Friday, August 16, 2013

Musings...Of...A...Celt...Part II

Off to seminary I went. (We thought it real funny to define "seminary" as: a home for expectant fathers. Now not so funny!!!!!) During those six years, and the intervening years as well, I was introduced to the world of theology. There was natural, dogmatic, moral, scriptural, ascetical, process, etc., etc. As I got smarter??? I seemed to have lost something. I was in my head. I found myself caught up in thoughts, definitions, dogmas, infallible teachings, and rubrics, just to mention a few. That got me through seminary. The fantasy world of academia was left behind within the blink of an eye. I was lucky to be appointed to an inner city parish however, I did not think so then. My classmates were in, one could say, fat city and there were places I could not drive through at night.

 
The reality of real life hit me right between the two eyes in the form of my encounter with real life. My first encounter with a body to be anointed was one that had been burned in a helicopter crash. The sight and smell lasted a long, long time. I still can recall how those remains looked. One of my first parish anointings was when I was called to a small, small home. Inside was a father and little daughter, both asphyxiated as the result of a heater that went on the blink. That was hard enough to deal with, but I was also the celebrant for the mass. I still remember how I had to hold back the tears during the mass, and the internment. Wow, I was not prepared for that. The emotions that welled up from the inside were completely new to me. (I revisited another depth of feelings at my Dad's, and Mom's funerals.) I came to realize this vocation was not just about the outside, there was a whole inner dimension to it as well. This Encounter with humanity in all of its rawness was the beginning of a long, long journey into a deeper understanding, and growing acceptance, of the limitations of my own humanity.  I have learned, the hard way both acceptance, and reconciliation with who Joe really is, not who he would like to be, or supposed to be, is a lifelong enlightening, and transforming process.  A process, I again, do not have to like, I sure do not, but for health and sanity I am required to allow to happen. Then the mystery of the love of a Gracious God works it's miracle.

 
I now agree wholeheartedly that the poor are our greatest gift. I really believe if you have not been a priest in a "financially poor" parish, you have never been exposed to the real riches of the church. With the poor, underprivileged, marginalized, you are dwelling with those who are our God's favorites. To be close to the God of Jesus Christ one has to have a deep commitment "to the least." The poor reflect back, that innate poverty within the depths of who we really are. The scriptures reveal to us whose prayer is heard by God, "the prayer of the widow and the orphan." In today's language, it is summed up in the phrase; God's fundamental option is towards those who are weak and crushed in spirit." There is great joy, and freedom to be experienced within the community of those who are accepting of, but not necessarily reconciled with their "outward poverty." Once immersed in such a community the whole meaning of church changes.

 
Our Slum Pope, Pope Francis, continues to shock people with his, what appears to be simple statements, but yet, they are so profound, e.g. He "wants a poor church for the poor." That is the ONLY church that can really be The Living Body of Christ. Jesus, Who became The Christ, came to us in poverty, served the needs of the really poor, and marginalized, and died the death of one who is cursed.("Cursed is he who hangs upon the wood,") Honestly, how are we ever going to be real imitators of that Historical Jesus who became the Christ of God. This will not be accomplished in a world of "power, property, and prestige." Pope Francis told the clergy to stop worrying about advancement in the church, but to get out and allow the smell of the sheep to get on them." He has lived and daily walked the talk. He can then, without any compunction, authentically challenge us to follow Him to walk the Real Christian talk. As someone wrote recently," It is so much easier to pray to Jesus, than to imitate Him." Now them's fightin' words!!!

There is then, the invisible dwelling of our God in the person, and the community, of the poor. It cannot be measured or analyzed, only experienced. As our God holds all things in existence, things visible, and invisible, we must ask, I must ask, for the grace to find a peace-full rest. This place of peace-full rest is in the land of the invisible. Maybe there I will be able to travel, not with angels, but with the Siohe Gaoithe.