Thursday, October 13, 2011

"You had fashioned my heart to your size"

Over on the sidebar of my blog, which is rather busy in what I hope is that uniquely Catholic (kitschy?) way, is a picture of Madeleine Delbrêl with the caption, "We, the ordinary people of the streets." The complete quote is, "We the ordinary people of the streets believe that the street, this world, where God has placed us, is our place of holiness." This sage observation is very consonant with that dense little note of Lawrence Cunningham's concerning Karl Rahner that I was so struck by just a few mornings ago. I was struck again this morning by seeing this whole sentence of my dear Madeleine, who is a charter member of my community of the heart, posted by a friend on Facebook. What struck me, as in palm-slap to the forehead, accompanied by the exclamation Duh?!, is that Delbrêl is a wonderful witness to invoke in these times of public protest and growing dissatisfaction with the status quo by people on both the right and on the left.

In his preface to the wonderful book, We, the Ordinary People of the Streets, which is an anthology of Delbrêl's writings, Prof. David L. Schindler notes that, like Dorothy Day and "[d]espite the inevitable differences of cultural-historical circumstance, these two remarkable women shared a radical life of witnessing to the Gospel at the heart of the world." He also notes that the radical witness they gave arose for both from atheism and that after their respective conversions, they dedicated the rest of their lives to being missionaries "to and among those suffering injustice - or indeed suffering in any way." Schindler is careful to note that both Day and Delbrêl lived lives "marked...by the spirit of St. Thérèse of Lisieux" and that Madeleine loved Good Pope John very much.

Madeleine Delbrêl

I think these words of our dear sister will suffice to address the present crisis:
We have come to realize what dry bread justice is when it is not preceded by goodness. When public funds are distributed on the occasion of an accident, when they come to provide assistance with the burdens of having children, when they accompany old age, these subsidies, pensions, grants, and benefits correspond to a kind of justice... What I am trying to say is that goodness achieves something else.

For a person to encounter the goodness of Christ in another person is in particular to encounter that person for what he really is...The goodness of Christ...teaches us that this is "who we are," which has been so manhandled by the world, possesses a value that is absolutely independent of wealth, power, smarts, influence, strength, and success
The following lines, addressed to God, were contained in a note found after her death:
You were alive and I was completely unaware of it. You had fashioned my heart to your size, you had made my life to last as long as you and, because you were absent, the whole world seemed to me tiny and ridiculous, and the destiny of man stupid and cruel. When I realized that you were living, I thanked you for having given me life, I thanked you for the life of the whole world
Indeed, after encountering Christ, her whole life became a Eucharist, a thanksgiving and a sacrifice offered by her to God and neighbor.

In this vein, I add an observation made by Msgr. Lorenzo in his article, Wall Street/Occupying the Kingdom: "The hypothesis we propose is that unease is the inevitable symptom of that 'set of needs and evidences' that forms every individual. If, in fact, we failed to perceive our own unlimited need for justice, truth or goodness, we would not identify any trace of it in the protesters and we would inevitably tend to propose social measures or employment policies in answer to their unease..." So, what do we propose? Back to you Madeleine: "For a person to encounter the goodness of Christ in another person is in particular to encounter that person for what he really is."

For those who need what I am saying to be even more concrete, please read Everything in an Embrace. As Madeleine, along with Nancy and Guido, clearly shows us, our encounter with Christ is provocative, urging us to be protagonists.

With the exception of tomorrow's traditio, I am off blogging until late Saturday, when I will attempt a coherent reflection on one of the Sunday readings.

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