For the last two weeks, I have been absorbed in the raising of the Costa Concordia. This luxury liner has been lying on its side, towering over a rocky stretch on Italy’s west coast since it ran aground and tipped over in January 2012. During these last two weeks, the intricate system of equipment designed to set the boat aright was finally put into place. Would it work or wouldn’t it? It did, of course, and while many steps will follow both legally and to rehabilitate the boat, as far as I’m concerned, the engaging part of the story is over.
The Costa Concordia is a metaphor for each of us. We are each a ship, moving through the waters of life. Jesus travels with us on our ship, although He might well be asleep at times. We carry all kinds of passengers, luggage, cargo, foodstuffs. We throb with life. And like the Costa Concordia, we may tip over.
What causes us to tip over with potential loss of many kinds? The carelessness or arrogance of the captain, inattentiveness to the course, the desire to show off our navigation skills may be reasons. I think the tipped boat can also be the result of sin – the deliberate ignoring of God as our co-captain, wanting God and our own way simultaneously, not realizing we must choose one or the other.
Sin tips us over, but most of the time, not irrevocably. Like the Costa Concordia, we are righted, not by pulleys, winches and ropes, but by seeking forgiveness of God and the one(s) we have injured and when we can, by receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The younger son in the story of the Prodigal Father was tipped over. Only in returning to his father could he be righted.
Then, last week, Pope Francis gave a wide ranging interview to his Jesuit confrere, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ which again made me think of the Costa Concordia. The Church, we know, is called the barque of Peter. Peter’s boat is in danger of tipping over. Pope Francis spoke of the Church with its narrow focus and rigidity over some aspects of life. It drives some people away, instead of gathering them together into the sheepfold of Christ. His own imagery for the church is likewise colorful: “a house of cards in danger of collapse.”
These are just two ways of taking in and using for our own fruitful reflection something as apparently nonspiritual as a tipped over luxury vacation ship. So scan the newspapers and news magazines, films and computer images to see what in our world can make you see God more clearly and understand a bit more the ways that life images tell us about our fragile yet resilient relationship with God.
Two more unrelated things:
- This Wednesday evening, Sept. 25, from 7 to 8.30 pm, two people in the know come to our motherhouse (150 French Road) to talk with whoever comes about the work and uncertainty of being young and Catholic. They are Leslie Barkin, youth minister at Saint Catherine’s, Mendon and a national writer on youth issues, and David Dowd, a thoughtful twenty something educator and youth ministry volunteer at Our Lady of Lourdes/Saint Anne, Rochester. 7 to 8.30 pm. Come, bring a young friend and engage in the dialogue.
- Available at the motherhouse gift shop and main entrance is my new reflection journal , a simple workbook entitled Good Morning, God. It’s written to help you think through your relationship with God at various times of the year and when certain situations arise. I like to say “If you don’t like what I say, cross it out and write your own ‘take’ but do use the book.” Use it yourself or get it for a holiday gift.
Blessings on your week.
~Joan Sobala, SSJ