Sunday, May 30, 2010

Catholic is Catholic

Happy Feast Day!

This is the day all of us Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity celebrate as our biggest feast. And unless we are at a parish where our brother Missionary Servants are preaching, it is the day we cringe at the homily.

This Sunday, our parish priest gave the gentlest and most affirming homily I have ever heard on the Trinity in a diocesan parish. He did not make any of the standard opening comments we have begun to take for granted on this day. We did not hear a joke about Thomas Aquinas or an apology about being unable to explain the mystery. Even more importantly, we were not actively discouraged from trying to understand at least a little about the Trinity. How many times have I sat in the pew, in churches across the U.S, and heard some variation on, "The doctrine of the Trinity is a profound mystery which we cannot possibly understand, so instead I am going to preach about fill-in-the-blank."

I have never heard any one ever say, "The Eucharist is too profound a mystery to understand, so let's not bother about it and talk about something else." Or, at Christmas, "I don't know what to say about the meaning of God being born as a human baby in a stable." Or at Easter, "Well, the Pascal Mystery, ha-ha, I skipped that class in theology school." Man, the Trinity as a fundamental Catholic doctrine really takes a beating!

Our priest said none of those things. He did something I've never heard done from a parish pulpit in all my many travels: he encouraged, begged us to reflect on the Trinity! Preach it, brother! He did not make it seem arcane or boring or beyond our mere mortal grasp. He encouraged us to the simple discipline of daily reflecting on the nearness of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in our ordinary moments of life.

When he finished, I wanted to applaud, but I also wanted to leap up and shout, "But wait, there's more!" as if I were giving an "as seen on TV" ad. There's so much more to say about the Trinity. But there is one thing more I want to say here, for now, today on this feast day.

It's a simple thing, and on the surface it might seem kind of obvious or insignificant. But the Christian doctrine of the Trinity makes us fundamentally, thoroughly, unarguably different from all the other big world religions. Different, as in to the core dissimilar from Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and Jews. The Triune God we worship is not just a different way of talking about God as other non-Christians might. If we pretend that it is, we deny our very essence. If you dig deep enough and get past all the language and culture and rules and clutter.... we still are not all "basically the same!"

I am sure I will write on this topic again at another time, but for now, suffice to say, that is my starting point. We need to quit pretending we are really, deep down, all one global harmonious homogeneous spiritual family. Cuz we ain't.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Off Campus

I live and work at the same place. Lucky for me, the place happens to be a great place. But still, this presents challenges. On weekends, we can have up to 50 people tramping around. Because it's such a short commute to my office, I often end up here at night working when I could be goofing off. And because we are sort of a public place and half of Litchfield County feels at home here, we have folks drop in even on Mondays when technically we're closed.

Mondays! I have posted about my days off before. Sometimes I get in the car and go exploring, just to get away. I have not done that in awhile, but this Monday, Nancy and I went to New Haven for the perfect day off. We had been given gift cards to Panera's so we had a great lunch. Then we ambled around in a dollar store. (I bought a bunch of cool toys for bingo prizes.) And last but not least, we went to Ikea.

I had never been to Ikea before. I would go back just for fun any time. We admired all the cool stuff, and I wondered what my dream bedroom would look like if I were not a missionary sister living in a subterranean cenacle. I did notice that furniture tended to be very low to the ground. I had to sort of roll over practically on my hands and knees to get out of the couches. But the whole experience was like going to a foreign land. It was just what I needed. I love it here, but it can get pretty intense to stay confined to the property for more than a few weeks.

When I was a novice, one of our sisters told us about her first mission. She was sent to some town in the deep South, I think it was Charlotte. She was from Fall River, MA. Within a week of her arrival, she met a young man at a workshop and proudly introduced herself as a missionary. He replied, "Wow, so am I! I have lived all my life here but in a few weeks my church is sending me to do a year of missionary work in Fall River, Massachusetts."

So there you go. There is just some attraction to go exploring someone else's home town. I am sure that as I write this, there is someone from Connecticut having a great adventure somewhere in Louisiana.