Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Diocesan Pilgrimage: A Spiritual Zombie's Perspective

7:30 AM: Started out on the series of buses and trains that would get me to the Shrine on time. Wind through the poorest parts of inner-city Washington, listening to Mano Negra and trying to get a few more minutes of sleep.

9:30 AM: A multilingual rosary with reflections about the priesthood written by some nuns. Turn around and see the "dynamic duo" sitting behind me, looking less than dynamic. Recite the rosary mechanically with beads in one hand, camera in the other. Most of the decades start in Vietnamese/Korean/Tagalog but end in English. On the Spanish one, there are enough of us, we are loud enough, and we are used to following Marlene and so we pray the whole thing in Spanish. End with the Salve Regina sung in Latin, something I haven't done since Mike Kirwan's old Catholic Worker houses.

10 AM: Confessions -- bilingual upstairs, English only downstairs. Padrecito has reserved the Guadalupe chapel for himself. If I have any sins to confess (I'm sure I do and there are some who would consider this blog to be one of them), I'm too tired to remember what they are or be able to put them into words, so I just wander around the Shrine taking photos, with a stop to buy some lunch from the vending machines to eat later.

11:15 AM: Keynote address by Fr. David Thayer, the Sulpician coordinator for intellectual formation at CUA's Theological College. It's a little surprising to me and I wake up and start to take notes -- a) because it seems to be directed primarily at the priests and b) because it is pretty critical in a Year For Priests that has generally produced more ego-stroking and self-congratulatory rhetoric than usual.

Thayer tells his fellow priests that they have to start listening to the laity, stop complaining about them and start collaborating with them, accompany them on the path Christ has chosen for them even if it isn't the one the priest would have chosen. Several times he stresses that the Church should work to include rather than exclude people. He suggests that an appropriate bumper sticker for priests would read "Remember John 1:20" ("I am not the Messiah").

Reflecting afterwards, I wonder at this choice. The speech is not intended for the average lay person (too theologically and linguistically complex), the priests who are there probably don't want to hear it, and the diocesan priests who most need to hear this message are not even present.

12 PM: Go outside on the Shrine's steps to scarf down the sandwich, chips and soda I had bought earlier. Padrecito and his priestly entourage come out. They are looking for the location of their catered lunch, provided by the bishop. I do not see them again. When I go back inside, I see the priests' exclusive lunch room, their buffet table and heaped plates. I see the cafeteria where the lay people wait in long lines for limited table space, and I remember our people, sitting on the stairs outside, eating their bag lunches.

1 PM: Mass. Aside from the pomp and circumstance, the most impressive feature of this service was its serious attempt at multiculturalism. Both the responsorial psalm and the second reading were done in Spanish. The prayers of the faithful were read in seven different languages and at the end, Bishop Loverde even made a few remarks in his Italian-accented Spanish.

4:30 PM: Home at last and time for reflection. The day was such a strange mixture of pre- and post-conciliar theology and images. I felt like a stranger in a strange land. My hermanos/as in the Renovacion? Mostly absent. The diocesan social activists? Mostly absent. Another gig over and done with. I'm a spiritual zombie, just an outside observer, and my camera and I are tired.

I recharge its batteries, eat a leftover burrito, pray for Padrecito to have a safe trip to Puerto Rico, and go to bed.

1 comment:

  1. I hope that all this pomp and circumstance is worth anything in the spiritual spheres, if not what a joke. Do you all realize that there is people that by just seating on a stone at the edge of the river and watching the coming and going of seasons and the water flow and the morning due, can achieve God consciousness in an instance?
    I really do hope that Jesus comes back and tell us if we are doing the right thing here.