There are lots of quotes about the importance of showing up in life, in relationships, or in business. But do we ever consider it in the context of spirituality? I think it’s a worthwhile vantage point, and it’s something I’ve been working on myself.
Especially here in Silicon Valley, there’s an ethos of hurrying up, of being time efficient, of getting things done. Showing up – and therefore spending time – is in many ways opposed to that fast pace of life that we have.
Spirituality refers to our relationship with God, most often experienced through one another, both those close to us and those not so close (sometimes even strangers). As with any relationship, time & effort are needed to nurture and grow spiritually. This can happen in terms of prayer, but also through action. Ideally, of course, Christian spirituality should include both time spent in prayer and time given to good work or deeds. (One spirituality writer notes that if our spiritual life is balanced, we should all crave time spent in prayer – a concept I understand, because we can all crave a good relationship with those whom we love, but suspect is not often experienced among the faithful.)
The balance between action & contemplation, or good deeds and prayer, is a much bigger topic than this blog can tackle, but let’s focus on action and specifically acts of “showing up”.
Showing up doesn’t have to be enormous. It doesn’t require weeklong service projects abroad. Those are fabulous ideas, and efforts, but what I’m suggesting is something more bite-sized. Here are a few ideas.
Funerals: Attend funerals, not just of your loved ones, but the funerals where those you love are mourning. Did your friend or neighbor just lose a parent, sibling, or best friend? Show up as support for your friend, even if you never met her deceased loved one. Attending will signal your support, and that you were willing to spend the time for her. Funerals are hard, they often rip open our own old wounds, so many people avoid them. Go anyway, even if it’s difficult for you. (And continue to be present long after the services are over, too.) Not only will you be supporting your friend, neighbor or co-worker, but your attendance will signal everyone else who’s mourning that they do not do so alone. How different it is to attend a packed funeral versus an empty one! Showing up speaks volumes, and on many levels. (more…)
Pope Francis seems to be the spirit of Vatican II personified. In the couple of months in which he’s been our pontiff, we have experienced one new breath of fresh air after the next.
Can you boil down his message, as a person, to a phrase or two? I’m not sure that it would do him or his charism justice, but what pops out the most to me is the word simplify.
Simplify the way to live. (He’s at the Vatican guest house, Casa Marta, not the papal palace. Forget the ermine laced cape, the red shoes, the gold cross – take all of it down quite a bit to a more ordinary level.)
Simplify the paths to holiness. (A homily this week talked about “removing obstacles” which some in the church put in place between the people of God and the sacraments; on a somewhat similar vein, he spoke of meeting non-believers and atheists in the place of “doing good”, and that Christ has redeemed all of us.)
Simplify the faithful’s access to him. (The popemobile is without bullet proof glass. He says Mass for the employees of the Vatican – they do not have to “get tickets” like everyone else. He drives his security detail crazy by mingling with people.)
There is much more, of course. But the simple approach is in line with his “poor church, for the poor” spirituality. And it is 100% in line with the Pact of the Catacombs, signed by a few dozen bishops and theologians near the close of Vatican II.
To better understand the Pact of the Catacombs, I commend to you an article from 2010 – please read all of it, but here’s a helpful, brief excerpt:
On November 16, 1965, just days before the close of the Council, about 40 conciliar fathers celebrated a Mass in the Catacombs of St. Domitilla. They prayed to “be faithful to the spirit of Jesus,” and at the end of the celebration signed what they called “the pact of the catacombs”.
The “pact” is a challenge to the “brother bishops” to live a “life of poverty” and to be a “poor and servant” Church as John XXIII wanted. The signatories, including many Latin Americans and Brazilians, who were later joined by others, agreed to live in poverty, reject all symbols and privileges of power, and place the poor at the center of their pastoral ministry. The text would have a strong influence on the theology of liberation that sprouted up several years later.
Does this sound familiar? It should. What we see in Pope Francis, and what was visible in him previously as the archbishop of Buenos Aires, is this “life of poverty”. The cardinals who elected the former Cardinal Bergoglio knew exactly what they were doing – inviting in the spirit of poverty and the spirit of service where in all of recent memory we’ve instead had the spirit of ruling monarch. Here we have “the first shall be last, and the last shall be first” lived beautifully. The Pact of the Catacombs was signed almost 50 years ago, but we are seeing it alive in our day. How fortunate we are to witness it.
