Thursday, October 22, 2009
Tears in My Eyes: Stories from the Catholic Festival of Faith
I do believe that I promised on Monday that I would share the stories that made me cry at the Conference. One made me cry because of its beauty, the other with sorrow. I'll start with the sad so I can end with the glad. That's how I roll...
Cardinal Francis George celebrated Mass. His homily was astounding. He told us about visiting a Missionary priest in Africa (my apologies, I forgot which country), and how four men from a faraway village came up to then Fr. George and asked about the Missionary priest while he was taking a walk. Fr. George* directed them to the rectory (hut in which priest was living). One man did not go with, but stayed out with Fr. George. Fr. George did not speak the man's native language, but they spoke briefly in English.
Fr. George asked the man where they had come from. It turned out that the four men had been traveling on foot for four days. They had heard about this priest speaking of a God who loves them, and the village chose these four to find out what it was all about. When Fr. George asked why he didn't go with them to speak with the Missionary priest, he responded that he had a lot of quiet time to think on his walk. He thought about how hard his community works, and still they starve, are sick, and watch their children die. In the face of all that, the idea of a God who loves them is too good to be true. (This is where I start bawlin' like a hormonal school girl.)
Cardinal George then shares with us that he has prayed for this man all these years since. He shared that the hardest thing is that we can't give anyone faith, but can only show our own, share why we have it, and pray for the people around us who have none. He also shared that if we truly know ourselves, we have to admit that God's love is "too good to be true", no matter what our circumstances, and yet it is so true. God does love us, and we need to share it.
Now the happy story. It was actually shared in the keynote speech hours before Mass. Most Rev. George Murry, SJ was sharing with us the story of a girl who was born with a cleft lip. When she went to school, children made fun of her. She found that strangers seemed to find her hard to look at. When asked, she'd tell people that she fell on glass and split her lip, because somehow that seemed more acceptable than being born different. She was also born hard of hearing, but was a bright girl who somehow learned how to fake her way through the hearing tests at school. She hated being different, and the attention it brought to her.
Well, you know how those old fashioned hearing tests included the teacher whispering a sentence in your ear that you were supposed to repeat? Me neither. Waaaay before my time. I was tested in the mechanized "raise your hand when you hear the beep" age, but I digress. This young girl's teacher whispered in her ear "I wish you were my little girl..."
She ran all the way home, laughing and happy, excited to be loved.
Bishop Murry said that that is what faith in Jesus ought to be.... The realization that He loves us even though we feel deformed by our sins, and a need to joyfully announce that we are loved. Eventually, we also realize His love for others, and want to share that too.
I don't know about anyone else, but I see the two stories as linked together. I feel that we can share our faith truly only by sharing the joy of being loved with a love that is to good to be true, and yet it IS. Oh, and you know something cool? Faith is one thing that you can share all you have with someone, and still not have any less for yourself!
My friend Kathy has shared a quote by Rich Mullins that I think is appropriate here. I am gonna send you on over there to read it at her site now if that is okay with you...
*I mean absolutely no disrespect to my beloved Archbishop Cardinal George by referring to him as Father George here. He was not yet a Cardinal in this story, and even if he was, once a priest, always a priest, whether we are talking about the Pope or a bishop.