The weather is still blistering hot here, and I feel it every time I go outside – and hours afterward. Even when the sun sets, the pavement is still warm, and there seems to be no relief from that sluggish sense of time suspended, energy zapped. Yet, of course, life moves on. Friends, errands, docs, and more need attention. Wouldn’t it be easier if we could handle our relationships and responsibilities only at times when we’re at our best? Put everything off to those “VERY good days?”
So, instead of fretting over “Oh, I’d be so much more coherent if I had a bit more sleep” or “If only my knees didn’t ache so much, I could get through this round of errands much faster,” I’ve been learning to accept and “just be.” Yup, no excuses or regrets. Just “Here I am, I’m doing my best.”
And that, I think, is the key. We might never be “at our best,” devoid of symptoms or other complications. But our intent to do our best can help put those symptoms and the task, person, or problem at hand in good perspective.
Yes, we might not always be our best. In fact, sometimes, we might look frazzled or worse and feel just as non-optimal inside. But we can always try to do ou best, and therein make the difference.
Today, September 23, 2015, Pope Francis will celebrate the first Mass of Canonization to take place in North Ameria. The soon-to-be Saint is Junipero Serra, an 18th century Franciscan missionary who founded the first 9 of the California missions. I will blog more about this newest Saint and the canonization itself, but in this blog I want to call your attention to something that might only be noticed by most people in passing: the simple iron cross that will be part of the altar used during the Mass.
The 4-foot cross is made of iron from two ships: the Ark and the Dove. These vessels carried Catholic and Protestant pilgrims over the Atlantic Ocean in the early 17th Century. The cross is usually housed at Georgetown University in Dahlgren Chapel, thus it’s commonly referred to as the “Dahlgren Cross.” The cross was used at the first legally held Mass in the English Colonies in 1634. It is inscribed: Ad Perpetuam Rei Memoriam (“Let this be always remembered”) 1862.
The picture above is a bit of a sneak preview of the altar and the cross; both were on display in the Basilica of the National Shrine prior to the Pope’s arrival. As you witness the Mass of Canonization, take a moment to consider that this very simple cross has not only powerful faith significance, but it also carries a tradition of religious freedom and tolerance – truths just as timely today as they were when the cross arrived on our shores in the hands of people eager for new lives in a new land!
As I type this, Pope Francis is about to arrive at Joint Base Andrews. There is the usual activity as people gather to greet the Pontiff – some are finding their seats, photographers are checking their camera angles and light (some clouds in the sky today). And, during the preparations, a group steadily recites the rosary, a venerable and beloved tradition as portable as it is powerful. Indeed prayer has already been front and center – and gently quiet – during the first leg of the Papl Visit, a three-day trip to Cuba. But this exhiit of faith among the people waiting for the Pope is a true example of how, waiting or being active, everyone can take a few moments, collect thoughts and heart, and lift up prayers to the Lord.
As more people gather on the tarmac, and the Papal Flag flutters in the breeze alongside the Stars and Stripes, the rosary has finished. But the true praying continues!
One of the first things that strikes me about Washington DC this week is the personal way the City is preparing to greet Pope Francis. The picture with this blog is of the banner hanging on the Basilica of the National Shrine, where the Pope will celebrate the Mass of Canonization for Junipero Serra on Wednesday. It is not a formal, lofty message, but rather one that reflects an overt joy – and a message of love. Quite a difference from how other heads of State are often greeted!
The message on the banner is simple, but complex, too. “Love Is Our Mission” is not something you can imagine being acted out once and then shelved, for a mission is something longer and more intense than a one-time expression and love has many musical tones and layers, sights and sounds.
As Pope Francis begins the U.S. portion of his Visit, much will be said of his speeches and activities. I’ll be looking for those clues, those lessons of love that can inform me and many others on how to continue the “Mission” in the days and years ahead!