Why can’t I stay still? I’m always moving from place to place. Always changing my mind about things. First I see things one way, then another, then another. I seek some kind of stability. So I go to the mountain, where it is said that God speaks.
Much of the way that I understand God is influenced by the fact that I am a dancer. I have been a dancer for a little more than half of my life (I’m 32). I remember the moment when I got drawn into dance. It was purely accidental. It was my first day of high school. I heard the announcement that there were going to be try-outs for the musical Oklahoma at a near by all-girls high school (I went to an all boys school). After school, I went to the phone, and called my mom to see if I could go. (Thus began the process of my parents always making exceptions for me even when they said they wouldn’t). Within thirty seconds, Mr. Schulte found a person to drive me back to my high school after the auditions. For some reason, I got cast in the dance chorus. Another thirty seconds later and I may never have found a ride, never got cast, and never started dancing, which means I never would have gone to school to study music theater at the Catholic University of America, which means, well… I guess I wouldn’t be at Montserrat today.
Some days, I don’t understand my relationship to the Church. I am so comforted within her embrace. At the same time, I can’t stand her. I want things to change. Why doesn’t the Church change! Then I remember, forty years ago the Church had very significant changes in the Second Vatican council. The reforms took place, but now low and behold, reformers are coming around who feel we need to reform the reformers.
Of course, then again, I am a dancer not only because of the decision to go to the audition. The option of having that audition was given to me by the choice to go to a Jesuit High School, and that choice was predated by the Jesuits deciding to build a school, which was predated by St. Ignatius choosing to actually form the Jesuits. In reality, me becoming a dancer is something that St. Ignatius could never have imagined 450 years ago. Who knew that his choice would lead to the development of a school, that would lead to the development of me, which is again… why I’m at Montserrat today.
What troubles me about my relationship to the Church is that I don’t know if I can trust myself. What makes me believe that my ideas of how the Church ought to organize itself seem right? I’m sure that Pope John Paul II thought he had it right, but even on of his closest friends, the current pope, Benedict XVI is making changes to what he did. What makes him think that he has it right? My heroes are not the offices of the Church (priests and bishops.) My heroes are the people who merely lived their lives according to the will of God. The funny thing is that they were later organized, categorized, and institutionalized by the offices of the church. I have often rejected the allure of the offices of the Church, but not its mission. My rejection of being institutionalized while still being dedicated to the Church puts me on the outside, on the edge, like many of the reformers of old. Either the Church is going to change me, or I’m going to change it, or both.
But really, if you come to think about it, I’m at Montserrat because it was a renowned pilgrimage site over five centuries ago. It was here that St. Ignatius of Loyola came and made a rudimentary form of the spiritual exercises. High in the mountains, with the Benedictines chanting at the hours the praises of God, St. Ignatius offered his sword to the Black Madonna of Montserrat, the Mare de Deu, Mary. He changed his life from one of fighting for glory in battle, to fighting for God. Now either I’m here because I wanted to follow his footsteps, or I’m here because the decision St. Ignatius made when he was here, led to him forming the Jesuits, which led to a school, which led me to become a dancer, which led me… you guessed it, to Montserrat.
If you have downloaded Google Earth onto your computer, you can view my pictorial of Montserrat by clicking here. It is a majestic place. One of the places where Mary is known to have made an apparition in the mountain caves. Many a person seeking God has come Montserrat to pray and been deeply satisfied with what the God has revealed to them on the mountain.
But I’m left with a constant problem. Change-the-world-change-the-world-change-the-world. Round and round it goes. Reform-the-reformer-the-reformer-reformed. It is a dance, and we need to understand that the dance is not only our nature, but the nature of God. The activity of the Trinity is formally called in theology, the perichosis. It literally means “danced” in ancient Greek. If we are trying to pin God down to one moment, one action, one thing, we will always fail, because God … dances.
And so do we. Our unceasing desire to change things may seem like chaos to some. In fact, many have written about the chaotic nature of the universe, espousing what is known as “Chaos theory.” It makes a lot of sense, in that it doesn’t make sense. We’re spinning around and around. The problem with the worldview of chaos theory analysis is that the analysts believe that dancing is something that can be put into a diagram. It can’t. Dancing always and forevermore exists, because it is people reacting to one another, to something that is beyond the dance itself, that is to say, to the beat, to the music. There is order to this endless chaos of reformation after reformation after reformation. The order, is the rhythm of God’s love, constantly renewed.
And it all comes down to simple choices we make that accentuate each beat, or even the off beat. We either say “yes” to do the will of God or we say “no.” A couple months ago, I wrote a blog about this subject entitled “30-seconds”. No matter what our choices are, every single choice we make, often in thirty seconds or less, will change the world 450 years from now. What young man or woman will decide to come to Monserrat 450 years from now? Who knows?
Fear not this endless path of austere isolation one must face in resisting the vicious call to conformity. Do not let the possibility of regret dismiss the sacred possibility of this moment, this decision, this step. Your greatest sin lies not in your mistakes, but in the error of cowardice. You are blessed. You are holy. So with this thirty seconds, say “Fiat,” as Mary did of old. Say “Yes!” but always remember to keep time. This dance is not chaotic, it is a conversation with everyone on the dance floor, with your lover, with the rhythm. Always follow the ...
(My eyes open and I see the cross.)
The music … of an organ is playing.
I realized that I was getting dangerously close to developing a conclusion during that last hour of prayer. I can’t reach enlightenment now! I’ve got eight more months of this pilgrimage left! The organ is resounding in this fantastic church in the mountains. The monks are singing. The dance continues.
As I see the cross. I am struck with a humble power from deep within. I have to be careful. Prayer this deep can lead somebody not to fear anything. Even death. Even unjustified death.
I have never had a sword. So instead I hold what I have in front of me. A camera. A backpack.
Take these God. Use them to do your will.And the Lord replies, “I AM.”