Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Story of a Soul

“I have laid great emphasis on the homelife of St. Therese, because of its great importance today. The need to foster the family, the good life of the community of the family, as a beginning in restoring all things in Christ, is a theme of the book I am writing.” 

--Dorothy Day (Archives: Letter, April 16, 1956) 

 I don’t think we can examine Pope Francis without understanding the significance Francis’ Jesuit background has on his papacy and on the move with respect to Burke. As a Jesuit, Francis has always lived in a community. Obviously, Francis enjoys people’s company which why he is living in the Vatican hotel. His experiences in community seem to inform Francis’ actions as Pope. The Church is just community on a grander scale. 

A reader at TPM.

I have a jackdaw mind; it grabs at shiny things.  "Community" is the term they drummed into us in seminary; but that was 20 years ago, and so much has changed.  The internet wasn't even the internet then.  Computers still ran 486 processors.  Cell phones were unknown.

So much has changed.

“I dutifully read The Story of a Soul and am ashamed to confess that I found it colorless, monotonous, too small in fact for my notice. What kind of a saint was this who felt that she had to practice heroic charity in eating what was put in front of her, in taking medicine, enduring cold and heat, restraint, enduring the society of mediocre souls, in following the strict regime of the convent of Carmelite nuns which she had joined at the age of fifteen?” (Therese by Dorothy Day, p. viii) 

It is the conceit of youth to think that only ambition matters; that small things are not worth the sweat ("Don't sweat the small stuff") and only large efforts that find a fulcrum from which to move the world are truly worthwhile.  I once gave a sermon, in seminary, where I used a television show as an example to convey my meaning.  A few days after the sermon a mother told me how much it meant to her son, how much it explained to him about Jesus, questions he was struggling with.  I was surprised; that wasn't my meaning.  Does it mean the same thing to him now?  Was that a fulcrum that moved his world?  I know enough of life to say I doubt it.  When I was in parish ministry, I annoyed enough people to lose two churches; but I moved some people, too.  They told me so.  Does one outweigh the other?  It should, but if I am truthful, it doesn't.  Still, was it worth it?  Yes, if only because they touched my life and, for a moment, I touched theirs.  Was that a fulcrum that changed their lives?  I doubt it; but again, I've learned that doesn't much matter.  We are not here to push levers and move worlds; we are here to care for one another, as it comes within our reach to do so.

Am I doing enough of that?  No, not at all; but that is another matter.  What matters is that we understand we do live in community; and that we try to get better at it.

Technology has proven already that it isn't as much help in that effort as we would like it to be.  Neither is doctrine.  Ideas matter only after we have touched people, and even then ideas that matter to us too soon become idols that matter more to us than the people we are supposed to care about.  "Am I my brother's keeper?"  Far easier to answer that question by saying we made sure to keep our brother and sister on the straight and narrow; far better to answer that question that we first cared for our brother and sister, and only later, if necessary, cared about what they thought or did.  Far better to remember that we must first be least of all, and servant of all.

That we should be like the shepherds, called to see the child in the manger because the child matters more than we do, and the child taught us to love the shepherds in the name of the child.

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