a presence that disturbs

Sep 14, 2010

In the days since I arrived home many people have asked if I miss the people and places that I enjoyed while on sabbatical. My overwhelming feeling is that it is good to be back. At each of the three OLV weekend Masses I was grateful that I had a home such as this to return to. The welcome-home you have given me is heartening. Thank you!

I have made a point of allowing myself to savour the memories and encounters that surface from my time away. And there are many. In my blogs of late last month I shared my experiences and impressions of “The Rimini Meeting.” Those were extraordinary days at a festival of sound Catholic faith. One of the people I met there was the columnist for The Irish Times, John Waters. You might like to read his article on the Meeting.

However in the face of the dignified, robust, real and deeply attractive reality of Catholicism that John presents in his article, many people couldn’t help but react negatively. Note Waters’ follow-up article a week later. You can make your own judgements regarding the reasons for the responses to his positive reflection on Rimini.

I have a few theories about what is going on.

It is ironic that the meeting of “friendship among peoples” which is such a tangible experience of friendship among those who attend (800.000 this year), draws such a reactionary criticism from some of those who were not there.

This is evidence of the reality of faith and friendship at the meeting – if nothing of any significance happened, no one would both wasting words to tear it down. Such friendship among so many strangers united by their need and hunger, is deeply disturbing to those who seek satisfaction in fleeting pleasures.

I suspect the same is true of Catholicism whenever and wherever it is fully lived. The fact that people (many good people and even Catholic people) react against an attractive, unambiguous and clear presentation of Catholic faith, is that before the evidence, they encounter a presence that disturbs them.

I know this for I all too often am the complacent and fearful one who hides from disturbance. What I forget in these moments is that it is my fear and complacency which is being disturbed, is not my “self”. Only my masks and shells are being shaken. In this quaking my reality is emerging.

Thank God for those who disturb me.

 .......   And I have felt       
A presence that disturbs me with the joy       
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime       
Of something far more deeply interfused,       
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,       
And the round ocean and the living air,       
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;       
A motion and a spirit, that impels                                    
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,       
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still       
A lover of the meadows and the woods,       
And mountains; and of all that we behold      
 From this green earth; of all the mighty world       
Of eye, and ear,--both what they half create,       
And what perceive; well pleased to recognise       
In nature and the language of the sense,       
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,       
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul                        
Of all my moral being.



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