Friday, November 5, 2010

A YES to Evangelization and to Ecumenism

I'm flying to Alabama on Sunday for a taping of Women of Grace. The show is dedicated to "Bringing them Home" - and I cherish your prayers. I leave you with one of my favorite postings... Blessings.

Among my favorite memories of childhood is the memory of sitting at the dinner table and hearing my dad recite poetry. It was usually some dramatic monologue he’d memorized decades earlier while attending his beloved Burr Ridge country school near Hillsboro, Wisconsin. This command performance on the part of my father didn’t happen very often, but when it did, my sister and I would listen with total fascination as the words to “The Highwayman” or “Charge of the Light Brigade” tumbled from our father’s lips.

One of the last conversations I had with my dad was about a poem, only Dad wasn’t trying to entertain me that November afternoon. That day, the poem served as an object lesson. “Do you remember ‘Mending Wall’?” he asked. I said that I did.

As I sat beside his hospital bed, he quoted a few lines, Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, And spills the upper boulders in the sun, And makes gaps even two can pass abreast . . .

After a long pause, he told me to be the kind of person who tears down walls. It was a strange thing for him to say, considering we had been discussing something totally unrelated in the preceding minutes. I suppose everyone reflects on peculiar conversations like that after a loved one dies. I did, anyway.

Tear down walls. That’s a tough one. Our world is founded on dividing lines. They separate everything from countries to counties. They define what’s mine from what’s yours.

One of the things that delighted me when I became Catholic was that the Church has one deposit of faith, one common ground that is terra firma. Do you have a question on faith and morals? There is a place you can go for trustworthy answers speaking with one voice.

I was never a zealous Protestant (even though I was the daughter of a minister). Something has changed now. I believe the fullness of faith is found in the Catholic Church. And I can't keep quiet about it.

After my father’s death, I took some time to think seriously about Frost’s poem. I thought about how the speaker disagreed with his neighbor who thought fences were a good idea. The speaker casually asks his neighbor why good fences make good neighbors. Shouldn’t we just let the wall fall down? It seems inclined to do it anyway. Just look at all the rocks on the ground. Even nature seems to say fences don’t make good neighbors. But the neighbor just keeps on stacking the rocks on the dividing wall.

Jesus would probably agree with the speaker. Father make them one, as you and I are One. And I pray for those who will come after them. Make them one, so that the world will know that you have sent the Son. That was the Master’s prayer the night He was betrayed (John 17).

I read a portion on ecumenism from Vatican Council II documents the other day, and I had this feeling that, if I could just master what the authors of those documents had to say on this subject, I would have the key to this whole thing. I would know how to defend my faith and simultaneously tear down the wall that divides the Christian world. It sounds like a paradox, and maybe it is. Much of theology sounds paradoxical, too. Death into life. Son of God; Son of Man. The King of Kings born in a stable. A young virgin becomes the Mother of God.

The lesson I need to learn is really a lesson of the heart. Like all theological paradoxes, the key has everything to do with love and very little to do with persuasive argument.

It is a lesson that has come slowly. I'm better at it than I used to be, but not yet what I should be.

And yet, it is the key to synthesizing Ecumenism and Evangelization. As Catholics, we do not give a yes to one and a no to the other. We give a yes and a yes.

God bless you as you work to tear down the wall.

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