Friday, April 5, 2013

How to "esteem" myself: a pilgrim reflects

Earlier today on Facebook my friend Max Lindenman brought yet another piece of his wonderful writing to my attention, a post he composed last June for his blog Diary of a Wimpy Catholic: A Hedonist Contemplates Heaven, which is always well-worth your attention. "The Perils of Self-Esteem" was certainly worth my time and attention today. Max applies his light, but not lightweight, touch to what I think are some important aspects of our fallen human nature, deprived as we are, not of the divine image, but of divine likeness. I think low self-esteem can and often does lead to overweening pride. Max's post also caused me to reflect on why so many find Pope Francis to be such an attractive person. I can only weigh on this for myself, as opposed to the many, but it is obvious to me that he is cool being Jorgé Bergoglio. He knows who Jorgé Bergoglio is only because Christ has shown Him this, which is why he can be Pope Francis in such a fascinating way.

This reflection on the Holy Father, in turn, caused me to reflect on something else: knowing who I am because Christ reveals me to myself; the recovery of my I, as it were, which can only be done by engaging reality according to all the factors that make it up. Over on Mystagogy, John Sanidopoulos shared something written by Elder Ephraim of Vatopaidi about person versus persona:
"Today’s post-modern people do not know what a person is. They live, and project, the mask of a persona. What is a mask? It’s a guise which was used in Ancient Greece by actors to take on a variety of roles- personae- on stage in the theater So this mask is not something real, it’s artificial, it’s a virtual reality, to use modern IT terminology. We need to remove this false object and replace it with the real one, which, in this case is the person
Exodus from Egypt, by Marc Chagall

Here's the reflection Max prompted, or provoked (a hallmark of true friendship): Every year as I participate in the utterly stunning Paschal Vigil at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, in which I am privileged to have a leading role, the Lord grants me the grace of bringing to my mind my own, much humbler reception, into the Church. The twenty-third anniversary of this event, which is part of salvation history,  is 14 April.

I was not baptized in an elaborate font, rich with ancient Christian symbolism. I was baptized with the use of two bowls and a pitcher from the kitchen of the University of Utah Newman Center. So, the only quandary was which bowl to pour from and which bowl to pour into. If memory serves me correctly, Fr. Tom used the nicer (i.e., glass) bowl, over which we held our heads, to pour the holy water into. The Paschal fire was lit in an old charcoal barbecue grill standing on aluminum legs that featured plastic wheels and plenty of rust. The very same barbecue grill that was usually found under the lone pine tree in the front yard of the Center, the same one we used to grill hot dogs and hamburgers. I was baptized and confirmed by a Dominican friar, not a bishop. Today, even this same place, is much grander, much more upscale, having been expanded and thoroughly renovated in the intervening years.

I call this calling-to-mind a grace because, in addition to taking me down a notch or two, reflecting on this helps me gaze on myself the way Christ's gazes on me and to be grateful all over again, not only for what He has done for me and continues to do for me, but how He has done it and keeps on doing it.

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