Let the beauty we love be what we do

By Br Mark O'Connor FMS, 5 June 2019
Pope Francis kneels to kiss the feet of South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Mayardit, at the Vatican, Thursday, April 11, 2019. Image: CruxNow/Vatican Media via AP.

 

      Let the beauty we love be what we do - By Br Mark O'Connor FMS.

 

LET THE BEAUTY WE LOVE BE WHAT WE DO

Let the beauty we love be what we do.

Every day we wake up empty and frightened,

Don’t go to the study and pull out a book.

Take down a musical instrument instead.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.

There are a hundred ways​

To kneel and kiss the ground.

 Rumi

 

Dear Friends,

Do you sometimes wonder how we can best communicate our Christian faith to others?

Strange as it may sound, I think Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet, Islamic jurist, theologian, and mystic gives us one starting point.

Rumi reminds us that the beauty and grace of God offer us so many possibilities to reach out to the Gracious Mystery in our daily lives.

Perhaps, we need to follow Rumi’s wisdom and stop: ‘To kneel and kiss the ground.’

But you might respond:’ Be more practical! How do we reach out to people who say they just don’t believe in God? How do we Catholics communicate to the sceptics and the cynics?’

Karl Rahner – the great German Jesuit theologian – once gave a very good response to this question.

In 1979, an interviewer commented to Rahner, “I have never had an experience of God.”

Rahner replied, “I don’t believe you; I just don’t accept that. You have had, perhaps, no experience of God under this precise code-word God but you have had or have now an experience of God – and I am convinced that this is true of every person.

“This inner experience of God is naturally (and necessarily) very difficult to describe. What love is, what fidelity is, what longing is, what immediate responsibility is – are all things that are difficult to express and to think about. We start stuttering, and what we say sounds odd, provisional, difficult. But that doesn’t prove that a person has not had experiences of fidelity, responsibility, joy, truth, love, and so on. And so it is with the experience God.” (Karl Rahner in Dialogue, 211)

Is this not our challenge as we struggle to bring the Gospel to our Australian culture?

 

      Let the beauty we love be what we do - By Br Mark O'Connor FMS.

 

Yes, we do have such a rich Catholic Tradition to pass on. But today we need imagination and great creativity to credibly spread the Good News to our sisters and brothers.

That can only come from our faithful prayer and a rich inner life. Action for ‘Good News’ will then surely follow.

It certainly can’t be done by mere words alone. Rather, as St. Pope Paul VI famously said, ‘people today need witnesses as much as teachers.’ We need prophets of grace.

This makes sense when we think of the people on our own faith journeys who have made an impact on us. It usually isn’t their theological learning so much as the credibility, graciousness and authenticity of their lives. We are helped to find Jesus by people who act like Him. It’s as simple as that.

Br Mark O’Connor FMS.

Faith, therefore, is so much more than intellectual assent. It is the commitment of the whole person beginning with ‘conversion’ of the heart.

In other words, communicating faith to others is all about enabling persons to come in contact with believable witnesses – that is, people who are holy, authentic and growing in the spiritual life.

One such witness of the ‘Good News’ was the late Irish poet Seamus Heaney. A witness to a rich humanity of grace and beauty indeed.

At his funeral a few years ago, his son Michael recounted that just two minutes before Seamus Heaney died in a Dublin hospital, he sent a text message in Latin to his beloved wife: ‘Noli timere’, “Don’t be afraid.”

As we face the challenge of living the Gospel in our times – buffeted as we are by tensions and acutely aware of our own sinfulness – that message of Seamus Heaney (and our Risen Lord!) gives us hope to continue the journey of faith – ‘to Let the beauty we love be what we do’.

Br Mark O’Connor FMS is the Vicar for Communications in the Diocese of Parramatta.

 

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