One year I planned my annual vacation in December. The drive from Charleston, South Carolina to Pensacola, Florida was rainy, chilly and dark. It took longer than the normal four hours to get to Jacksonville, Florida. Strong winds over troubled waters met shaking bridges. I tucked into the traffic but not too close. While praying for safe passage a Roseate Spoonbill crane flew over the highway. In native American lore these are symbols of strength who sweep obstacles out of the way. God speaks in the most surprising ways to restore our hope. Pope Francis reminds us that the proclamation of the Gospel always passes through the cross, may even be whispered and always provides hope. Most of the time it is the simplest, whispered, intimate messages of God that give me occasion to share hope (1 Peter 3:5).
When I arrived at mom’s house, I regretted that I had to unload the rental car and return it that evening. All I wanted to do was leave car, boxes, suitcases and briskly walk to the shelter of home. I took a deep breath to push open the door. Suddenly mom was there. Messy weather had not prevented her from listening closely for my arrival. She didn’t wait until I knocked on the door. She didn’t shout her welcome from the protection of a window. She didn’t text me to say, “I’ll see you when you get to the door.” There with an open umbrella she stood. Mom, the epitome of “A Church that is on the move,” one of the great themes of Pope Francis’ papacy. Home is the encounter with mom. Church is the encounter with Christ that we are called to facilitate.
Mom and I gathered up items from the car. On the sidewalk two of us, one umbrella, walked with great care. Slightly pushing the door with my elbow revealed a room filled with light and warmth, comfort and freshness. This, I thought, is what it is like to fulfill our call as tabernacles of God – to listen for others, to offer light and warmth in a sometimes cold and dark world – through love to “be servants of one another” (Galatians 5:13).
Some people are teetering on the edge of relativism and despair, as Miriam Stulberg was. She said that, among other things, the love and joy of Catholic friends led her to the doors of the Church. She had read the Gospels, but it was through Christians that they began to take on real meaning for her. She writes:
It is precisely in everyday life that power lies — the transcendent power of love. Every act of love and every effort to serve the other is used by Christ, who alone can change the world. (Miriam Stulberg)
Within a few minutes my sister arrived at mom’s house with her youngest daughter and two grandchildren. My home visit was now officially the Mystery of the Visitation. It was no small effort for my sister to drive out into the rain. She has lived with cancer for over eight years. Her joy on this occasion did not reveal any pain or fear. Swiftly the quiet house was filled with story, buzzing with life. We listened to music, shared revelations of God’s goodness, batted back errant toys to the kids, opened late birthday gifts and early Christmas gifts (in order to regift them). Soon food accompanied this gathering. The unwrapping of gifts, songs and a meal together were love made visible, sacramentals.
This domestic church, reveling in sacramental moments, was united with the larger Church where Christ joins us to himself in and through the sacraments. Gerhard Lohfink in Jesus and Community “makes the case that in a day riddled with individualism, it has always been God’s intention to work through a visible, tangible, concrete community that lives as a contrast-society in the world, for the sake of the world,” J.R. Woodward notes in a review of the book. Our Catholic faith is also about encountering Christ in one another and becoming an open door to Jesus Christ.
The love and joy in Mom’s house happened because of our journey toward the other, a domestic church on the move, the gospel lived. St. John Paul II invites us to put aside our feelings of inadequacy to walk toward the other in love. “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures,” he said, “we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.” We are asked to trust God and surrender our vision of success, of the right time and perfect opportunities. It is the faithfulness of Christ Jesus, not our own efforts, that allows us to be Christ for another.
Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. (2 Cor. 3:12)
Recommended: Mary Lou Rosien’s article in CATECHIST magazine, Encounters with Jesus: 50 ways to help facilitate that with children, youth, and adults
Here is a prayer of Consecration to the Most Holy Trinity, written by Blessed James Alberione, that unites our intentions with that of the first and greatest community of love – the three Divine Persons.
Divine Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
present and active in the Church
and in the depths of my soul, I adore you, I thank you, I love you!
And through the hands of Mary most holy, my Mother,
I offer, give and consecrate myself entirely to you
for life and for eternity.
To you, Heavenly Father, I offer,
give and consecrate myself as your son/daughter.
To you, Jesus Master, I offer,
give and consecrate myself as your brother/sister and disciple.
To you, Holy Spirit,
I offer, give and consecrate myself as “a living temple”
to be consecrated and sanctified.
Mary, Mother of the Church and my Mother,
who dwells in the presence of the Blessed Trinity,
teach me to live, through the liturgy and the sacraments,
in ever more intimate union with the three divine Persons,
so that my whole life may be a “glory to the Father, to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit.” Amen
Copyright 2020 Sr. Margaret Kerry, fsp