Sunday, 25 January 2009

What to do, then?

As is always the case on Anglican Wanderings, individual posts are the opinion of individual writers, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of other contributors. Given the sensitive nature of this topic, I think that this standard bears repeating. -Thom

Tax season is upon us in full force, and we at the library have had our tax forms out for people to pick up for a couple of weeks. Today an older lady came in, clearly confused about what forms she needed to get. She had a list of forms that her husband told her that they needed, so we set about gathering them up. As we were getting the forms, she told me that her husband usually takes care of filing their taxes, but he had just had open heart surgery. I smiled, and told her that I understood. After we got all of the necessary forms, she came over to my desk to ask how much she owed for them. I told her nothing, of course. She started shuffling through the forms, and found some sort of exceptions or deductible form for elderly and disabled persons, and she began to cry. She said she didn't think she'd ever have to file one of those. I tried to cheer her up and told her that lots and lots of people file for that exception. Then she told me that after her husband's surgery, his retina detached. (I'm not sure exactly what she meant, but I have a general idea.) She said that he had already lost vision in one of his eyes, and if they are not able to restore the retina's function he will be totally blind. She began to cry some more, and I comforted her the best that I could, smiling and laughing, but listening. When she left, her tears had dried.

This is the Gospel life. When others cry we cry with them, only not so they can see. We do what we can to dry their tears, and we listen, and we offer whatever comfort that we can.

When I read this morning that the excommunications had been lifted from the four schismatic SSPX bishops, my heart sank, and my blood pressure rose. I was hurt and angry, and really, I still am. But I went away to my desert, or as much as I could, and I thought. About God. About life. About the older lady from this morning. About visiting the Episcopal church up the street.

So many people have given up so much for the sake of Christ and his Church. I know that I have, and I continue to struggle with it everyday. To see a group of, in my mind, vile people, changed virtually overnight into a more acceptable group of (still vile) people because of some slick ecclesial-political maneuvering, floored me. No change was necessary. No concessions were made. No contrition, no give and take, and no conversion. I felt betrayed, and I felt angry, because no concessions were made for me. There was no dialogue, and there was no give and take. But then, somewhere during the course of working all day, going to Mass, and driving to Huntington and back, something clicked. Pope Benedict, in a move that I still do not understand and am not pleased with, extended his hand, one last time, I believe, to a group of people who for over thirty years have done nothing but cause scandal in the Church. Willing to give them one last shot at the unity with Rome for which they pay so much lip service. I pray that swiftly following today's declaration comes another, sharply condeming the actions of the last 30 years. The racism and the misogyny, the divisiveness and cruelty, and for allowing a monster like Williamson to shepherd so many poor, confused souls.

I hope that sooner, rather than later, the leadership of the SSPX will sit down with those in charge of such things in Rome, and talk. The Church will listen, yes, as they should. But it is the Church who should speak, and it is the SSPX that should listen. Fellay's PR release today showed much arrogance in his assertion that somehow the SSPX will now be able to lead Rome out of its "mess" created by the Second Vatican Council. This cannot stand. This is the time when those in the SSPX who truly seek reconciliation will find it, and those for whom controversy is the god to which oblations are offered will be sent away, no longer free to poison the waters of life.

I cannot say that I understand what the use of the SSPX will be if re-unification is attained. Like ammonium nitrate, their ministry can either be a nurturing one, fertilizing the rest of the mix, or their ministry can be a dangerous weapon. Their charism seems to be limited to offering the EF Mass, elevating fools to the episcopacy, and bucking against ecumenical councils of the Church. However, there is little doubt in my mind that if things work out, the SSPX will continue as a "priestly society," setting up shop to serve the lace and mantillas crowd. Not that there's anything wrong with that.... A problem that I foresee is the orders of religious in the SSPX. I have one particular in mind, the equivalent to the Order of which I am a member, but that's another story for another day, though a day sooner than I had originally intended to consider it.

Today is the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, and this is the Mass of the day, rather than a Sunday in Ordinary Time, through the gracious permissions of Rome. (A never-ending stream of graciousness lately, it seems.) How fitting that this is the Mass that I would hear this evening, because all day long I had been distracted from my own personal conversion, which is for all of us an on-going process, by the goings-on elsewhere. The story of Paul's conversion is a story of hope for us all, because if Paul could change from what he was into what he became, then there is no end of possibilities for us. Poignantly, there is also hope for the SSPX, and I pray that their bright light comes quickly. With the Offertory came a song that has great meaning to me, "Here I Am, Lord." I guess that brought it all home.

What to do, then? Continue in prayer to the One who matters (thank you, Davis), dry tears, and answer, "Here I am, Lord," when the call goes out in the night. What to do, then? Stand always alert against filth like that which has infiltrated the SSPX, and call it out and chase it out if it appears. What to do, then? Continue pressing on, regarding not the concessions made for this man or that man, but the one eternal concession that was made for us all, and is ever approachable with "child-like" faith to anyone who is willing to receive it.

Pax et bonum.