Thursday, August 14, 2014

RIP Robin Williams: "I Only Knew That You Were Thirsty"

 "I Only Knew That You Were Thirsty"
As most of you probably know, Robin Williams passed away this week in what is an apparent suicide. One of the sisters I live with came and told all of us the sad news. We paused and prayed, “Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord and let the perpetual light shine upon him, may he rest in peace.” 

In the moment Robin Williams chose death over life he must have been standing over a yawning abyss of despair that he did not feel he could cross. Mental illness and addiction are mysteries few of us can comprehend so we often lack clarity in these tragic situations. I do not try to pretend I can understand the decision or the degree of culpability, if any, that another person has when they choose to take their own life. I leave that to God’s unfathomable mercy.

A story that Robin Williams’ character Parry tells in the beautiful movie, The Fisher King, seems to be an appropriate reflection for this tragic situation. It tells the story of us all, of the wounds of life and the healing power of grace that is available to every person up until the very last moment of their life.

It begins with the king as a boy, having to spend the night alone in the forest to prove his courage so he can become king. Now while he is spending the night alone he's visited by a sacred vision. Out of the fire appears the Holy Grail, symbol of God's divine grace. And a voice said to the boy, "You shall be keeper of the grail so that it may heal the hearts of men." But the boy was blinded by greater visions of a life filled with power and glory and beauty. And in this state of radical amazement he felt for a brief moment not like a boy, but invincible, like God, so he reached into the fire to take the grail, and the grail vanished, leaving him with his hand in the fire to be terribly wounded. Now as this boy grew older, his wound grew deeper. Until one day, life for him lost its reason. He had no faith in any man, not even himself. He couldn't love or feel loved. He was sick with experience. He began to die. One day a fool wandered into the castle and found the king alone. And being a fool, he was simple minded, he didn't see a king. He only saw a man alone and in pain. And he asked the king, "What ails you friend?" The king replied, "I'm thirsty. I need some water to cool my throat". So the fool took a cup from beside his bed, filled it with water and handed it to the king. As the king began to drink, he realized his wound was healed. He looked in his hands and there was the holy grail, that which he sought all of his life. And he turned to the fool and said with amazement, "How can you find that which my brightest and bravest could not?" And the fool replied, "I don't know. I only knew that you were thirsty." It's very beautiful, isn't it?

- - - -

Rest in peace Robin Williams, we pray that the God of love welcomes you into eternity.

(Can we all pause and pray an Our Father for this beautiful man's soul?)


I will leave you with the beautiful tribute that Jimmy Fallon made to Robin Williams which includes a clip of Robin Williams' first appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. It's not to be missed.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

5 Tips for Parishes from Pope Francis

Everything Pope Francis says is always so heartfelt, so quotable, so real. Reading through all of the speeches, homilies and messages that he gives is a real treat. If you don’t already, I recommend reading up on his activities at the Vatican website. Or check out news on Vatican RadioNews.Va or get the free Pope App.

Whatever way you choose to do it, it is worth reading Pope Francis’s direct words instead of getting what he says second-hand from the media. There are so many treasures, most of which are not filtered down to us through other news sources.

One such treasure is the words that Pope Francis has given us on parish life. He has real, applicable advice and it is based on his inspiring vision of a Church that goes out of itself, a Church that is missionary, a Church that is merciful and a Church that evangelizes, even in its everyday activities.

I thought I would share some of the gems I have found in my perusal of the Vatican web site.

Here are five tips for parishes from Pope Francis:

  1. DON'T Be Like A Custom’s Office: Pope Francis is pretty clear in this, Jesus “instituted seven sacraments” it is not the place of the parish office to institute an eighth sacrament -  “the sacrament of the pastoral customs office.” In other words, the parish office should not close doors for people. And yet most of us can think of times when we have felt more like we are at the DMV rather than our parish office because of the way we were treated or the business-like approach that was used. Attitudes like this attempt to “control faith rather than facilitating it.” Instead, Pope Francis prays that “all who approach the Church find doors open to encounter Jesus' love”.

  2. DON'T Be Tarantulas: Pope Francis says that when people go to their parish, they should feel like they are entering their mother’s home. He says, “Being parish secretary means opening the front door of the mother’s home, not closing it! And one can close the door in many ways. In Buenos Aires there was a famous parish secretary: they called her the “tarantula”... I’ll say no more! To know how to open the door in the moment: welcome and tenderness.”

  3. DO Put Those Who Are “Distant” First: I have often heard grumbling about families who only come to their parish for baptisms, weddings and funerals. These people are often treated like a last priority but Pope Francis urges us to put those distant from the Church first. Why? Because we want these people to become regulars. Pope Francis says, “It is about assuming missionary dynamism in order to reach everyone, putting first those who feel distant and the most vulnerable and forgotten people. It means opening the doors and letting Jesus go forth. Many times we keep Jesus closed inside the parishes with us, and we do not go out and we do not let Him leave! Open the doors so He can go out, at least Him! It is about a Church which “goes forth”: a Church which always goes forth.”

  4. DO Get the Laity Involved: Pope Francis is pretty clear on this, the laity need to be involved in their parishes. Parishes do not belong to priests or to the parish office, they belong to everyone. This is why parishes need laity on councils, advising and helping in the running of everyday matters. In fact, Pope Francis very sternly has said that “a parish that does not have a pastoral Council and a Finance Council, is not a good parish: it lacks life.”

  5. DON'T Gossip Or Cause Division: If only our parishes were exempt from ordinary, sinful human behavior. Alas, they are not. But we can examine our part in making a parish a place of unity and communion or creating division. Pope Francis urges us, “Let each one ask him- or herself today ‘do I increase harmony in my family, in my parish, in my community or am I a gossip. Am I a cause of division or embarrassment? . . . Gossip does harm! Gossip wounds. Before Christians open their mouths to gossip, they should bite their tongue! To bite one’s tongue: this does us good because the tongue swells and can no longer speak, cannot gossip. Am I humble enough to patiently stitch up, through sacrifice, the open wounds in communion?’”
This is just the tip of the iceberg, try digging into Pope Francis’ words on any topic and you will get more treasures.

Please feel free to share your favorite piece of Pope Francis advice on any topic in the comments!