A Jubilarian Preaches...
DIAMOND JUBILEE (60 years)
Conversion of St. Paul
Fr Kevin Callaghan C.Ss.R.
It would be reasonable to expect that the theme of this homily would be on today’s feast – the conversion of St. Paul. But I anticipated today’s celebration and preached on St. Paul on Sunday last.
You will be very relieved to know that I do not intend to trawl through my sixty years as a C.Ss.R – although I could make that quite racy and raise a few blushes. Perhaps later we may be given the opportunity to say a few words in another place in that respect.
So I fall back as we Redemptorists do, so often and so effectively in our preaching, on a story. And I am indebted to Tony Gittens when on the very first evening to spoke to us of the importance of LISTENING. For this is a story about listening and not just hearing.
The setting is Central station in Washington DC ; a January morning in 2007. A Young man makes his way into the concourse carrying a violin case. He finds an alcove, takes out his violin, tunes it carefully and begins to play. He plays six pieces by Bach; two sonatas and four partitas which last about 45 minutes.
During that time about two thousand people passed through the station; some barely pausing, others rushing past, only six pausing to listen. After an hour he put his violin back into its case, counted out about 32 dollars in small change which had been thrown into his violin case, walked out of the station and went home.
Just a week later, the same young man walked onto the concert platform of the Boston Symphony Hall, clutching his Stradivarius violin valued at 3.5 million dollars and played the six pieces by Bach which he had played the week before in the station. He played to a packed house and to rapturous applause. His name is Joshua Bell, an internationally acclaimed violinist.
This is a true story and it was organised by the Washington Post as a social experiment in perception, culture and people’s priorities.
It raises some interesting questions.
How many things are we missing as we rush through life ?
In both cases, it was the same man, it was the same instrument, it was the same music. So what was different and why a different reaction ? In one word – context.
Context – the setting is all important and enables us not just to know but to understand.
Sixty years ago we made our Religious Profession in a specific context and a very different setting.
It was a different world – just seven years since the end of the second world war, national service and rationing still in force .
It was a different church, triumphalist, in its moral absolutes and teachings, no hesitation as to its position and its purpose.
This confidence was to be found in the Congregation, in its purpose, its apostolate, its lifestyle. Things never to be questioned or doubted. Identity crisis – what identity crisis – it was a non starter.
Sixty years later we would have difficulty in identifying ourselves with any of these characteristics, such is the transformation which has taken place in that period of time.
Unlike the dinosaur which was unable to adapt to change and so became extinct, we have accepted evolutionary principles, of change or die and we have survived.
The key perhaps is the acceptance of core principles and values which have an eternal validity, some of these we have been reflecting upon this week – mission, evangelisation, proclamation, witness, dialogue and liberation.
We are a smaller church – we are a smaller congregation – we are a humbler church, we are a humbler congregation. But as long as we continue to do what we do well, keeping the rumour of God alive, as a God of mercy and plentiful Redemption, then I can live happily with that.