Friday, September 14, 2012

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

14 September 2012

Offer it up!  That's what my grandmother used to tell me when I was kid. If I stubbed my toe and began to cry should say offer it up!

When as a teenager my heart was broken for the first time, she’d proclaim: Offer it up!

And I suspect if she had still been alive when as an old priest I got kidney stones she would've said Offer it up Jimmy! Just offer it up!

What was she talking about? Clearly the cross. And what St. Paul meant when he urged us to make up in our sufferings for what is lacking in the cross of Christ.

What does that mean?
It means I embrace and allow myself to be embraced by a cross made up of two bars: one vertical and one horizontal. 

The vertical draws us upward. It tells me there’s something beyond my pain, beyond my self. 

Now is there anything which more powerfully draws me into my own little pity party then pain?  It happens to me when I get the flu. Be forewarned! I am miserable when I’m sick! And I never hesitate to generously share my misery with everyone who comes in contact with me! No one hurts like I hurt. No one suffers like I suffer! 

But joining the suffering of my life to the cross of Christ draws me beyond myself, inserting the pathetic pettiness of my pain into the the sacrifice of the crucified and love unto death, death on a Cross.

And then there’s a horizontal bar to the cross, two arms which embrace me with the consolation that I do not suffer alone.  For to know that my broken heart can be joined to the sacred heart of him who opened his arms on a tree for my salvation is the ultimate consolation and the source of the peace this world cannot give.  

Sometimes that cross is called trust.  The cross of trusting in a superior.  When a formator or spiritual director tells me I need to grow in this way or that and my heart begins to harden from the perceived assault.

Sometimes that cross is called trust, accepting in holy obedience the direction of the one God has placed over me.  Or, as Saint Paul Saint wrote: Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped at...but humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. (Philippians 2: 5–8)

It might be one of the hardest things any of us have to learn.  But as the ratio fundamentalis on seminary formation says so well: 

“Priests need to be formed who are fearless in accepting the fact that real communion with Christ entails self-denial, and, in particular, in understanding that following Christ entails genuine obedience...not participating falsely in His Mystery, not refusing a share in His passion, but carrying one's cross in His footsteps, acquiring those virtues which support a Christian soul and enable it to prevail...A seminary which allows a future priest to leave unaware of the struggles which await him and of self-denial, without which his fidelity is impossible, just as for the ordinary faithful, would have gravely failed in its mission. (Congregation for Catholic Education, Ratio Fundamentalis Instutionis Sacerdotaolis, no. 3.)

Struggles?  What struggles?

Sometimes they’re simple crosses like:

I want a suburban parish near my family, but they send me to an inner city parish two hours away that needs an associate; 

I wanted the Cathedral, surrounded by city, and I’m a tiny chapel surrounded by cows;

I wanted to study Italian, but the Bishop needs a priest to hear confessions in Portuguese;

I wanted to serve the poor and I’m stationed in the richest parish in the Diocese;

I prefer the extraordinary form, but the charismatic community needs a chaplain;

I think the youth group needs more Life Teen, but the pastor thinks they need more rosary;

I was thinking like doctorate in Rome, and the Bishop was thinking like second associate in Attleboro.

Simple crosses.  And each of them blessed participations in the one Cross we exalt in this feast.  

Not unlike the crosses you bear when he recalls the seriousness of what you did and then wants to talk about it;

The cross you bear you you feel ashamed and humiliated that he knows your most secret sin;

The cross you bear when you weep in frustration;

The cross you bear when you try and you fail;

The cross you bear when all you want to do is listen for the still small voice of God, with your mind, your heart and your soul;

The Crosses that are a call to surrender all in what Saint Ignatius of Loyola said about you:

”See God in your superiors; so shall you learn to revere their will and follow their commands. Be well assured that obedience is the safest guide and most faithful interpreter of the Divine Will. [Above all, do not be your own master, relying on your own prudence, contrary to the caution of the wise man.] Pour out your hearts to them as freely as water, mindful that they are charged with the direction of your souls. . . . ”

That’s the Cross we exalt by our words and by our lives.

Monsignor James P. Moroney