Thursday, August 08, 2013
Thoughts between Sixtus and Laurence
I am not sure why Archbishop Pozzo went back to Ecclesia Dei but I think it is significant that his successor as Almoner to the Holy Father Msgr. Konrad Krajewski has a reputation for going around Vatican City collecting left over food, even from the Pope's own table, to redistribute to Rome's hungry. Apparently beggars taunt stingy ecclesiastics by asking, 'What would Pope Francis say?'
Yesterday was the commemoration of the martyrdom of St Sixtus II and his companions and Saturday is the feast of St Laurence the deacon, Pope Sixtus' 'Almoner' who would have been martyred with his Pope and four other Deacons, except he was sent to collect 'the treasure of the Church of Rome'. During the days between the two feasts he gathered all the poor, the widows, the orphans, the sick together, all who the Church cared for and brought them to the Emperor, crying out, "Behold the treasure of the Church of Rome, O Emperor". Consequently the Emperor not best pleased had him slowly barbecued to death.
There is a sub-story to these last few days of Laurence's life, which is that he sent to his native Valencia the Holy Grail, which still exist today, and apparently is a 1st century Palestinian chalice. It was never returned to Rome and was used by Pope Benedict on his visit to Spain. One can imagine Laurence quite frenetically trying to organise things before his death, safeguarding the sacred, trying to send some people away from Rome, organising continuing care for the poor during the sede vacante brought about by Sixtus' martyrdom, and presumably knowing he wouldn't be around to see the new Pope, who from the moment of his election would be a marked man and would probably also perish in Valerian's persecution. For Laurence, I suspect as prepared for his end must have thought it was more or less the end of the Roman Church.
It is interesting that Sixtus' companions were actually deacons and not presbyters. Following my last post someone asked what should we do with a Church crisis. The obvious answer is, "Do whatever he tells you".
The Church has a real credibility problem, if people do not believe in her teaching, then they will not believe in her, if they do not believe her they will not believe in Christ and are lost. The deacons of Rome where essentially the Church's administrators, assisting the Pope in the Liturgy but also involved in preparing the sacrifice, the care of sacred things and the discipline of the Church, in the Roman Rite, unlike many of the Eastern Rites they were the ones who proclaimed the Gospel. It is worth remembering St Francis was a deacon, not a priest. I suspect what we should do is what Pope Francis seems to be doing and what Francis and Laurence did and what I hope the Pope intends Msgr. Krajewski to do: to gather the poor and to serve them.
There are two very obvious things Jesus tells us to do, one very much ad intra "Do this in remembrance of me" speaking of the Eucharist to the Apostles but to the disciples it is ad extra. he says feed, clothe, visit. It is not just that we should do charitable things, it is about a movement away from self, it fits in with the Great Commandment: loving God and our neighbour in place of ourselves. Replacing self love with altruistic love for God expressed through our neighbour. That is the Gospel.
In the 20th Century the State took away from the Church much of those carefully built up social care organisations built up over the centuries, it was these that gave us credibility both to ourselves and to the world.
After the Second Vatican Council the Church became obsessed by itself, it became Churchy, obsessed by talk of internal structures; the roles of laity, clergy, religious, forever talking about the minutiae of theology; talking about the liturgy rather than praying it, talking about scripture rather than living it, debating morality rather than actually being moral. The nadir in England was the Intelligence Squared debate 'Is the Catholic Church a force for good?' The overwhelming response was, "No, it is not", it was not even considered good, that was hardly surprising. Scandals and inaction, the failure to do much that touches the lives of ordinary men and women have allowed the Church, our Bishops and Clergy to become the butt of humour rather than the 'Light of the Nations', for the media except as a source of negative news the Church has nothing to offer.
Christians need to reach out to the poor to learn to love, the Church needs to reach out to the poor in order to be the Church. The poor give the Church the dignity of meaning, otherwise we are just a pious club, a talking shop, if we do not give food for starving bodies we have nothing to give to starving souls. We must have need to show love tangibly, the Word needs to be made flesh.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake