WelCom April 2018:
What does it fundamentally mean for us to say ‘Yes to Christ’ this Easter and to have spent these last 40 days preparing to do so?
During the past three weeks in Rome, I have been on retreat. The preacher was an Augustinian. Every session opened and closed with ‘Augustine said this’ or ‘Augustine would see it this way’.
We had a Benedictine give a lovely understanding of ‘climate change as St Benedict would see it’, (yes….?). And three times, a different Jesuit has come each Wednesday and presided. In their sermons, they each made the observation: ‘of course as a Jesuit I have three points to make’.
Among us gathered here in Rome, we have a wonderful young man deciding whether he will return to the Maronite roots of his Lebanese father, ‘because the liturgy is so much richer’, or will he stay in the ‘prayerfulness and perfection’ of the extraordinary rite his mother has brought him up in? Then there is the Papal Lent of the stational churches and the public Masses and so on, but that is over at the Vatican. In our district there are the Irish each Wednesday; there is the solemn (lots of chant at the monastery up the road); and there are the locals.
We are all Catholic, and yet each has their own slant. And, because it is Rome, their own Church, their own place, they offer their own set of exercises and formation, and which feast they celebrate. We get an exception from Lent on Saturday 17 March for St Patrick’s Day – we are having an Irish stew and are all going to the pub to watch the Irish versus the English – everyone of us here, Egyptian, Americans, Cameroon, Slovakian and Ukrainian.
My question from Rome is, why don’t we do that ‘togetherness’ as a Church, rather than dividing internally on a good idea and a wise insight; why don’t we sit in the same room, and discuss the question with multiple perspectives rather than seeking to find those of a like mind?
Why do I want the 7.30am early Mass to be different to the family Mass and send the youth off to an evening Mass down the road? Why do we set up elements of difference?
On Good Friday afternoon we will all be standing at the foot of the same Cross; and on Easter Sunday we are all in the same upper room on Easter, fearful and uncertain; everyone from Thomas to Mary.
Can we take the challenge of being in the same place and understanding the different needs, desires or happenings in the heart of our fellow Christians?
My thought for this month is: I want to be a follower of Christ, and live in His One Body, I am not sure how difficult that might be and I am sure at times we would find each other a Cross, but I want to live through that rather than being divided from one another by ‘my preference’ or my ‘interesting perspective’.
Say one for me, and a blessed Holy Week and Easter.
Mark Richards is the Pastoral Services Manager for the Diocese of Palmerston North and is currently based in Rome for three months to complete his doctoral study and research.