Monday, October 8, 2012
The Inevitability of Struggle and the Omnipresence of Grace
A week after my whole little family visited a parish and heard a Saturday afternoon homily so horrendous that it prompted a weekend of soul-searching conversations about why we stay Catholic, we all were blessed with homilies that confirmed our struggles and our journeys. I know the Church is not yet another consumer good, but this old Catholic has grown weary of homilists who try to harangue, discourage, threaten and scare their listeners. I know living one's faith isn't easy, isn't supposed to be easy, but I sometimes miss words from the ambo that can give me food for my journey.
My husband and older son attended the 5 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in Providence, Rhode Island, the city where our son was participating in the Providence Cyclocross Festival in Roger Williams Park. They both came home to report "the homily was good," though the cathedral only had about 70 worshippers. (A stained window from the cathedral is pictured above.) They said the priest was joyful and welcoming and spoke about how our Catholic Christian faith is a thing of joy and how often we forget that.
Back at my home parish, St. Peter the Apostle, I braced for the homily. The readings this Sunday were all about men and women, about how Eve was created from Adam's rib and how when a man and woman marry, they become one flesh. And how divorce is a no-no.
I don't have a dog in this fight in the sense that Greg and I married in the Church nearly 20 years ago. Our marriage was one of those easy ones for the priest. Both of us were raised Catholic and neither had been married before.
But, like my blogging friend Fran, I worried the homily would be all about how the Church needs to defend marriage in the public square against those seeking same-sex unions. And how our votes need to reflect that. It is, after all, a month before a national election.
Instead, Father Peter Cebulka began by explaining the Catholic understanding of what a marriage is, about why we consider it a sacrament, and not just a legal contract.
I am not really doing justice to his homily because I didn't take notes. But I remember his talking about how the Christian life involves suffering. Father Peter quoted an old hymn that says "If you want to wear the crown you have to carry the cross."
And he talked about St. Therese de Lisieux. The Little Flower often is seen as a sweet young girl, but she suffered greatly in her final years. We all suffer at times, Father Peter said. When St. Therese could no longer partake of the Eucharist, she was at peace, because, she said: "Grace is everywhere." Exactly what I needed to hear.