Monday, August 15, 2016

Push in the Right Direction

Today is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a day commemorated by entering religious orders (and anniversaries thereof) and a round of Marian piety in the Catholic social media universe. The Gospel today features the Magnificat, a wonderful prayer in its own right, and today a reminder of the personal particularity through which the Christian faith comes.  

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.”

Through Mary God accomplished the salvation of the world.  And through Mary the Christian tradition's penchant for antitriumphalism and unmerited grace see its first and greatest exemplar.  The Marian charism, especially with Pope Francis' support, will remain a revitalizing force within the Church.

Today is also the 27th anniversary of my first real encounter with Roman Catholicism.  In the days before the Fall semester in 1989, I spent some time with some Wabash College guys seeing the sights around Nafplion, Greece.  One morning--August 15, 1989--I was, like all 20-year old college boys, lying around doing absolutely nothing.  Then the host, a Wabash classic professor, blustered at me:


Slouched in a chair and half-awake, I responded:  "Uh, but I'm not Catholic...."  


So out I went--to a Roman Catholic church that had once been a mosque during the Ottoman occupation.  I arrived a few seconds early, sat near the back, and desperately flipped through a missal but wound up winging it through Mass.  I knew I was supposed to make the sign of the cross--but wasn't sure when. I heard the word "Assumption" a couple times but had no comprehension of what it mean.

That first Mass set the stage for the rest of the year which I spent in Rome itself.  I have blogged about that experience here.  It took some time for even those months to sink in;  I didn't enter the Church until Easter 1992.  But the process--and much of what animates this blog--started it across the Adriatic in Nafplio.  Teachers, take note:  keep pressing your students--you and they never know where the paths that you advocate lead.

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