Somehow, I always seem to look for dichotomies. I appreciate the incongruous connections that appear in life. A significant one appeared as I traveled the roads of Pennsylvania a few weeks ago.
As I traveled, I jumped from one radio station to another, trying to catch the news of the area. At one point, I heard on a Catholic channel, a story shared that really struck me. The discussion was about the two pillars of the church: Mary and Peter.
Now, I am not a theologian, so I can not speak to its truth or theology. I was also driving, so I did not write down what station or who said what. I can only share what I remember of the discussion. The story went something like this. That Christ, in his infinite wisdom called Peter the rock, on which he would build his church, the institution. But, they explained, that Mary, carried the baby, the body of Christ, within her. It is her mantle that wraps the body of the church, the people. The description continued that sometimes the rock will crumble a bit and that the people are there to mend it. Other times, the people, the body, leave the mantle of Mary and the church, the rock, is there to cause them to pause and return.
I heard the story while I was driving through the rainy mountains of Pennsylvania, for what was my first CMN conference, Catholic Marketing Network convention and trade show. Never having been before, I was not sure what to expect. I knew that authors and speakers and publishers and gift shop owners and all sorts of people who celebrate and support Catholicism would be coming together. What I didn’t know was how they would interact, how they would connect with each other.
I have been to many a trade shows and conferences in my corporate, secular life. But, this one was different. The spirit was different. There was no competition, there was singularity of purpose. Authors would encourage each other before meeting with publishers, anxious to know the response a fellow author received. Publishers connected with each other. Gift store owners compared notes so easily. If someone stopped you for directions, to the Adoration Chapel usually, they apologized for interrupting and were so appreciative of any assistance. Most importantly, every conversation ended with “God Bless”. This group of primarily lay people, were living the gospel as I understand it: to love one another and to be in service to each other.
I really felt what it was like to be under the mantle of Mary, together. This was part of the body of Christ. The loving, supportive, engaging, faith-filled body that we desire to be as we live our faith.
After the convention, I continued on my journey, visiting family in New Jersey and Ohio, and showing up for a baby shower in Indiana. I finally found myself back at home last week, as news of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s report appeared. Heartsick and devastated, I kept thinking of the contrast. What I experienced in Pennsylvania, at that convention was faith in a very real and living way. This; this news of priests and Bishops and Cardinals, this news is horrific.
I have been reflecting on these dichotomies and it occurred to me that the story I heard on the roads in Pennsylvania provide a glimpse of understanding for me. “Upon this rock, I will build my church.” That rock is crumbling. At the same time, the experience of this conference demonstrated to me what the “body” can be. We can be one; loving and in service to each other. The body stands strong for our faith, shares our faith, and can even assist in the mending of the rock.
When I speak, I often share my mantra of Be Radiant. The intention is to let the light of God shine through you. It struck me how hard it is to be radiant during difficult times like this. At the same time, if the body comes together and we each share our God given radiance, perhaps we can light the path in this dark world and along with the rock that stands strong, help lead others back to God.