Over the last two weeks I have helped to oversee, hang, and re-hang enormous banners used to promote the candidacy of the ten juniors seeking Student Senate office, produce a Convention complete with speeches and a confetti cannon, run an "Evening with the Jesuits" for guys who have the qualities and traits we think would make them good Jesuits, sell tickets for and run the senior prom, and finally plan and execute a "neon light" dance for the students of our Academy. This is all in addition to going to a board meeting at Walsh Jesuit, seeing my family on Mother's Day, and trying to teach my classes. Busy two weeks, indeed!
Now, we just have the Baccalaureate Mass tomorrow, Graduation on Tuesday, the Senior All-Night Party following Graduation, and then I'm giving the Invocation at the Band Banquet on Wednesday evening. Does the busyness ever cease?
I always have some bedside reading to accompany my journey into slumber. Currently, I am reading a book by Father Thomas O'Meara entitled Erich Przywara, S.J. His Theology and His World. It's an interesting book addressing the thought of (in English speaking circles) a little-known yet highly influential German theologian.
Przywara (1889-1972) lived through the Weimar Republic in the wake of the First World War. During my studies at Fordham, I had the opportunity to attend an exhibit at the Met entitled Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920's. Nearly four years later, I am still haunted by the arresting images produced by these artists.
The atrocities of world war surely etched and influenced the thought of Przywara. Describing his thought, O'Meara writes:
...Courage is needed, courage to seek a fuller truth, courage to realize that belonging to God and damnation are present in our times, for the Christ and the Antichrist are face to face. The Catholic answer is a ceaseless surrender of the world, life, and self into the omnipotence of the one Creator of all out of nothing; and the commitment to be an instrument of the creator out of nothingness as his creation continues. Christianity is not measured by anxiety and withdrawal; its mission and work are 'a ceaseless giving of self in the objective service of God.'Sometimes it seems like a temptation to think that becoming a Christian, or being an avowed believer, is going to make one's life easier. It's as though "finding faith" is meant to be a talisman that wards off the bad things in the world. Sadly, this is idolatrous thinking. Rather than giving an escape from the evil and suffering in the world, authentic Christianity thrusts you into the heart of it. It is as though the assent of faith delivers you into the heart of the battlefield where you are called upon to "fight and not to heed the wounds" armed only with courage and the faith that you are on the side of the Creating God.
Christianity is not an easy answer, nor is it an opium. Opium or narcotics diminish pain and make a person oblivious to suffering. My Catholic faith does the exact opposite: I cannot help but to be familiar with the pain and suffering of the world, its crimes and injustices, and it pierces me to the core. My faith mobilizes and emboldens me for action...it does not anesthetize me. The experience of being called into God's ongoing drama of creation is where I find strength and the courage to continue. If I do it with something of a sense of humor, perhaps it is only to invite other people into accepting the omnipresent cross into their own lives.
The darkness and suffering of the world do not incite within me a desire to withdraw. Marked by my baptism, inspired by the witness of others' self-giving, and fed by the Eucharist, I continue to give myself as best as possible and to invite others to do the same. Although it sometimes seems fruitless, I look to the last two years of teaching as the best opportunity that I've ever had to bring the Gospel to the open hearts of very willing students. It is amazing to see what can happen when the Gospel takes root in a young person's life and the way that its flowering can change a life. This is not easy, nor always clear, but it has brought me an enormous amount of joy and satisfaction. For all the busyness of my own life, the chances I have to call people to join God's symphony of creation is one of the deepest and most joyful graces I could imagine.