In a little less than 2 weeks, on October 11, Bishop Joe Vasquez will celebrate Mass at the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Schoenstatt, in honor of the Feast of Our Lady of Schoenstatt, and to give thanks for the first year anniversary of the Shrine.
What might inspire us to go? What might help us brave the traffic in pilgrimage out to West Austin instead of praying comfortable in my own house? What makes it different from a regular mass at our local parish? What will convince me to deal with the crowds of people I don’t know? What might make us venture out and try something new in our faith lives?
And perhaps we have these questions not just about a special mass like this one, but also about weekly mass, or even the Church in general. Surely some of us have had similar discouraging thoughts about our Holy Father’s up-coming visit to the US in September – it’s going to be tons of people, too many events, too far away, and with the media we won’t be able to avoid the politics of this and of that…what would make us bother at all, and take the risk?
My intuition? Our “what” is our longing to become a part of something greater than ourselves. Sometimes we get so distracted – distance, discomfort, and daily business can all keep us staying home. Or sometimes it’s other human things that distract us – local church politics, personal struggles, misgivings or hurts. There’s a part of us that knows it would be easier to stay at home, with our own personal prayers and thoughts, our own way of doing things.
But isn’t there a part of us too, that always yearns to connect to the other? And not just one other “other,” but something beyond even two – something great, something greater! There is something real and great in the human soul that longs for more. Not more meetings, not more busyness, not more money, but more life, and a greater expansiveness of life.
And I don’t mean that ‘becoming a part of something’ that ends up in “group-think.” We can unconsciously follows fads or social pressure and be emotionally swept up into the thoughts of any group, but this “becoming a part of” ultimately comes from reacting to those around us, and not from a clear decision of the will that was contemplated in the heart. Thus end result of a such a joining together is not a community, but a mob.
As a wise friend of mine says, “You have to have a self in order to give it.” In other words, becoming a part of something greater than ourselves means responding in discernment to the movements of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. It means fully taking up our responsibility to follow those longings of the heart, instead of hiding at home or in the group think of the crowd. Because God did create us with that yearning for more of life, to lead us beyond ourselves, in relationship with each other into His great heart. That’s community, and communion with Him.
And that is “what” the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Schoenstatt is all about. Transformative and transforming community, right here in the heart of Texas, in the heart of Austin, in the heart of Church.
And to turn it on it’s head, we can say in a way that the yearning for more of life isn’t about us wanting more from life, but slowly coming to the realization that life is waiting for us to answer back. The yearning doesn’t originate only in us, but is in dialogue with the Author of Life who is posing the questions.
And it’s becoming aware of this existential weight of our responsibility for own lives; God is waiting for our response.
“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible” – V. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Something transformative and beautiful is happening in Austin, and all around the world. And we’re invited to become a part of it, a part of something greater than ourselves. What will our response be?