Monday, October 6, 2014

Ode to The Church

Dear Friends,
                Have you ever come across a poem ,essay, article  or letter and said “I wish I had written that!”
Here’s one such piece I wish I had written.

Ode to the Church
How baffling you are, oh Church, and yet how I love you!
How you have made me suffer, and yet how much I owe you!
I would like to see you destroyed, and yet I need your presence.
You have given me so much scandal,
And yet you have made me understand what sanctity is.
I have seen nothing in the world more devoted to obscurity, more compromised, more false,
And yet I have touched nothing more pure, more generous, more  beautiful.
How often I have wanted to shut the doors of my soul in your face.
And yet how often I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms!
No, I cannot free myself from you, because I am you, though not completely.
And besides, where would I go? Would I establish another church?
I would not be able to establish it without the same  faults, for they are the same faults I carry in me.
And if I did establish another, it would be my church, not the Church of Christ.
I am old enough to know I am no better than anyone else.

                Who wrote this, anyway?  A contemporary of some of us, not someone who left the church , but rather a believer who moved from place to place within the church as he followed Christ , teacher and redeemer, let go and embraced as needed for growth in God.   The Italian Carlo Carretto  (1910-1988) was a lay leader in Catholic Action before he joined the Little Brothers of Jesus, a community of desert contemplatives in Algeria. Eventually, he returned to Italy and published his thoughts in Letters from the Desert, for people struggling with their spiritual lives. Writing about Carlo Carreto, the American hagiographer Robert Ellsberg  says : “Essentially, {Carreto} showed how to live a contemplative life in the midst of the world, in the desert that is ultimately everywhere. The challenge of the Gospel, according to Carreto, was to create in this desert an oasis of love. He died on the feast of St. Francis, October 4, 1988.”

                The mentality and tenacity of Carreto is a help when we make judgments against the church and want to go away. Instead, Carreto is a friend who invites us, each in our own everyday live, to move toward a fuller life with Christ .

Cradle Catholics or longtime Catholics , even those of us who worship on a regular basis, sometimes get stale in our thinking about God and other significant figures:  God, Jesus, Mary, the saints, the community,. Moreover, what has history contributed to our relationship to all of these significant others?  For a conversation about these topics that stretch our minds as we stay the course of faith (or not), join me on three successive Monday nights at the SSJ Motherhouse: Oct 27, Nov. 3 and Nov. 10,7 to 8.30 pm. 
Call the Fresh Wind phone to say you are coming. 641-8184.