Sunday, May 02, 2010

The Human and the Divine

The New York Times Nicholas Kristof delivers an uplifting view of the good Catholic Church as it slogs along in the persons of some very good nuns and priests. He puts a face to something we know is alive and flourishing: the missionary and selfless work being accomplished in the context of an otherwise unhealthy church.

Please watch the video that accompanies the article. I don't know much about Father Michael beyond what Mr. Kristof presents. I don't know his theology or his sexuality, but I agree with Mr. Kristof that he would make a fine pope. Most magnificent is his response to Mr. Kristof's request for a comment on the fact that there are "two churches": the one in which the hierarchy fails to deal with pedophilia, malpracticed celibacy, women's issues and AIDS; and the third world one in which Father Michael is working. This priest has no appetite for the bait. His response is simple. "There is the human and there is the divine."

Father Michael has endured malaria and intestinal parasites and waves them off as "normal". Meanwhile, in Rome, a thousand doctors would not be able to cure Pope Benedict XVI of the blindness and arrogance that infect him.

PS: Father Michael is a member of the Order of Comboni Missionaries whose founder, an Italian priest, said "The missionary will have to understand that he is a stone hid under the earth, which will perhaps never come to light, but which will become part of the foundations of something much greater." (I don't think the sleazy founder of the Legionaries of Christ ever said anything like that.) Read this letter from Father Michael on a blog maintained for him. He talks about having to dig his truck out of mud and having to clean up a bout of sudden diarrhea while arguing with a catechist. It makes me feel rather uneasy about the fact that I accomplish less tangible good in this world with much greater resources, including AAA.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for pointing that out. I was at a jubilee celebration two years ago for some Benedictine sisters I knew who were celebrating 50 years of religious life. The homilist spoke about how the sisters were so good at maintaining both ends of the church--they keep the altar area clean and pretty while at the same time they work in the back dark corners of the church tending to the people.

Birdie said...

Do not underestimate the gift and contribution of the teacher who illuminates the truth. It is teachers who helped these nuns and priests discover their call.

We all have our roles. I firmly believe that we are called to do what brings us joy. Although the need certainly exists, God has not called me to make meals for those without; and we can all thank God in our prayers tonight for that.

When we acknowledge and surrender to the pull of purpose, we can’t help but continue, in spite of the conflict it might otherwise engender in our lives. That is the call to which we must respond. There is glory in the simple filing of papers when it is done in response to the need to serve.

I see you serving your community when you could be sitting back and soaking up the sun. (Okay, more sun.) Is it enough? Yes. Is there ever enough? No. Be content to give what you have rather than wish for more. Father Michael gets the same joy from his service as you gain from yours. (He also has weaknesses equal to your own, by the way; we all do.)

You—with your humor and brashness, your honesty and failings, your wisdom and compassion— may never realize the influence you have had and the resultant impact felt beyond your circle. Influence offered in service rather than power has that unfortunate quality of being intangible; you can’t see the wall of protection you’ve built or the library of knowledge you began or the freedom of truth you’ve illuminated. Intangible good has an intangible value: the sort that feeds the soul.

Make no mistake: you’re still in community development. And this time it’s for a community that needs your vision and strength and integrity more than ever.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post (and many others). I grew up with a different sort of Catholicism than I find today, I grew up in a Comboni mission. It is good to know they are still out there working, this is the sort of "witness" the world needs.