In 2014, I’m reading and blogging through Pope Francis/Cardinal Bergoglio’s Open Mind, Faithful Heart: Reflections on Following Jesus. Every Monday, I’ll be writing about the next meditation in the book, so you’re welcome to peruse them all and/or read along.
At the beginning of the chapter “Nurtured by the Church” Cardinal Bergoglio draws out parallels between the Church and Mary, the Mother of God.
Mary brings us forth and cares for us, and the Church does also. Mary helps us grom, and the Church does also. And at the hour of death, the priest bids us farewell in the name of the Church and leaves us in the arms of Mary. She is “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Apoc 12:1). That is the Church and that is the modest Virgin that our faithful people venerate. That is why in speaking of the Church we need to feel the same devotion as we feel for the Virgin Mary.
I love this kind of approach to teaching, theological or otherwise. By contrasting two ideas, I often find that I learn them both better, since looking for similarities and differences makes my understanding of each more concrete. I like sometimes, to pose myself the question of “What would happen if I treated Friend X the way I treat Friend Y?” and think about whether I’m ill-serving one or both of them, or if there’s a joy I could be sharing that I’m currently neglecting. Contrasting loves and affections helps me deepen them, since it gets me out of ruts and complacencies.
One of the prayers I make a lot is to share in Mary’s love for whichever particular person I’m currently having a difficult time with. I know this person is loved; I’m just missing out on that sensibility at the moment. Starting from the certainty that there is a love I could share in helps my try to find my way toward the sentiment. And, if I’m still stuck, I can think about the love that Mary has for me, or that I have for her, or even the one I’d like to have for her and see if there’s any part of it I can extend to mend my poor relationship with the person I currently dislike or feel indifferent toward.
Thus, I really liked one passage at the end of this chapter, where Cardinal Bergoglio is illustrating what our love for the Church should look like:
We’ve already talked about the responsibility we have to be sons and daughters of the Church and at the same time to create Church. Our love for the Church should lead us to make manifest to the world her holiness, her loving fruitfulness, and her discipline, all of which flow from her being totally Christ’s.
What he writes about the Church can again be translated back to how we love Mary, and I want to do more to translate it to how I love (or, aspire to love) other people.
When I interact with others, there’s plenty I don’t love, at first blush, but, since everyone I meet is called to the vocation of sainthood, there’s always holiness and grace present. If I can’t spot it, it’s a defect in my sight, not in the person I’m looking at. So, it should always be possible for me to rejoice in and make manifest to the world someone else’s holiness and love. The parts that I can’t recognize and embrace aren’t necessarily my concern. But there’s always a thread, if not a torrent of fruitful love that I can see and celebrate.
To be honest, I usually start out much more reserved/indifferent to acquaintances than average, so it tends to be a pleasant surprise when I actually get to know someone well enough to the point where there’s something I actively treasure about them, that I’m eager to share with others. The plodding progress towards that joy is on my end; the source is on theirs.