Thursday, April 15, 2010

Easter and the Catholic Church

One of the great things I get to do as a Jesuit is serve as a monthly facilitator for a conversation among a group of retired men and women who do volunteer work as part of a program called the Ignatian Volunteer Corps. IVC is all over the country, and if you're retired or know someone who is, I highly recommend it. It gives retired people a chance to not only volunteer but consider the spiritual journeys and questions they have and are on. It's a marvelous program. Check out the link above.

So we met today and a lot of our conversation was about the things that are going on in the Church right now, particularly the new revelations of abuse and cover up in the Church. It's clearly been a dispiriting and frustrating time, and we had a nice opportunity to reflect on how it's been for each of us.

And our conversation reminded me of a recent article I read in Eureka Street, which is the Australian Jesuits' (free!) online magazine about faith and culture. (They put out a couple articles every week day, and it's really good stuff.) One of their editors, a Jesuit named Andrew Hamilton, had written a piece just prior to Easter that put the Church's situation into the context of our liturgical season. We all think of Easter as this marvelous happy ending, but it's easy to forget in the process just how much first had to be lost. And I don't mean for Jesus; that we know all too well. I mean for the people around him. If you think about it, they had to go through their own descent into hell, by facing the depths of their own sinfulness -- their willingness to abandon Jesus, to betray him, their society's willingness to execute him.

Today the conventional wisdom is, if you're going to go to the prom, you have to get out some skin cream and cover up the blemishes. Cinderella can't dance at the ball in a dirty dress.

But for us things operate exactly the opposite. There is no redemption without first contrition, that is, awareness of our blemishes and the harm they've done.

And in that sense, Hamilton says, all these revelations are hugely important to the Church. Not an obstacle to our life and mission, but the means.

Next week, Communion!

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