Imagine having $86,400 deposited in your bank account every day. It comes with conditions. You have to use it –or lose what is left of it–by the end of the day. What would you do? That was the challenge Sr. Anne Smollin CSJ put in front of participants during the 2013 Marianist BILAC Conference held at Chaminade University from Sept 26 -28.
The real challenge lay in realizing, as Sr. Anne pointed out, that we are indeed presented with a far more valuable asset: the gift of 86,400 seconds for every day that we wake to the wonder of being alive. How wisely and well do we spend that asset? How do we choose to invest the priceless gift of time: in ourselves, and in those around this? That is what really shapes the kind of world we live in.
The Only Times
Bishop Remi DeRoo, delivering his view of “Catholicism in Prophetic Dialogue” on the closing day of the conference as part of the Mackey Lecture series offered a similar message of personal empowerment and engagement. Remarking that some people say these are the best of times, while others say these are the worst of times, Bishop Remi reminded his audience that “these are the only times.” We cannot afford to squander them in judgment of others. We are called to use the times in which we find ourselves to love others into wholeness. Because to be Catholic is to belong to one body and to draw everyone into the circle of God’s love. This “pilgrim of the Second Vatican Council” brought a message of welcome and social justice that thankfully is also being heard from Pope Francis. There is no bigger signal of the shift in Church thinking than the fact that Pope Francis held a private meeting with Dominican Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez, the father of liberation theology. This theology of social justice and pushing back against structural violence had previously invited the wrath of Rome on those who taught it and lived by it on many occasions.
The keynote speakers at BILAC 2013 drew from different wells of experience. But whether it was through finding laughter in the rhythms and encounters of each day, or the courage, as Bishop Remi put it, to embrace “the baptismal priesthood of all,” both invited Catholics to live their faith through greater engagement with the reality of the world. Both pointed to Catholicism, not in the aridity of laws and moralizing strictures but in a lived faith that welled up like “springs of living water.”
Walking with Others
Sr. Anne spoke of the importance of finding “laughing buddies.” Bishop Remi spoke of learning to walk with others. Laughing, walking or working, we are Catholic only to the degree that we are inclusive, hospitable, and welcoming to all. He reminded his listeners that we are people, not just of the head, as Descartes described it, but as much of the heart in the now familiar words of Pascal: “The heart has its reasons that reason does not know.”
In contrast to the sometimes hostile rhetoric from the establishment Church prior to Pope Francis, Bishop Remi’s words were both comfort and invitation. How wonderful to hear a Vatican II Council Father affirm that we are all linked to the Paschal mystery. That Jesus loved with a human heart. So, why do we have so much trouble recognizing that the basis of our economic system rests on people? Why do we routinely sacrifice the well-being of people on the altar of capital as if it were an inescapable byproduct of economic growth?
The appropriate Christ-like response to our times, says Bishop Remi is clearly laid out in the Gospel.
“If you are not involved in changing society and working for social justice, you are not living the Gospel.”
Note:The next Mackey Lecture at Chaminade University in April 2014 will feature the granddaughter of Dorothy Day.