The backdrop: It’s the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The Catholic world is participating in a Holy Day of Obligation. The hearts of the faithful are centered on the sinless conception of the woman who will carry and bear the Savior, according to the St. Andrew Novena – “at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold.”
Enter video crews: setting the stage for a spectacular light display -- “Fiat Lux: Illuminating Our Common Home” -- to be made manifest on the façade of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Surely, it was to be one of the finest light displays to bring attention to a Holy Day that has ever been attempted, and therefore permitted to happen on such a holy place.
The outcome: THIS...
|photo courtesy of catholicherald.co.uk|
And, the Catholic world railed (here, here & here)-- many so appalled that there were cries of sacrilege. Others noted that there was not a single religious symbol in the display. Or, outrage over the fact that the Church collaborated with the World Bank (which promotes programs supporting abortion, contraception and other population control measures) as well as endorse the agenda of climate change. It simply disemboweled Catholic sensibilities and the result: hemorrhaging of Catholic pride.
Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Pope Francis has been asking the hierarchy and the faithful to take a step outside of their self-centric point of view (for example: here) -- love the faith, and draw the sinner in to her mercy and forgiveness; stop thinking that Catholicism is all ritual and no hard work; reach beyond the Church walls to creation and the creatures (to include man) living there.
It was not only a Holy Day of Obligation, let’s remember. It was also the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. And, we were given an opportunity, right on the walls of St. Peter to engage our faith. And, what did most of us do? Lashed out, cried foul, whipped up our opinions into frenzy.
What did we fail to do? SHOW MERCY.
The final assessment: Do I think it was appropriate to feature animals on the hallowed walls of St. Peter’s?
Did the images change the minds of others about the face and the heart of Catholicism?
I read several opinions from both Catholics and non-Catholics who viewed the show and thought it was lovely – an expression of creation on a most well-known and respected religious symbol – the Church, who is creation’s guardian.
The fact of the matter is this, Pope Francis is not your run-of-the-mill pope – and that’s an understatement. But, he does have a way of reaching people, recognizing what is vital to their humanity in the moment and touching that place with tenderness, sincerity and truth illuminated by the love of Christ for all of creation.
And, while we may not understand what to us looks to us like unconventional, unorthodox and sacrilegious practice, might we also be reminded of what the Jews thought of Jesus and his decisions to sit at table with sinners, heal on the Sabbath, and preach with authority like no other in the Temple.
Will our response to the Vicar of Christ be what Our Lord and Savior received because people were afraid of His methods?
No, our response to this should be to prepare, to listen and to watch, but most of all to pray and show mercy.