Thursday, April 17, 2008

Papal Dreams

I just thought I would share an interesting, and somewhat amusing dream I had, in light of some experiences yesterday.

As many know, Pope Benedict is visiting America right now. I admit being witness to this is interesting, given my current study of some of the "crack-downs" he led against a number of theologians in the area of interreligious dialog (and also liberation theology) as Cardinal Ratzinger who served as a doctrinal "police man" of sorts. He was, and continues to be seen as a contraversal figure by some. We just read a bittersweet interview with Jacques Dupuis and another friend, both insiders from the Vatican II era, who critiqued the direction things were going shortly before dying a few years back. Dupuis had been one of Cardinal Ratzinger's targets for his work pondering the role of the Holy Spirit in other religions, though the Vatican was unable to prove his work to be anything more than "potentially confusing"- they could not prove it doctrinally in error.

Dupuis and his friend were lamenting the passing of their generation, and feeling much of the spirit of Vatican II had been left unfulfilled. Each died shortly before Ratzinger became the next Pope, leaving their promises to write more on this at the interview's end unfulfilled.

All the same, I've tried to keep an open mind about our current Pope. I was impressed with his choice to pray in the Blue Mosque in the wake of his paper's hurt in the Muslim world- something I had NOT expected from the formal Cardinal's past stances on inter-faith prayer. The gesture, in my mind showed a willingness to genuinely reach out and, as Pope take on a wider role, in the spirit of his predescesor than he might have been comfortable with up to that point.

All this in mind, I was curious about his visit but also unsure how much time I'd have to follow it. He isn't coming here, a fact which has hurt some in this the groud-zero of sex abuse scandels, though he did (finally) offer two serious apologies this past week. Still, I decided to watch a little last night, pondering ways to continue to remain true to my Catholic heritage.

It was an interesting footage, catching bits on CSPAN and the other networks. I saw him speaking of the scandels, as well as questions about pastoral issues, what Christian mission/salvation can mean for young people today, and his favorite topic of secularization. The newsprogram pointed out, in a helpful way the framing of this visit as a pastoral, spiritual concern. I saw this in his words- long as they were, being an academic at heart :), they really did focus more than I expected on simple issues like living out love, community and hope in our world. Pope Benedict's first official teaching was on love (still need to finish it, I admit), which was also telling. Even his talk on Priests was very practical and down to earth, talking about ways to discuss the value of celibacy today, not throwing around tons of theological jargon but speaking, I sensed to his fellow Bishops out of a shared experience of lived-community between them. It felt, simply put, like a careful display of another worldview, and attempt dig deep into parts of the Christian tradition which he wanted to share, and remind us of with new eyes.

There was also a celebration of his 81st birthday, and a gift given in solidarity to the churches of New Orleans. While I admit stately gold-flowers don't seem the best gift to me, it was a moving gesture.

Lastly, one thing he said struck with me- on a question of how salvation/the Gospel can even mean anything to todays' culture, he said something pretty radical- that new, imaginative ways of explaining what salvation means are needed. While he didn't go into details, I had a sense of things I've been talking about, of wider, deeper understandings of Jesus than sometimes gets tossed around as "getting saved from you sin!" in some circles here. It reminded me that, for all its beaurocracy the Catholic Church, as one of the oldest continuous traditions can bring uinque gifts when it shares its own diverse history and treasures.

After all of this, I went to sleep... partway through the night I found myself back in St. Pat's, the church I was Baptized and initially grew up in. I've had a few church dreams here/in similar places, but in this one I was getting Confirmed- again, oddly enough. I was a little unsure/puzzled by this, but as I have been recently pondering ways to participate and honor the two heritages I grew up in, it seemed ok, I supposed. I looked around though, wondering where the Bishop (who confirms people for Catholics) was. There wasn't one, only the Pope. I remembered the Pope is, of course the Bishop of Rome, but evidently he was confirming me! I wasn't sure what to think of all of this, obviously it was a great honor, but I also have the above-mentioned mixed feelings. Still, in light of the personal, and pastoral side of him I saw last night, it didn't feel quite as weird as one might expect.

I shared this story, jokingly in my Hindu-Christian dialog course today. My professor, and advisor Father Clooney joked that it would perhaps be prophetic if I ended up a ordained 20 years from now! It was an odd, but symbolic dream of where I am spiritually at the moment, as I try to dialog with the many parts of my Christian-roots- just thought to share.

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