Monday, June 01, 2009

gift of tongues

Year after year, my preaching on Pentecost Sunday is the equivalent of a blow out loss for an otherwise respectable, over .500 ballclub. I flounder. I misspeak. I pitch around the heavy hitters like a wuss. I say as little as I dare as quickly as possible just to be done and gone before the congregation bursts into deprecating giggles.

The chronology is a mess, for starters.

Luke has the disciples all huddled together fifty days after the discovery of the empty tomb. John describes the advent of the Holy Spirit as the apparition of the Risen Lord on the first day of the week following His Passion. Sacred Scripture points to the Spirit living and active in creation, manifesting Himself in different capacities throughout the entire narration of salvation history.

The community is enlightened, emboldened. The universal presence of the very singular Savior is established in a mysterious covenant with human freedom that will flourish throughout this final phase of history.

It is as if the veil is lifted on all that is good, true and beautiful to show its primal source... its original author.

The Holy Spirit appears as the one unbreakable strand that holds humanity back from the edge of the disaster we teeter on so precariously. The Spirit renews all things and assures us that God’s loving providence will, ultimately, win the day.

See? On Pentecost Sunday I babble like that for a few minutes and swiftly get on with the celebration of Mass.

The pending canonical visitation may be a Pentecost of sorts for the LC. A promising wind is blowing and I can only pray that it will shake the whole house to the foundations. Hopefully the cowering disciples will shake off their fear and indifference and give into the mighty impulse of truth and transparency.

The PTB will smile bravely and offer the usual platitudes about what a blessing the Vatican intervention is and how willingly the institution will collaborate...

But it is up to the rank and file to seize this opportunity, this open forum that the Spirit has initiated, and speak from the heart. The legitimacy of the continued existence of our religious family is on the line. The future of our congregation and its works of apostolate, the credibility of our vocation as LCs depend on what we do now.

Do not wait to be called. Demand to be heard.

Do not waste time with pet peeves or petty grievances. Don’t be intimidated or confused by the official talking points. Do not hesitate out of a false sense of loyalty: the betrayal that was committed was not ours.

Go to the essence of our experience as Legionaries. Speak openly and without reservation about formation, methodology, charism, ecclesiology, freedom of conscience, mechanisms of control, priorities, relationships inside and outside the LC, transparency, communication, trust and credibility. Don’t hide the outrage and hurt of the past few years seeing the myth collapse and the bubble burst. Don’t pretend that nothing has happened. Don’t forget that we have received tremendous gifts in spite of the lies and duplicity that darken the history of our congregation.

If it is a clichè, it is because we have made it so. But Jesus meant it when he said it: “The truth will set you free.”

Recently the Superior General wrote us a long, sentimental letter about his trip to the Holy Land as part of the entourage of Pope Benedict on his historic visit. Instead of waxing poetic on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, perhaps a straight forward, no-spin letter about something that actually matters to the members of the congregation might be in order. I suggest a letter about the tremendous historical event we are about to experience: the visitation.

What is a visitation? Why is the LC being submitted to this extraordinary canonical process now? What precise finality does the visitation seek? How can we prepare for it? How can we all participate in it? Who can we write to? Who can we speak to?

Some of our guys actually think that the primary task of the visitation is to delve into the dalliances of Fr. Maciel.

Perhaps new victims will turn up, maybe yet untold horrors will be unearthed. Certainly the shredders on Via Aurelia have been churning fast and furious since the ball of twine began to unravel, making new revelations more unlikely.

But, as far as the future of the LC is concerned, does it really matter whether he fathered four children or ten children? If the abused seminarians of his egregious career are “more than twenty and less than one hundred”, does an exact number effect the survival of the order?

The visitation is about us, the LC and its inner workings... everything from silly norms of urbanity to finances, from the competence of its superiors to the freedom of conscience of its members...

If this is the moment of truth, it is also the moment of grace.

Let the Holy Spirit move where He will...