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Katie van Schaijik

Being in the heart of the church

Oct. 23 at 10:42am

Last night friends Joseph and Marie Cabaud Meaney hosted us for a lovely dinner at their home outside of Rome. It was so wonderful to see familiar faces, and to feel their goodness and friendship. Joseph works for Human Life International. Marie studied with us in Liechtenstein, and taught for awhile with Jules at Villanova. She's an expert on Simone Weil, and writes for us sometimes.  Her father and mother were in the von Hildebrand circle in NYC. I wish I had thought to take a picture!

We got back to our apartment late. Then my alarm went off at 6:15. This is not normal for me. A cup of coffee, and Jules and I were off on bicycles through the still-dark streets of Rome, letting the boys sleep in. We arrived at St. Peter's right on time, as the sun came up and the bells rang 7:00 a.m.  Cousin Fr. Bob had told us to meet him by the Swiss guards in Piazza Uffizi, just to the left of the Basilica.

Reader, we couldn't get there. The place was one gigantic mass of humanity. Thousands and thousands of pilgrims were cramming up against the barriers all around the square, in the hope of getting a seat at the Wednesday audience with the Pope set to begin two hours later.

We jumped the barriers and tried desperately to make our way forward, but the police were not understanding about this, and we were promptly escorted back to the crowd.

We reached Bob by email. Jules stood on the base of one of the columns. They could see each other over the throng and wave. But there was just no getting through. No moving forward at all. By this time the square had opened, but the entire crowd had to pass one by one through a security machine. This made them all push ahead more urgently. Finally, we decided to forget the idea of Mass in the Basilica and meet for coffee outside the crowd. Bob worked his way along the buildings on one side of the street, we worked our way along the another, until we met. "This is the Francis effect," he said. But he also said, "I've never seen it quite like this."

We went for coffee at a shop run by third order Franciscans. They lit up when they saw Bob. "Bonjourno, Padre!" Bob said they love him because he brought Cardinal O'Malley there once or twice. The Italians love Cardinal O'Malley. They open their hearts to all things Franciscan—to poverty, humility, simplicity, kindliness, holiness.

After coffee, Bob took us into the Basilica through a back way. It was too late for us to do Mass there, but we could wander through its overwhelming, sacred immensity almost alone. We have been there before, but not without the chaos of crowds. We stopped at the tomb of JP II—too briefly to do more than take a picture and inwardly offer him our love and intentions. But it was a great gift to be there that way, in such peace and quiet.

Standing beside my cousin there, I had a flashback to our grandmother's living room and the annual Christmas photo.  She died when I was only 8. But I know she's praying for her grandchildren from heaven.

Bob said he would say Mass for us in the chapel of the CDF instead. We had to pause at door leading there, to let a line of priests and bishops and cardinals pass ahead of us. Bob said, "There's Cardinal Pell."

The palazzo that houses the CDF is lovely—simple and unpretentious.

Its chapel is intimate and beautiful. The three of us had it to ourselves.

We didn't have a lectionary, so we read the readings with the help of our Magnificat app. At the prayer of the faithful, we offered prayers for all our friends and family—everyone we love, all our children and godchildren, everyone who needs prayers.

Emerging from the CDF at 10:00 a.m., we found the square still massed with pilgrims.  Greetings in German were coming over the loudspeakers. (I'm sorry I didn't get a better picture.)

My heart was so lifted with hope by the whole experience—hope for us, hope for the Church.

And though the last lights off the black West went

Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.


 

Samwise

Awesome, family reunion inside the Family HQ!

#1 - Oct. 23 at 3:37pm | quote

Katie van Schaijik

I agree, Samwise!

#2 - Oct. 24 at 2:02am | quote

 

Patrick Dunn

"'This is the Francis effect,' he said."

Well, one facet of it. 

The collective "Francis effect" as I've observed it in the Catholic world is a lot of confusion. 

Many people who are otherwise irreprochable for their orthodoxy do not know what to make of Pope Francis - and some, worse off, their faith now. 

#3 - Oct. 24 at 2:55pm | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Patrick Dunn, Oct. 24 at 2:55pm

"'This is the Francis effect,' he said."

Well, one facet of it. 

The collective "Francis effect" as I've observed it in the Catholic world is a lot of confusion. 

Many people who are otherwise irreprochable for their orthodoxy do not know what to make of Pope Francis - and some, worse off, their faith now. 

Bob—whose job is doctrinal enforcement—counsels the people who are worried to be patient. 

Meanwhile, the throngs in front of the square today weren't exhibiting confusion, but joy and devotion.

#4 - Oct. 24 at 3:20pm | quote

 

Patrick Dunn

Katie van Schaijik, Oct. 24 at 3:20pm

Bob—whose job is doctrinal enforcement—counsels the people who are worried to be patient. 

Meanwhile, the throngs in front of the square today weren't exhibiting confusion, but joy and devotion.

That's actually another worry: that the cult of the Papacy (and, especially the cult of the personality of the Pope) is the reason for the joy and devotion.  Neither of those are intrinsic to orthodoxy. 

#5 - Oct. 24 at 3:34pm | quote

Katie van Schaijik

I cannot understand those who call it that and who treat the love and devotion expressed by the faithful for the Vicar of Christ, the Holy Father, as a cult of personality.  It's ugly and demeaning.

What he, like especially his two most recent predecessors, offers to the world is Christ.  It's that spiritual power that makes him so loved.  He isn't glorifying himself.

And while it's true that we can have Catholicism even with an unlovable pope in office, shouldn't we be rejoicing with joy and gratitude whenever we are granted one who is so manifestly Christlike in his service to the Church?

Are we supposed to prefer a mere officeholder?

