Thursday, June 5, 2014

Making the Gospel Visible

Giotto, Visitation, Scrovegni Chapel

The audience with Pope Francis, the content of which was taken up in my subsequent letter to the Fraternity, highlighted from the first moment what the Holy Father has at heart as pastor of the whole Church. It does not seem superfluous to return to it at the beginning of our Spiritual Exercises.
What does the Pope have at heart? He told us in his succinct style: the new evangelization, the urgent need to reawaken “the life of faith in the minds and hearts of our contemporaries. Faith is a gift of God; however, it is important that we Christians demonstrate that we live faith in a concrete way, through love, harmony, joy, suffering, because this gives rise to questions, as those that were raised at the beginning of the Church’s journey: Why do they live that way? What urges them on? [...] [The] heart of evangelization [...] [is] the witness of faith and charity. What we especially need in these times are credible witnesses who make the Gospel visible by their lives as well as by their words, and who reawaken the attraction for Jesus Christ, for the beauty of God. [...] We need Christians who make God’s mercy and tenderness for every creature visible to the men of our day.” 

I have been bitten by the pilgrimage "bug" and have wanted to make a long pilgrimage for some time. While at the Fraternity Exercises last week, this desire was fanned into a roaring fire. So this week I have already made two trips to Youngstown, to two different Marian shrines: Our Lady Consoler of the Afflicted and Our Lady of Lebanon. In addition, I've been scrutinizing google maps (in walking mode), and driving slowly up and down many, many streets in Youngstown, studying their borders for sidewalks or grassy areas or lighter traffic. Throughout all of this work, I have been meditating on the question: Why plan this pilgrimage for others? After all, I can go walking on my own, at any time. But there are two passions behind this pining for others to accompany me: the first is that I love them, I love you. It is the experience of excess love that feels uncomfortable (to the point of pain) until it is expressed in a concrete way. But also, I am so tremblingly aware that I am not me without the others. I am not me without the Body of Christ. Without Him, all of you, I'm a temporary, sad thing with no density and surely will be forgotten in the flood of time. With Him, with all of you, my identity takes on meaning, weight, fullness. I am in great need: the need to love and to be loved. The pilgrimage I am planning will take place on August 15 (a Friday), beginning at 7am with Mass in the Shrine of Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted. We will walk 9 miles, mostly through urban and residential areas, to arrive at Our Lady of Lebanon, where we will celebrate another Mass. The idea of Christian witness has been uppermost as I've been considering all of these things - not because I want to "show" the people of Youngstown something I think they ought to see, but because I want to live my unity with others in a way that is visible, in a way that can express this love in my heart.  - Suzanne

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Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."