Monday, October 24, 2016

A House Full of "Family Pictures"

The other day I posted an Instagram photo of part of a bookshelf in our house in which a five volume English edition of St Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologiae and other books have a framed picture of St Mother Teresa plunked against them casually, almost haphazardly.

Next to my bed, the Mexican holy 
water font, Our Lady of Guadalupe
and Jesus with his Sacred Heart (also 
from Mexico), Jesus in the Divine
Mercy icon, the papal crucifix, an 
icon of the Last Supper, St John Paul, 
St Joseph (image of our home statue), 
and then the words of Edith Stein
(St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) 
that so often give me strength. I can 
see this shelf even when lying in bed. 
It helps to focus my heart each day.

I noted that the reason we have saints' pictures all around the house is not because we are fanatics or idol worshipers (we don't worship the saints) but because they are our friends, indeed they are "family" -- members of God's family who are alive in the Church in glory and who care for us, inspire us, and pray for us.

Soon after that came St John Paul II's feast day and I posted our "personal" JPII pic, from our honeymoon journey to Rome in 1996. That is, of course, a very special picture because it is a kind of memorial of a real meeting that took place (I also met and spoke with Mother Teresa in 1993, but no one was around taking pictures of that event, nor do I feel the need of one).

The picture of JPII, however, is always there to evoke a memory for both of us. That encounter, our brief conversation, and his blessing of our marriage will always be precious to us. In those moments, we were struck by his amazing capacity to give of himself, his humanity, and also his vulnerability, his frailty, his own need to be loved. I think that, for a moment, we consoled him too.

It is an important memory of an event that has very much to do with the history of our journey as a couple and a family. It helps us remember that even now his prayers continue to accompany us. That intense interpersonal moment, I am confident, remains present in the glorified awareness of St John Paul and gives shape to the mysterious but close affection with which he cares for us and helps us to remember Jesus Christ.

And we keep that picture, in a frame, in a very ordinary place in the corner of the dining room.

Well trafficked though otherwise ordinary corner, next to the family Apostolic Blessing that was obtained for us by friend.

*Of course, you don't have to meet a saint during their earthly life in order to develop a deep and fruitful companionship with them. I am convinced that there are times when saints you've never even heard of will "come along" and "tap you on the shoulder" (in a sense). They initiate the relationship with you, and you become aware of their solicitude for you a certain times in your life even as you are prompted to ask for the assistance of their prayers.

Some saints "nudge" us frequently to make sure we don't forget about them, as if to say, "I'm here, you know!"

I'm using the terminology of ordinary human interaction because these are genuine human relationships, even though for us they live within the sphere of faith. The saints are our friends, our brothers and sisters in Christ, members of His Body just as we who are still on our earthly pilgrimage are members of one another in Christ.

God's Kingdom is a communion of persons, a great family gathered for the wedding feast. None of our great friendships with the saints in glory -- or with our fellow Christians in this present life, or with those others who have been given to us in life, who are loved by Christ and destined for this glorious banquet even if they do not yet know it -- take away from the uniqueness of our belonging to Jesus the Bridegroom. On the contrary, the fruitfulness of His love is their foundation and sustenance.

On another book shelf, the busts of Jesus and Mary carved in the Holy Land from olive wood.