New beginnings offer a particular space for gratitude, for wonder.  Depending on your place on the runway, there can be a wealth of memories, decades crowded with remembrances or something far more simple, wrapped in days and weeks.   But on this Feast of Christ the King, there is also an invitation to truly see the space we occupy, the significance of our role in relation to one another and the world as a whole.  There is a richness in that, in the promise of it and the simplicity.  It is about attentiveness to the moment, mindfulness of our place in this vast world and the stream of generations of humanity.

At new beginnings, the distractions can be quieted, muted, and there is a chance to concentrate on something very present and very real.  There is a chance to see things as they are: no one of us is the center of the universe.  No one of us is greater than the others.  And yet, each one of us has this remarkable capacity to do good, to offer kindness, mercy and compassion to each other.  There is the chance to hear things as they are: the brokenness and the becoming side by side, the realization that somehow, we abide in one another’s lives and possess the capacity to truly hear beyond words.  There is the chance to risk a full response rather than a knee jerk reaction.

To take that risk, to see and to hear,  offers the chance to rephrase purpose and to trust in something greater; that is an invitation from the King, to become a better person, to build a better kingdom.

Reward is not the goal.   This is a kingdom which is not about the compensation or achievement.  This is about attitude, intention, fidelity to the greater good.  It is about remembering “whatever you do for the least of my brethren, that you do for me”, the benevolent monarch.   That is the Voice  that whispers of goodness in the ear of the erstwhile.  It is the Voice  that reminds frenzied humans  that there is something beyond the hours marked and tasks completed.  It is the Voice that has spoken through millenniums that there is a kingdom that transcends the senses, defies the visible and complements the scientific and rational.

Catholicism is a vehicle that confides that whisper of goodness, that sense that there is a dimension where none of us are alone, where all of us are safe, where there is the flame of truth and the search for better in ourselves and our world.  This kingdom is more than who we are and yet something being built through every word and action, every choice.  It is not about judging the choices of others, but making choices of our own and discovering the beauty of a world where living in deep consistency of purpose, attitudes and interactions….that is what it means to be Catholic.


Benevolent Monarch

The Catholic year is drawing to a close: next weekend marks the celebration of Christ the King, and the following weekend marks the beginning of Advent.  Somehow, in the midst of democratic squabbles and social media sexual scandals, the implied orderliness and peacefulness of a monarchy is terribly tempting.  It whispers of a loyalty deep and abiding and even confides a safety in position, place and relationship that is elusive in America today.  Second glances are more revealing: the benevolent monarch bears the burdens of subjects, fosters interdependence and mutual respect, demands and provides attentiveness, creates opportunities for positive change and growth.  The benevolent monarch inspires and challenges, embraces and believes humbly in a whole far greater than self.

Sitting back now in the confines of a coffee shop, comfortably sheltered from the fierceness of  New England’s autumn wind,  there is a temptation to slide into the holiday season without notice of the bookend feasts of Christ the King or the launch of a new year with Advent.  There is a temptation to glide along the surface of the secular and ecclesial seasons.  But then there is the real invitation of Catholicism: to trust the benevolent monarch with fears and worries,  burdens and cares; to receive and contribute to the interdependence of the community; to care for and listen to one another without the speedy judgment or knee-jerk reaction… look for those moments and choose those actions that will make a positive difference in the lives of others, to realize with true humility the paradox of insignificance and perceived power.

More than a set of rules or a pre-determined practice, Catholicism is about lifestyle, vision and purpose, directions and choice.  It is about failing and trying again, and it is about realizing that humanity shares one rickety boat on a vast ocean.  It is about the confidence in a belenvolent monarch who inhabits an imperfect world and offers the something more that is so very hard to see in the rhythm of daily life’s demands.  It is, after all, about what is most meaningful in human life: relationship.


Becoming More

The crowd pressed about each piece in silent curiosity, following the careful path routed by a talented curator.  The exhibit was at the Metropolitan  Musuem of Art, and the artist whose work was being celebrated was Michelangelo.  The path traced his drawings and sketches from his apprenticeship through his architectural work and above it all was replica of the Sistine Chapel.  That, the richness of the color and the intensity of the pieces, spilled onto all the sketches and the spectators below. It was breathtaking.

The narrative was rich and revealing: Michelangelo saw the real and worked to create the ideal, the best expression of who we are.  His works are wrapped around the Christian story, one image at a time, and reveal facets of plot and character wrapped in historical context.  Standing in awe before them, unraveling his insights and perspective is both humbling and challenging.

What he designed in sketches layered over in studies, roughed out with colleagues, were wonders and mysteries rooted in the wealth of  his understanding.  It belongs to each generation to explore and rediscover, to find the elements of the message that resonate and to create a contemporary expression, to bring the understanding to life somehow.  Michelangelo dared to pursue the development of his talents, the precision of his insights, and in so doing, he generated images revered and reviewed for centuries.

Catholicism invites each of us to be part of that dynamic process of creation in the world we live in.  The works are neither static nor inaccessible; we too belong to the process of learning and understanding  and becoming more.


Words of Prayer

Tonight, the nation is mourning the victims in the latest mass shootings, shootings that took place in a church, a house of God.  There is a desensitization to the horror of what this means for the victims.  And yet there is a haunting question, an awful incomprehensiblity about why this is happening and what exactly is causing this.

In the search for answers, in the ways the information about the shooter will be studied, in every stage of the news coverage, there will be a struggle to explain and somehow win control of an impossible reality.

Somewhere in all that grief there is a need for comfort, for a sense that such suffering has a meaning, a purpose.  And for some, the simple words of prayer will provide the mantra that sustains us through the unthinkable.  The idea that there is a higher power, a being capable of comprehending the depth of grief and healing the deepest of human wounds somehow enables the bearing of the unbearable.  And uttering the words of a prayer familiar to you and to your partner, to your family and friends, hearing the reasonance of voices, that is courage and strength.  Suddenly the words have more meaning , the moment has more purpose, and the scientific yeilds  slowly to the mystery of the spiritual.

Mystery is a component of every aspect of the human experience, and still we strive to explain, to understand. What happened in Texas, or in Las Vegas a few short weeks ago, or in Sandy Hook an incredible five years ago brings a torrent of questions and waves of uncertainty.  And somehow, in all this, there is still the intonation of the Hail Mary, the Our Father….the comfort of cadence and the hint of companionship through the journey.