I got some messages of distress last night in response to Sister Simone Campbell speaking at the Democratic Convention. They were the same kinds of e-mails and other messages I received when Notre Dame invited Barack Obama to speak. The same kinds I get when a Catholic drives intrinsically evil policy, or otherwise gives it cover. They are messages of pain, anger, heartache. It all makes me all the more grateful that Cardinal Dolan is praying tonight, as he did last Thursday night, at a political convention.
Did you read the meditation in the indispensable Magnificat today? It’s from Madeleine Delbrêl who pleads:
We must continually strive to make the Church lovable. We must continually strive to avoid anything that would needlessly render Christ’s love indiscernible in the Church. It is a sin of omission not to give witness to the fact that the joy of being a child of God is something we possess in her, our Mother.
“There ought to be a certain family resemblance with the Church that shines through our lives,” she says.
“There is a certain witness to eternal life that comes about only in our being a sound in the Church’s voice,” she writes, and continues:
Her love is to a great extent in our hands. “It is in her souls that the Church is beautiful,” says Saint Ambrose. In our lives, the Church ought to be good; in our lives, the Christ-Church ought to love as he wishes, according to the movement of his love, according to the rules of his love, according to the demands of his love.”
“The direction of this love is a movement, an élan,” she explains. “From the moment Christ took to the road, he never again left it; at the end, the road was called the way of the cross.”
Never let your praying knees get lazy, and walk the Way like crazy, might be how a country song would translate it.
But back to the French laywoman, a Servant of God:
To Saint Peter, to whom he said, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church,” the first word he addressed to him was “Follow me,” and the last thing he said to him was “Follow me.” The final command he gave the Apostles was, “Go..,” “I have brought you together in order that you could go out…” This love is like an élan vital, surging out toward all the ends of the earth, whether they be geographical or social ends. This love is like an internal élan that surges out toward whatever is separated by sin and error. This love is like an élan seeking to find once again those whom Christ first set himself to pursue: the little ones, those who suffer, the poor.
Methinks this is what Cardinal Dolan is trying to do, the movement in which he is trying to lead us all. Methinks that’s what he means when he says, as he did to me last week after his prayer at the Republican Convention in Tampa:
Everything I do, I ask: Is this or is this not going to advance the Kingdom? Is this or is this not going to bring people closer to God? Is this or is this not going to serve the cause of Jesus in His Church?
Methinks this is why he is so insistent on this:
“In the human spirit, the two things, I believe, that are most noble” are, first of all, supernaturally, “to pray” and, naturally, “to have a meal with people.” He expressed his worry that “if we begin to politicize those two very noble ventures, then we are really in trouble, and I don’t know when we’re ever going to achieve any kind of progress or dialogue or advancement of the human project.” His prayer is that “to pray at both conventions is advancing the cause of unity. To have a meal with the two candidates at the Al Smith Dinner, I hope, is advancing the cause of unity.”
There are a whole lot of Christians not being Christian out there. Guilty? I know I am. There are some fundamentals we have to take care of (and daily). Yes, that absolutely includes principles for voting (see Archbishop Lori here), and that also absolutely, fundamentally means modeling Christian living, too. Living love, in His Love. Competing claims about the morality of budgets and platforms alone is not going to build the kingdom. Speeches at conventions alone won’t. We need to have those debates, and we need to have guideposts, which Catholic Social Teaching sets out. But we also need the proper posture, even in politics. A Christian one. And I think that’s what you see modeled with these two prayers.
And they are misunderstood, I think, if they are viewed as simply an affable media-friendly cleric finding common ground (Time magazine may make this mistake). It’s something much more profound. It’s an attempt to reset our approach, to move us truly toward Christ. Cardinal Dolan hears Follow me, and tries to bring along as many as will join him, to Christ. As every Christian is called to.
The lovability is not a harmlessness, but it is something revolutionary. It’s righteous living. And it’s the call of the Christian life, never getting off that road — with Christ, in Christ, to Christ.
Imagine if people truly listen to the prayers. Truly pray them. We can pray we do!