

Mary, on the other hand, wants to hold on, to attach herself. Her's is a response born of love.

The question for us today is where do we stand in relation to Jesus. Are we Mary or are we Thomas? Think before you answer.  In our day to day life are we driven by our fears or are we driven by the theological virtues of faith, hope and love.  If we try to do the latter in the world today, there is a good chance that we are going to be called naive.  For myself, that's fine. I would rather be thought of as naive, than to be unbelieving.