The world is exploding with genius, with innovation and intentionality and vision. There are incredible moments of coherence in the smallest pockets of persons, invisible to the eye in community churches, in the interactions at day care and coffee shops, post offices and universities; in short, anywhere there are people, good happens. We are not always aware or even interested; the negative, that which generates fear and anger, appeals so much more compellingly. And yet, the good is actively sought and nurtured, and what we seek is aligned with the decades that contextualize the human life span.
To actively celebrate humanity, to know the good, experience the promise, and build the future, it is inevitable to meet suffering, explore confusion and investigate the past. All of that occurs within the broad context of community life, the intense interdependence of persons one on the other, layer after layer. It is multi-faceted; there is economic interdependence, social and cultural connections, even the threads of political intertwining.
For a Catholic, the universality of the Church enhances that sense. There is a certain peculiar comfort in kneeling in a church in Tokyo and realizing somewhere in Australia or Italy or South Africa, there are others kneeling and praying. There is a richness in the idea that what is filling a heart or torturing a soul is not confined to one life, to one family. Somewhere, there is a food pantry overflowing, a visiting nurse locating patients, a volunteer making calls. Somewhere, there is someone waiting for the Midnight Run or looking for the arrival of assistance. Humanity knows common elements, an identity that transcends uniqueness while virtually reinforcing it at the same time.
Humility rests in that final idea, in the awareness that it is not all about one, but somehow about all. Humility implies a realistic perception of self, not a subservience to a higher power. Humility notices, relishes, the touch of divine and the human, their lingering and then their dance. There is an enthralling magic to that dance, and it is sustained through the quiet and sometimes the rough house, the dryness, of prayer. It is re-discovered in the communal experience of the Mass, the Eucharist, and it is waiting in the quiet of personal prayer, in the repetition of the familiar mantras of the Hail Mary and the Our Father and the sincerest of personal conversations.
In a sense, those most familiar words wrap up the human experience as one of connections, relationships, hopes and realities. Perhaps that points to the wisdom of centuries past, to the meeting of the psychological need for belonging that Maslow so clearly defined.
None of this can deny the raw realities of what can and does go wrong in Catholicism. There is no denying that fact just as there is no denying the complexity of human behavior, the processes of human development, ethical conflict, mental illness and psychological or emotional breakdowns. There is still a lot that has gone right with Catholicism, with the persons who actively work and practice, and especially with those who embrace the brokenness and the gifts that are part of being human. What has gone wrong in Catholicism and what will go wrong can be addressed by what is right. There is Teresa of Avila’s emphasis on self-knowledge and relationship with God; there is Mother Teresa’s conviction that humility is knowing who you are. Both the institutional church and the ordinary person can learn from mistakes and continue to move forward, to dance to the rhythm of the divine.