Today is Holy Thursday, the day we celebrate The Last Supper and also the sacrament of ordination and the priesthood. Pope Francis gave a beautiful homily this morning on anointing, and that priests are to go out and find the needy, in essence, so that they can bring God’s love to them. He tells his listeners:
We need to “go out”, then, in order to experience our own anointing, its power and its redemptive efficacy: to the “outskirts” where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters. . . .It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord. . . (but instead) in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others
This was addressed to the ordained, but we Catholics are baptized as joining in Christ’s mission as prophet, priest and king – all of us – so it applies well to the laity also. (We do speak of “the priesthood of all believers”.) Where do we find God? How are we to be in the world? Pope Francis says we should not only do self-help courses and be introspective. We are to look outward and be people for others (very Ignatian), looking for those with the most need. Or as in the Prayer of St. Francis, rather than look internally for what we ourselves might need, we are to look outwardly and see what God would have us do.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
We are not all ordained deacons and priests, but we can all look outwardly to see where there is need around us. Sometimes the need is material, at others it’s emotional or physical – someone may need a lift to the store or to church, someone else may need company, reconciliation, an encouraging word or time to talk (or sit in silence). All of us are called to be instruments of God’s grace, that is, to bring the transforming love of God’s presence to others.
In Silicon Valley, there are so many opportunities to attend Mass that it’s very easy to drift from Mass to Mass and yet never feel a sense of belonging to the particular group with whom you are worshiping. This is a large metropolitan area. What can you do to forge a sense of belonging? It will take a little effort, but it’s well worth it.
Just like any other community, such as a neighborhood or work environment, relationships with people don’t just happen. Here are a few tips for Catholics wanting to feel more “at home” in their parish community – especially for those who’ve just moved to the South Bay.
- Find your best fit. Initially, you may do some “parish shopping” to find a community that feels most comfortable to you and your own spirituality. Here we have Mass and community in many languages, for instance. Seek out where you will be able to thrive and give. It’s ideal if you don’t have to travel far but no matter what, put some intentionality into finding the match and then decide to become an active member of that parish, attending Mass and functions there frequently.
- Be a regular. Try to go to the same Mass each week, make a point of meeting people (and write their names down if you want to). When you begin to call people by name, it will do a lot to increase both your and their sense of belonging! (Many Catholics in our diocese only go to Mass once a month. To feel that sense of being a part of the community, I encourage you to go weekly. In our hectic lives it is a struggle sometimes but well worth it on many levels, for many reasons.)
- Don’t pray & run. Ever notice how many people are present when Mass begins, at the homily, and after communion? Some folks run in after it starts and run out before it’s over. That’s a poor idea for many reasons, but one of them is that it makes a sense of belonging hard to achieve. Arrive a little early, say hello to a few people. Linger after, especially if there are refreshments which are there to encourage community building. Friendships take time – to feel that sense of belonging, you will need to slow down a little and meet people and cultivate friendships.
- Volunteer, join a group, get involved. If you can volunteer, you will meet people quickly. Not much time? Become a greeter. You may only need to be at the church 15 minutes before and after Mass, so this is easy if you are alone especially. Most parishes want someone at every door to welcome people to Mass. In some places, these are the ushers – and I have found that in a few parishes these are almost exclusively men. But give it a try. You will start to recognize others and be recognized by them too. And that is the beginning.If you have kids or a somewhat reluctant spouse or friend in tow who don’t really want to go to Mass early, consider some sort of involvement outside of Mass times. Many parishes have a wide variety of groups for spiritual growth, for ministry to others or just helping out at the parish grounds. My grandmother was a member of the altar society at her parish in Santa Cruz as my grandfather had over 100 rose bushes (a retirement hobby) and they could be put to very good use at the church. There are classes too, some of which are occasional and others which may run for a few weeks. I have seen many “mom & me” groups at churches too. Find at least one group, class, committee etc. and dive in!
One of the best ways to feel loved is to be loving. So too with parish communities – spiritual leaders are sometimes drafted, but more often step up, on their own, to do a job that needs doing. Want to feel welcome? Find a role where you can provide that to others. You’ll be surprised at how fast you will feel as though you belong.
Have a great parish where you felt really welcomed? Or a success story of making newcomers feel at home fast? I’d love to hear the stories here!
The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph, the seat of the Diocese of San Jose, hosts an annual free musical concert series, “The Season of Hope”, each year in the church. The December 2011 schedule begins on Dec. 12th and runs nightly through the 23rd with performances from 7:30pm to 8:30pm. Each year, different groups and individuals are showcased, so there’s lots of variety.
Find the entire lineup with details and some links on the parish website: