holy lights

holy lights

you might think i was lighting vigil lights for my exhausted self, trying to keep the juices flowing just a few more sentences, a few more rounds of edits and revisions. but, in fact, i dipped into my files to find a snap from one of the holiest places i have ever knelt: deep inside the thick stone walls of the monastery by the bend in the charles river, far off now, in 02138.

i’m lodging it squarely on the page this morning because today, as i madly type, at least one more day, i am bringing to the table two bits of holy wonder: the first is a peek inside that monastery, a lovely video clip of a day in the life of brother geoffrey, brother superior of the society of st. john the evangelist. it’s the closest thing i’ve found to taking you by the hand, shoving open the oh-so-heavy oak-timbered doors, and tiptoeing across the hushed stone floors. for those among us who hunger for the occasional dose of monasticism, here’s your peek inside.

the next bit of wonder — and it truly is nothing short of modern-day miracle — is a mind-blowing interview with the new pope, francis, as he sits down with the self-proclaimed atheist founder of the italian newspaper, la repubblica.

there is a deep ecumenical thread to what’s brought to this table, and i certainly haven’t had much to bring from my old catholic church in recent years, but this pope francis is worth a watch. a close watch. and i am watching more and more closely all the time.

at rather a quick clip, he is racking up reasons to pay attention: he reaches into the throngs and embraces the disabled (he lifted into his arms a boy with cerebral palsy, a modern-day pieta, indeed — and on easter sunday, no less). he washes the feet of the sinners. he flicks away the papal apartment, opting instead for austere and simple digs. he drives a used car, for cryin’ out loud (and urges all priests and nuns to do the same). and, best of all, he wouldn’t know a prada if it hit him in the head.

well, check out this latest: he calls up common folk — that’s right, he dials them on his own, gets them on the line — and invites them over for a splash of coffee and conversation. and he sure doesn’t limit his phone calls to confirmed believers. he reaches out to anyone who’s reached out to him, or who might simply offer a stimulating hour’s conversation.

but even more than what he’s doing, it’s what he’s saying that makes me lean in close, listen hard, widen eyes, and fist-bump the heavens, holy hallelujah.

of gays, he said: “A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will — well, who am I to judge him?”

on abortion and contraception: church hierarchy has been “obsessed,” the word he used, the word that stole headlines.

but i think it’s in the next few lines that the true wisdom is found:

“We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.”

here’s the link to the whole of that interview, in the jesuit magazine, america.

and my favorite line from that entire interview:

“I see clearly,” the pope continues, “that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds….”

…the church as a field hospital after battle….heal the wounds, heal the wounds…

ah, but it’s the latest interview, the one in the italian-language repubblica, that i set out to bring here (it’s dizzying, there is so much unfurling so swiftly from the vatican…).

even the big thinker andrew sullivan had his socks knocked off, by the latest. called the pope nothing short of “revolutionary,” and what he said, “miracle.”

i’m thinking that’s precisely the prescription for these times, a revolution laced with miracles.

one last bit of papal poetry, a line worth etching into your living room walls:

“God is the light that illuminates the darkness, even if it does not dissolve it, and a spark of divine light is within each of us.”

finally the link to andrew sullivan’s musings in his blog, “the dish,” and the repubblica interview itself.

as sullivan puts it: “I urge you to read it, whether you are an atheist, an agnostic, a believer or anything in between.”

and i do, too. get comfy. please, pull up a chair.

now, back to typing, stirred by revolution. your thoughts on the vatican’s radical resident, the first in a very long time?