This reflection was written after my September 23 visit to St. Monica-St. George Parish, in Cincinnati. It added fuel to the fire in my heart to act, to do, not just to be.
Exhausted from meetings and late nights, I found the energy to get in the car and drive down to St. Monica-St, George Parish, in University Heights, close to the Univ of Cincinnati campus. On my way down I see the new "Hug Me Jesus" statue, on the grounds of Solid Rock Church, in Monroe and I couldn't help but smile. It reminded me of my many early mornings and late nights driving on I-75 to visit Cincinnati area high schools. I would wave at "Touch Down Jesus" and bid him good morning, good evening, see you tomorrow, and the occasional, "seriously?" Chuckle! I have to say, Hug Me J is better proportioned than Big J. Those of you who have seen it know what I mean.
Made it to St. Monica's and was greeted by a very nice man who showed me the way to the side door. As I walked in, the church was practically packed. It was 7:15 p.m. The presentation was to start at 7:30 p.m. Richard Rohr was to be honored by Franciscans Networks for his contribution to the church and his life of service as a Franciscan. Fr. John Quigley welcomed everyone, invited us to stand and pray and introduced the award.
Fr. John spoke of knowing Richard for 50 years, having met him when they were both in school, and later part of the same community. He also began his remarks saying that "well, if the Franciscans don't honor Richard, we can't think of any other Catholic group who will"- the crowd roared in laughter. I thought, my, he is that controversial. Love it.
I am the first to admit not knowing much about Richard Rohr prior to last night. A dear friend would forward me Richard's daily reflections from time to time, especially when the words spoke to our mission to educate the poor, to be better people of faith, to really look at things from a different perspective. Isn't that what we should be about, we both would often ask...
Richard recieved a beautiful wood cut piece of the face of John The Baptist, by Fr. John Quigley, himself. He then took the podium and spoke for a good half hour. It felt like time stood still. His energy and good humor were contagious. He was grateful and humbled. His comments were more of a summary of his life's experiences, plus anecdotes from his ministries in Cincinnati, now New Mexico (his current home) and even Centerville, Ohio at St. Leonard's. More than anything, he spoke of how he has gotten into trouble for preaching in a, shall we say, liberal, rebellious way. He stated "it's not being rebellious when all I am doing is teaching the Gospel in a way that is relevant to people now, not 50 years ago." He admitted to being and having a very conservative point of view years ago, but that life, experiences and prayer, even contemplative prayer, has lead him to an alternative consciousness, an alternative orthodox view of our faith and spirituality." Richard told stories of how the bishop would call his provincial every so often regarding complaints, to what his provincials have stood by him and said "all he is saying is that we need to build the house for the poor instead of preaching about being kind to the poor." Get out and do something! Stop talking and start doing. That is what I kept hearing over and over again in my head. We, our faith, our religion is not meant to just be "churchianity, but christianity", he continued...
I am not doing service to his words, having only a small piece of paper with notes scribbled on to use, so for that, I apologize. In addition to what I already shared, I will also remember his reference to our society being so dualistic, that everything must be "win/lose". Why can't it be win/win?! "The Gospel is a win/win, not win/lose..." The Gospel is in our lives for the sake of transformation; the words, the message are meant to be transformative"- The essence of Christianity, the message of the Gospel is a gift. We need to be open to recieve that gift, treasure it, be grateful and then give it away, share it with those who perhaps need it the most. We must do, act, not just listen. But if we do listen, may the the message and even the messenger be relevant to our ears, because, as Richard said, "the message, even the messenger, is not necessarily what transforms, but it is the reciever who is transformed". The reciever is who is tranformed by the message and at times the messenger to change what needs to be changed, to do what needs to be done. Whatever "that" is of course, can be interpreted differently for each of us.
Last night, I was the reciever. I listened and was tranformed. No, I did not have a mystical epyphany, but what I experienced was more of a supportive, encouraging reminder of feelings, hopes and wants that lived inside me for a very long time. Many of those feelings, hopes and dreams are as practical as scheduling a class, finishing a book, but are also as deep rooted as being a better mother to my son, especially in challenging times and following professional dreams that seemed far-reached. I have been slowly waking up, but I am now awake, aware. Last night's message from Richard was, dare I say, perfect..."You have permission to trust YOUR own experience, to trust YOUR inner experience" To me that means that it is God talking to me, guiding me. Last night I felt the hug, the pad on the back and encouraging "you will be fine, you can do this, now go do it" from God or from all my guardian angels in heaven.
Thank you Richard Rohr, for the courage to be a man of God with the faith and confidence to not settle for status quo and for helping us wake up, stay awake and listen... Now that we have listened, it's time do DO!