Saturday, April 07, 2012

Summoned by Joy

I am very proud that at tonight's Easter Vigil I will sponsor one of my students as he is received into the Roman Catholic Church. Brother Boynton will be sponsoring another student from U of D Jesuit at the same celebration. It has been a great joy and a privilege to have accompanied both of these young men during their spiritual journeys, both as a teacher and as their RCIA mentor, and I hope my readers will join their prayers with mine for their ongoing process of coming to know, to love, and to serve Jesus Christ and His Church.

The anomaly of two normal, bright, young men entering the Church is not lost on me. Many of us are born into the Church and these guys are choosing to enter into it. They are fully aware that, as Herbert McCabe once put it,
The Church is quite plainly corrupt: a cardinal selects Christmas as the occasion for supporting the murder of Vietnamese civilians; the Pope alleges that the church's teaching is not in doubt about birth control; the Congregation of Rights has just asserted that a family communion celebrated in a private home and followed by a meal is a practice 'alien to the Catholic religion', while nearer home and more comically, a Bishop has expressed the fear that Catholics who sing carols in Anglican churches are endangering their faith and morals.
Yet, with Herbert, they feel that:
It is because we believe that the hierarchical institutions of the Roman Catholic Church, with all their decadence, their corruption, and their silliness, do in fact link us to areas of Christian truth beyond our own particular experience and ultimately to truths beyond any experience, that we remain, and see our Christian lives in terms of remaining, members of this Church. 
Deep within their hearts, Ian and Justin have felt a stirring and their response has led them to tonight's Easter Vigil. They know the Church and its members are far from perfect. In the rubble of sex abuse and a veritable crisis of authority, they still want to join our ranks. Why?

When I asked one of them, ultimately, why he wanted to join the Church his response was simple: "I want to be happy and you guys (the Jesuits he knows) are happy. I want what you have and if you find joy in the Church, then I want that, too."

No stranger to partisan politics, sometimes it appears that 'Good Catholics' bloodlessly follow the rules and 'Bad Catholics' pick-and-choose as though in a cafeteria line. Such labels, however, obscure what I think truly attracts women and men to a life of faith: joy. Indeed, as I look back upon my own life, I can't help but recall the joy of Father Steve, my boyhood associate pastor, the joy of the Jesuits at Saint Ignatius High School, Canisius College, and John Carroll University, the joy of the countless women and men I have met over these years who stay with the Church not out of obligation but because they find joy and in that joy have hope that we can rise to being the "Body of Christ."

Pray with me, please, that Ian and Justin come to know joy. They know already that joy must never be confused for ephemeral pleasures or fleeting sensations. True joy abides deep within us, summons us, encourages us, sustains us, and drives us. The joy of the Christian life comes to us in the person of Jesus Christ, who gives us his very own self in the Eucharist.

Saint Augustine wrote, "Be what you see, and receive what you are." Ian, Justin, and all the elect being received into the Church tonight:  receive tonight Joy incarnate and be a reminder to all the world - and in a special way, your Catholic sisters and brothers - that this is the Joy for which we all hunger.

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