So… my Rectory is sinking. Well, not the whole house actually, just one corner of it. Nothing quite so dramatic as say… the sinking of Venice, mind you. That kind of drama would at least add an aesthetic quality to the whole experience. No my situation is much more banal. It seems that for several years an unnoticed downspout clog has caused water to collect under the corner of the Rectory, softening the soil. As Jesus himself pointed out, houses don’t do well when not built on solid rock. Hence, the half inch crack in my basement foundation wall, and the gentle (but menacing) bowing of a steel I-beam running under the length of the Rectory.
I’m neither an architect, nor an engineer… the experts with whom I’ve spoken tell me the situation needs to be addressed, but it’s safe… for now. That last little phrase, “for now” runs through their assurance like a half-inch foundation crack… tiny, but menacing.
The day after the engineer’s visit, I went downtown to check in with the Finance Office at the Chancery (i.e. “local church headquarters”). I wanted to review the coming year’s budget with the powers that be and make sure they are well aware of this developing engineering situation… Anytime the word “engineering” is involved, count on the solution being expensive. And the thing is, we don’t have the money. Few parishes do these days and mine is among the tiniest of them. We get by remarkably well – all things considered – but slight upsets threaten disaster.
Whether it’s little old me as Administrator of this lovely parish, or the whole Church trying to survive in the circumstances of the world… or you in the drama of daily life… we are, all of us, in a boat that constantly threatens to take on water (c.f. Mk. 4:35-41). Our situation isn’t actually that unusual, if you think about it… Human beings are always in a fragile state. A tiny clot in our blood can kill. The smallest fraying of the thinnest membrane in our hearts can mean death. A priest from Northern Nigeria told me last year that -there- people fear to sleep…because they never know when a team of militants may come to burn their church and village to the ground. Even in peaceful Edens like central Italy, one never knows when an earthquake may strike. So really, fragility shouldn’t shock us.
Prayer over the last two days reminds me of what Jesus told the Apostles in the boat that stormy night, “Why are you faint hearted? Have you so little faith?” In today’s morning prayer we read from Psalm 57, “in you my soul has taken refuge till the storms of destruction pass by.” and later, “They laid a snare in my path… but fell in it themselves.” The Divine Author speaks in the indicative… He is making a statement, confident. These surges of worry, that are -ultimately- about our lack of control don’t have to entrap us… We are safe in God’s hand… certainly no worse off than people anywhere in the world. In his book, “The Power of Silence,” Cardinal Sarah writes beautifully about how we tend to drag the noise of the world (i.e. these worries) into our prayer life, but they are only surface noise… they need not distract us from the grand silence of God which can claim and renew our souls. “Claim me once more as your own, Lord, and have mercy on me.” This is the Church’s confident refrain (c.f. Evening Prayer).
Lord, remind me today that I… and ‘you-and-I’ are more than the mere circumstances of daily work, daily responsibilities…Remind me Lord that such circumstance, such noise doesn’t need to disturb the ever developing Grand Silence in which you are my refuge. “The light from on high shall break upon us…to guide our feet in the way of peace.” (Lk 1:68-79). Amen.