Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Approaching Iona Through the Mist and the Fog

Years ago our friend Lindy, blind since shortly after her birth, wanted to be a vowed religious, but because of her lack of physical sight the only religious orders open to her were cloistered. Active religious orders refused her because she is blind. All they saw was her lack of sight.

In the past 20 + years she has worked as a therapist, and run a shelter for the homeless, addicts, alcoholics and ex-convicts, in a Catholic Worker house she opened for this purpose. SHE began and ran this ministry. She would have made a wonderful Mistress of Novices for ANY active religious community--training young religious in HOW to serve!!! She did all this under private vows as a hermit.

It seems to me that by focusing on only one aspect of a person the Church is blind to other aspects. In her case the focus on her lack of sight made the Church truly blind to all the gifts she had to share with any religious community or order, and with the larger Christian community!

Tonight I was talking with my RC women friends who are seeking ordination in the RC Church. I told them about our friend and that I believe it is by focusing upon the gender distinctions, especially as a reason to eliminate women from consideration for service as a priest, the Church again is blind--this time to all that women priests bring to the Body of Christ!

Funny how life works isn't it? God calls us all, and sometimes we are so sure of what we think we hear only to discover with 20/20 hindsight (the pun shared with Lindy today) that we only heard snippets of what was being said.

Today Joe and I spent the afternoon with Lindy talking and planning, and trying to hear God's voice in our mutual ideas and dreams, and later in the day she and I spent time playing our instruments and singing together as our shared prayer. Blind and all the gifts she has to offer rejected by the Church she loves! Yet her positive energy was a joy. I found myself thinking about our journey to Iona of the Heart...and how at times we travel through the mist and the fog of the spiritual life, of our spiritual communities or families, and yet our Iona is there, always there, seen or unseen. As we travel with eyes unable to focus clearly on the path, or on the future, we still do not travel alone. We have our Travel Guide, and indeed Christ is our vision. Today I walked into my living room to hear Lindy playing "Be Thou My Vision" on her flute. I stood for a few seconds trying to regain composure... Lindy has better sight than most people I know because she totally depends upon Christ to lead her. What God does with our lives is awesome, if we allow it.


Saturday, February 28, 2009

Approaching Iona...The Work of a Lifetime

When we read of St. Columba's journey to Iona it doesn't come across as a peaceful or joyful choice to "retreat" to the peace of the island as much as a self-imposed prison sentence, which is not far from what it was, resulting from his guilt. That's how the story is told. I always wonder about those stories. Just how true are they, how complete? What realities might be left out of the story of Columba which might detract from the piety of the story we read today, handed down through centuries?I wonder if it was truly self-imposed or if it was accepted by him as an imposed punishment, perhaps to save face, and then Columba made the best of it.

I have nothing at all to base that on but the fact that many stories of saints neglect to include the negative aspects of their personalities or their flaws, struggles or sinfulness. Today we have some wonderful movies about saints, and I am grateful for them and am the first to enjoy and promote them. However, I notice the traits that might make their true humanity clear, or even their slight unorthodoxy are omitted from the movies. I think of the temper of Padre Pio and the riots and deaths that resulted from the passionate response of villagers to the possibility of his being transferred from them. None of that was in the movie that I so love about his life... St. Therese who wanted to be a priest, yet who was ever-faithful to her Church...that desire was not portrayed in her movie, or talked about much in her story. So, what would make it any different for Columba? We like our saints saintly. Sometimes plastic. Columba, in royal line, with temper and human failings could just as easily have been told to get out of Dodge and don't come back. With Grace...his life became that of a saint's.

It seems to me the sinner-turned-saint is a much greater inspiration to the average human than plastic models who never war against inner demons (or outer ones), and who never question spiritual authority, which we all know can be prey to corruption every bit or more than the lowly sheep. Knowing a human has walked the walk of humans, and chosen to respond to the Grace of God offered, and turn toward God ever more determined, even after "backsliding" or sinning again, is much more encouraging to me than not hearing of their weaknesses and struggles with pride, or lust or greed or power. I find it comforting to know I'm among good company when I struggle with the same thing.

Iona, what I call the Vatican of Celtic Christianity, is for me a lighthouse of sorts, a beacon calling my heart to focus more and more on Christ, to live a contemplative Christian life in this world where I live and work and serve. Yet that beacon draws me daily... I have accepted that it is a life's work approaching Iona of the Heart. Bail o Dia ar an Obair or God Bless the Work!