THE WEEK THAT WASN’T
Today also belongs to the Mother of the Redeemer as the Church pauses between Christmas and the Epiphany of the Lord to remind us of the significance of Mary in the story of our salvation. We celebrate her solemnity which is interesting because the only thing one can reasonably glean from the scriptural references these past few weeks is her “humility.” The joy of successful childbirth preceded by weeks of uncertainty, physical dislocation and discomfort, and giving birth without the known assistance of a mid-wife or what she might have had available to her in Nazareth quickly gives way to more uncertainty, physical dislocation, discomfort, and outright fear as she, Jesus and Joseph flee Herod’s jealousy. This is not a story that would play well on ET or make the cover and front pages of PEOPLE magazine. The solemnity is to be found in her incredible faith and trust in the Lord, in her religious belief and practice, and in her trust. How I long to comfortably possess in my own life those foundational elements of a person of true faith. Remember at Christmas I spoke of the “risks” one must take to come to Jesus? Tomorrow three more “risk-takers” show up on the scene, the Magi or “Wise Men.” They come to see Jesus bearing gifts, a message, and an uncertainty that quickly turns to an investment in faith when in the presence of the Lord, his mother and his foster-father. What happened in the week or days between Christmas and their arrival on the scene is silent and somewhat lost in Scripture, like the last seven days were for most of us, unless like Mary we took time to contemplate the place of Christ in our lives.
Christmas 2010 is mostly a blur to me already. I was planning to make a quick trip to see a friend who is an Archbishop and papal diplomat serving in another country but the great blizzard of Christmas in the Northeast left me sitting on the tarmac of my house wondering what to do, so I changed directions, literally and figuratively and went west to spend some days with a family in St. Louis with whom I have been very blessed with friendship for almost forty years now. Among the opportunities afforded me this past week was one to go and see what I consider one of the most extraordinary and compelling movies I have seen in some time. Titled The King’s Speech and now showing in this area at only three theaters (including the Tampa Theatre), this movie is definitely worth the look and if it does not win the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Actor for Colin Firth and best supporting actor for Derek Jacoby, then it will be a travesty. Rated as an “R” film, there is absolutely no sex in the flick at all. There is, however, the repeated use in several momentary segments of a four-letter word which is always inappropriate in daily speech. The story is about King George VI of England, Queen Elizabeth’s father, who was second in line of succession to the throne but succeeded when his older brother who most of us remember not as King Edward but the Duke of Windsor abdicated to marry an American woman and divorcee, Wallace Simpson. George VI was born with a stutter and stammer and wanted no part of being King until thrust into it by the decision of his brother David (aka, King Edward). His wife seeks out a speech therapist and therein lies the story. Want to feel good in the early moments of 2011, go see this one.
My Christmas Day was full as expected and also as expected the day’s climactic moment of Mass at the Hillsborough Correctional Institution for Women was the highlight. My how they sang and prayed. I confirmed two of the inmates during the ceremony who had been prepared for the sacrament by the wonderful women and men who work there as volunteers, mostly from Prince of Peace parish in Sun City Center and Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission in Waimauma. My deep sleep Christmas night was interrupted by a phone call at 4 a.m. informing me of the flight cancellations. I went back to sleep dreaming not of sugar plum fairies but of the faces of those who had come in the previous twenty-four hours to see Jesus.
Yesterday, I joined about dozen of our priests and offered the Funeral Mass for Clarice Larkin, the sister of our beloved former bishop, W. Thomas Larkin. With her passing, a chapter in the emerging history of the Diocese of St. Petersburg comes to a close. May she rest in the peace which she found difficult to find in this life and take her place alongside her beloved brother and parents in everlasting life.
Happy New Year, all