Friday, August 10 2018
After Sue and I had returned from our summer vacation some years ago, a young boy in my Confirmation class asked whether I went to church while on vacation. I'm not sure what the look on my face was like: bemused, perhaps puzzled, maybe offended. Yet the answer was easy—of course I went to church. Certainly the temptation to sleep in presented itself, but, for me, if I had succumbed to the lure, the rest of my day would have been shallow and empty. Read the Sunday paper on line, enjoy the serenity of the lake, have a hearty and leisurely breakfast—I would have been nourished in a variety of ways (intellectual, contemplative, physical), but I would have been left bereft of the one thing that gives eternal sustenance. Not only did I go to church, but I also maintained a daily discipline of prayer and scripture reading while, impossible as it may seem to some, enjoying a relaxing four weeks with family, friends, and books, and more books.
Now such practices don't make me any holier than anyone else; rather, they illustrate an always growing realization that I am part of an unfolding drama, that I have a part to play in that story as it discloses itself, that I have an obligation to play that part as best I can. As many have taught me and as I have tried to pass on to others, to go to church while on vacation, to partake in the Eucharist, is a reminder that each Sunday the entire drama is re-enacted up until the present moment and offers me sustenance for a heart and a life that are hungry for nourishment.
As my hunger and thirst have been satisfied, as I have sat on the porch and drunk in the delights of a tranquil and beautiful Lake Champlain, as I have immersed myself in family and friends, in food and drink, in books and Wimbledon and the Yankees and more books, I offer you for reflection the following tidbits that have provoked daily thought and prayer this past month. Make of them what you will, but keep in mind the wisdom of Saint Paul in his letter to the young church in Rome: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
“I am glad that my son was here, but I want him to know that there is more to life than winning trophies”—Novak Djokovic in an interview after winning Wimbledon
“In a way it is even humiliating to watch coal miners working. It raises in you a momentary doubt about your own status as an intellectual and a superior person generally. For it is brought home to you, at least while you are watching, that it is only because miners sweat their guts out that superior persons can remain superior...all of us really owe the comparative decency of our lives to poor drudges underground, blackened to the eyes with their throats full of coal dust, driving their shovels forward with arms and belly muscles of steel”—George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier
“I'm a Roman Catholic, albeit a bad one. I believe in God and the whole business, but I love women best, music and science next, whiskey next, God fourth, and my fellowman hardly at all”—Walker Percy, Love in the Ruins
“We need to recognize that [the practices of the mall] are not neutral or benign, but rather intentionally loaded to form us into certain kinds of people—to unwittingly make us disciples of rival kings and patriotic citizens of rival kingdoms”—James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation
“Did Werner really think that Stalin's promises would be delivered and his stories were true because he had won the war?....Joseph had seen enough to know that really it hadn't had much to do with the stories that either Hitler or Stalin told to keep people obedient. Both of them shot people to keep other people obedient. And the war wasn't about history and grand ideas; it was about how many soldiers and how many tanks and bombs and trains and guns and aeroplanes—” —Lucy Beckett, The Leaves are Falling
With all blessings, Fr. John+