#6 - Oct. 25 at 2:31am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

If the crowds were about a "cult of personality", how is it that they have responded so similarly to three such very different men?  Wojtyla was an outgoing Pole, a poet, a philosopher and a mystic, who paid little attention to administration; Ratzinger a reserved and refined intellectual; Borgolio a jovial Argentine emphasizer of poverty and simplicity.

The faithful are responding to them as they have responded to the saints throughout history.  Holiness attracts. 

This was the gist of the homily we heard from Cardinal Poupard on Sunday. Relying heavily on a recent sermon by the Pope, he spoke of the priority of personal holiness in the New Evangelization.  "The very existence of a saint is a call."

#7 - Oct. 25 at 2:41am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Another beef I have with traditionalists: They often write and talk as if "orthodoxy" is a synonym for the Faith.  But it's not. The faith is no more reducible to orthodoxy than a person is reducible to his skeleton.

To be orthodox is to accept the Church's teachings in all their doctrinal integrity. But orthodoxy not the goal of our Faith; sanctity is—an all-encompassing personal union of love with God.

A person can be completely orthodox while missing out on the essence of our Faith almost completely. A resounding gong.  A clashing cymbal.

#8 - Oct. 25 at 4:30am | quote

 

Samwise

That explains why a friend of mine recently said, "God loves the family more than orthodox belief"  It's Love that matters, not correctness of moral interpretation (as long as sin isn't involved).

#9 - Oct. 25 at 8:25am | quote

 

Samwise

Let me re-phrase that last part: 
It's Love that matters, insofar as God's law is geared toward Love and not accusation.

#10 - Oct. 25 at 8:34am | quote

 

Patrick Dunn

I cannot understand those who call every expression of supposed devotion something spiritual.  How can they so easily discern and judge such a thing?  It could be emotional or the bandwagon phenomenon.  A claim like ”It’s fun to be Catholic again!” is as specious as it is telling.    

I am skeptical precisely because of the “Francis effect.”  If it is actually true that this is simply in line with the same enthusiasm shown to the last two predecessors (whatever that was worth), then how can we even note a particularly  Francis effect at all?  Something must be different now.  But has there been resurgence in faithfulness to the Papacy in its authentic and God-given authority and charism?  What I am seeing instead is a lot of “I like this Pope” or “This Pope is what we have been waiting for.” 

...

#11 - Oct. 25 at 11:05am | quote

 

Patrick Dunn

That we prefer an officeholder to a holy Pope is a false dilemma, and does not address the confusion of some Catholics besides.  Of course, a Pope who is personally holy is a desirable thing in itself.  But personal virtue does not equate to the fulfillment of duty nor does it mean that, absent said virtue, we are left with simply an “officeholder.”  Some Catholics are concerned because a seemingly personally holy man can communicate some great insight on the Christian life and yet generate such confusion by the misleading things he says otherwise.  That other Catholics appear to be too enamored with the Pontiff to either notice their brethren’s confusion or to care about it is what I find ugly and demeaning – and demoralizing. 

What Catholics want and need, first of all, is a Pope.  We need that discernment of truth only he can give us.  And that, precisely because we want and need God.  There is some serious unbalanced ultramontane moralizing that is being exerted by Francis enthusiasts in certain parts of the Catholic blogosphere and elsewhere.  It is misguided, not Catholic.  It may even be on par with mistaking complete orthodoxy as the fullness of Catholic Faith.  At least orthodoxy is a necessary ingredient. 

#12 - Oct. 25 at 11:07am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Patrick Dunn, Oct. 25 at 11:05am

I cannot understand those who call every expression of supposed devotion something spiritual.

Well, devotion is something spiritual, is it not?

It may be false or true, well-grounded or groundless, but religious devotion, like love, like faith, is a thing of the spirit.

And devotion to this pope has very solid objective grounds. He is, after all, the Pope—the duly elected Vicar of Christ on earth. He has, moreover, a reputation for personal holiness and doctrinal soundness. 

And then there have been his words and choices and gestures and emphasis since his election. These all convey a definite impression. He is a man devoted to God and to the Church in a particular way. He is Franciscan in spirit. He wants to be close to the people; he wants the hierarchy to draw closer to the people; he wants to "make a big brotherhood," and the faithful are responding to him.

Some of the faithful are responding to him more than they did to Pope Benedict or JP II.  This is normal and to be expected. 

#13 - Oct. 25 at 12:18pm | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Patrick Dunn, Oct. 25 at 11:07am

What Catholics want and need, first of all, is a Pope.  We need that discernment of truth only he can give us.  

Is there really any difficulty in discerning the truth our Church teaches? If so, I don't see it. 

Are you personally confused on any particular point that you think remains to be clarified?

It seems to me the CDF is doing a crackerjack job of promulgating the doctrines of our faith.  

And remember, the Pope is not only a teacher, he's also a father, a pastor, a personal presence.

#14 - Oct. 25 at 12:27pm | quote

 

Samwise

@Patrick,

Thanks for the blog reference.  It's a dramatic cry for help, but legitimate in the face of many recent martyrdoms in the middle east.  Let's not forget that Francis said upon being installed, "If we profess Christ without the cross, we are worldly". 

If you read his homilies as Archbishop (http://www.arzbaires.org.ar/inicio/homilias.html) they are equally convicting and forcefully zealous.  The question is, "has he lost some of that zeal since settling in as Pope?"  Because, I assure, he was not 'liked' for his zeal in Argentina!  Look at the news for his relationship with president Kirchner over gay marriage.  Nevertheless, it is a legitimate question to ask whether he has become 'luke-warm'.  Time will tell...

#15 - Oct. 25 at 1:09pm | quote

 

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