Letters

Prayers for the Pope

With grace, courage and humility, Pope Benedict retired from the most difficult job in the world. In our Pope Francis, we already see similar grace and courage—and the humility to descend from his vehicle, on the way to his inaugural Mass at Saint Peter’s, to embrace a crippled man cradled by another man at the edge of the crowd. This was a most moving image. It reminded me of hopeful men who once lowered their crippled friend through a roof so that Jesus could lay healing hands upon him; and of St. Francis, our Holy Father’s namesake, who once descended from his horse to embrace a leper.

My suggestion: Every time we turn a key to unlock a door or start a car, let’s pray a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing for the man who has been entrusted with the keys of St. Peter. Great challenges lie ahead for Pope Francis, and the power of prayer can only bolster him with the grace of the Holy Spirit.

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Christine Lukesh

West Milford, N.J.

Meaning of ‘Service’

I am disappointed that newly elected Pope Francis chose to forgo tradition and wash the feet of two women during the liturgy of Holy Thursday. Liturgical law prescribes that only men can be chosen for that rite. The Holy Thursday Mass recalls the Last Supper, where Christ introduced the Eucharist and the ministerial priesthood, which is reserved to men only.

There are no doubt many ways in which the new pope can reach out to women. Flouting tradition and abandoning liturgical laws are not among them.

Federico Lombardi, S.J., the Vatican spokesman, claims that the pope’s gesture was valid because “when Jesus washed the feet of those who were with him on the first Holy Thursday, he desired to teach all a lesson about the meaning of service.” This twist on Jesus’ meaning of “service” here, broadly injected into the narrow context of the Last Supper, when Christ created the ministerial priesthood, can be used to justify women’s ordination. Is that what the Vatican is ultimately aiming at?

Taking Pope Francis to be a truly humble person, I hope his spontaneity will be somewhat more measured in the future.

Sam Wright

North York, Ontario, Canada

Shake the Dust

I wish to thank Matt Malone, S.J., (Of Many Things, 3/4) for his clear words of truth and courage; for speaking for those of us who couldn’t come up with the words to quickly formulate and express the serious fault, both obvious and subtle, with Garry Wills’s arguments on “The Colbert Report.”

I wanted to defend my church and those teachings related to the Eucharist in particular. My hope is that someone with this authority takes note and subsequent action as gently suggested by you. On the other hand, the best medicine might be to note a fool, dust him off our shoes and move on.

Lorraine Gawlik

Dixon, Ill.

Mystical Communion

Thank you for your continued excellence in publishing an informative and thought-provoking journal. I regret that I didn’t subscribe sooner.

I agree with Matt Malone, S.J., that Garry Wills was offensively dismissive in his comments to Stephen Colbert. However, I find deep resonance within me when I think of Jesus’ words of communion from a mystical point of view rather than from a literal point of view. Jesus was a mystic who was grounded in the tradition of the goodness of creation and saw deeply into his connection, and by extension, our connection to all that is.

The poem by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., “Hymn to Matter,” for example, is quite thrilling to read and contemplate. The poem, for me, reinforces a mystical rather than a literal understanding of Communion; a very real presence, but not, in my understanding of God immanent in the cosmos, in a literal, bodily presence of Jesus. Sharing in Communion means more to me now and should never be dismissed as “fake,” as Mr. Wills suggested. He seems to miss the entire point and idea of Communion at Mass.

Now approaching 70, I continue to marvel at the depths of fundamental insight and grace Jesus continues to mean for me and for the world. America helps me in my prayer and in my search.

Vince McAndrew

Union, Neb.

Heart of the Matter

Re “Particles of Faith,” by Adam D. Hincks, S.J. (2/25): How refreshing to read of the willingness to let the “magisteria” of science and religion overlap! They will in our minds, anyway, if only because we are creatures of narrative who want to make a single story of it all. Explanations as lucid as this are catalysts.

What’s curious about the Higgs boson and other subatomic particles is that they have a future. They are particles “of faith” indeed. We know that over the eons some turn into “matter,” into stars and planets and things we bump into. We know that some turn into “life” and, more remarkably, into “soul.” That, at least, is the narrative line of the new cosmology. It’s something the Large Hadron Collider will never explain.

Augustine of Hippo had another name for particles of faith. He called them “seeds” and said that God planted them in the original instant of creation. Augustine’s seeds had a future, too, waiting for conditions to be just right before they erupted into life. It’s the same narrative line as the new cosmology’s, with one exception: for Augustine, the emergence of soul required a new intervention on God’s part.

How such potentials are packed into an infinitesimal singularity, a beginning moment, is a mystery to me. Metaphors like “particles of faith” and “seeds” open that mystery up and take me to its heart. I’m grateful for the spirit of the reflection from Mr. Hincks.

John Kotre

Ann Arbor, Mich.

Status Update

Re “A Vision of Peace,” by Drew Christiansen, S.J. (4/8): Here in the Americas, the “universal common good” means paying attention to what’s going on in South America. Immigration reform is going to be in the national spotlight these next several weeks. While we’re working on compassionate immigration reform that preserves family unity, we ought to also be looking at the causes of migration: poverty, violence, environmental destruction and U.S. trade policies. Sara Deborah Damewood

Re “Maura’s Love,” by Eileen Markey (In All Things blog, 3/28): Maura Clarke, M.M., is my hero, and has been forever. The four churchwomen propelled me into a life of activism, but Maura Clarke’s interview just before she was slaughtered moved me even more. She knew death was coming, yet her worry was: “Will I be faithful?” I take that quote with me everywhere as a reminder of what is truly important. Marla H. Thurman

I am so very grateful for this remembrance. Having stood at the spot in El Salvador where the bodies of Maura, Jean, Ita and Dorothy were found, I know that their martyrdom and their stories, then and now, continue to inspire us. They chose to stay with the people in El Salvador and to love with abandon—and it was a choice that cost them their lives. May we ever remember and imitate the selfless generosity and steadfast love that defined their lives. Thank you, Eileen Markey, for this beautiful Easter story. Peggy Heinzmann Ekerdt

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