Staying at the Center of the Wheel

Yesterday, at our priest convocation, Bishop Robert Barron spoke beautifully on the theme of encountering Christ.  One image he used was of the Rota Fortunae, a medieval “wheel of fortune” image found in many gothic cathedrals.  The wheel typically has Jesus at its center.  Spinning around him is the image of a king who is variously “ruling,” “falling from power,” “mortified,” and “rising to power with ambition.”  The wheel is sometimes spun by an allegorical image of Fortune herself.  Bishop Barron reminded us that for all Christians, and especially for priests, the place to be is at the center, at peace with Christ.  The wheel portrays the foolishness of ambition (a king, it’s chosen character), but ambition isn’t the only thing that pulls us to that precarious outer edge of the wheel.  Anxiety can… losing perspective can.

A really crazy week last week had me pretty spun up.  Everything that happened was a good thing (a wedding, a funeral, traveling around the city giving spiritualdirection, spending time with the poor), but it was physically exhausting.  Then it happened: the church boiler decided to die just in time for the first 32-degree weekend of the year.  The great irony (and this is soooo like Jesus) is that getting freaked out about what this means for our parish is the least Christ-like thing to do right now.  Given the stories I hear from the needy of the neighborhood, from the unemployed guys sitting in the park, and even from the kids in my school, the challenges of moving mass into the school gym for a few weeks really isn’t that big a deal.  So I return to the chapel, chilly as it may be, and kneel before the tabernacle… comforted, quieted, and yes…even warmed by another encounter with Jesus. Preferisco Paradiso!

If you need some extra help, consider this prayer to my patron St. Philip Neri:

My holy Advocate, Saint Philip, thou whose heart was so serene in the midst of adversity, whose spirit was so devoted to suffering, thou who when thou wast persecuted by the envious, or calumniated by the wicked who sought to discredit thee, or sorely tried by Our Lord with many persistent and painful maladies, didst endure it all with an admirable tranquility of heart and mind; obtain for me also the spirit of fortitude in all the tribulations of this life. Thou seest how perturbed and indignant I become at every light affliction, how angry and resentful at every insignificant contradiction, and how unable I am to remember that the cross is the only way to paradise. Obtain for me perfect patience and readiness like thine in carrying the crosses which Our Lord daily gives me to carry, so that I may be made worthy to rejoice with thee in our eternal reward in heaven.