The Rock is Not Eroding

The old brick convent was immersed in a whirl of white, but we were warm in our nest, where I roasted lamb in white wine and baked nutty apple crisp. Today, the woods are sweet with icing. They are silent. But within many people, blue sky or not, the weather is yet whirling.

“Fear is contagious,” my husband said to me as we lay in bed, nose to nose. Yes, it is. It is no less a disease than cancer, burrowing its tumorous tendrils into one’s trust.

“I prefer a church that is bruised, hurting, and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church that is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”

I wonder: have the words cried from the rooftop by Pope Francis truly been heard? Or have his words deflected off the confinement created by the very sickness he decried? The cancer of fear, spreading rapidly.

Many fear that the rock that is Peter is eroding—but I believe it is truly their trust in Christ who established the rock that is eroding. They are clinging to their own rock, their own security, and thus have closed the doors of their hearts to the streets. They are spotless, righteous, in their pure white hospital gowns—and dying inside.

Whirling, whirling. Fear is stirring the water, awakening the leviathan of the deep—that is, the desire to take control—but was it not Christ who calmed the storm? When the Apostles cried out in fear, it was Christ alone who could assure them that no matter what, He was in control. Two thousand years later, nothing has changed, for Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The rock that He established is as strong as it ever was and ever will be, because He promised that it would be: the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

We are not called to interrogate every act, every word, produced by Pope Francis—but to trust in Christ. It’s simple, and that’s precisely what our pope has been telling us. When we simply trust in Christ, the doors of our hearts are opened to the streets, where we the sick find our healing. Love, love, love, we are healed by love, in loving and being loved—when did this change? When will it ever change? Christ reached and He touched the leper, the blind, the maimed.

We the Church of this day are called to do no less.

In the Quiet of a Farmhouse

Winter has come early to the island.

Finding ourselves snowed-in following our traditional wine-and-cheese with Nicholas’s relatives, his grandmother led us upstairs to the farthest corner of the pieced-together farmhouse. Tucked beneath the slanted roof of a bedroom smelling of nostalgia (musty comic books), my husband and I snuggled in the stifling darkness, toasty-warm in the stale bedding despite the snow tinkling against the window.

Awaking from a restless sleep (blamed on the lumpy pillows), we padded down the narrow staircase into the kitchen. Ordinarily, I would eat breakfast and get on with my day. But there is something about an old farmhouse that makes one stop, and sit, and keep sitting in the sunlight that has broken through the overcast to grace this retreat in the countryside.

I remember as a child, standing motionless at the bottom of the staircase in my own grandmother’s kitchen. Everyone else was either napping in the heat of the afternoon or tromping in the pasture with Grandpa. I was breathing the stillness of the interior of that beloved yellow farmhouse. And I was watching the stained-glass rose gently revolving at the window that peered out at the century-old evergreens (once believed to hide wolves in their shadows).

I think my soul grew wiser in those moments—I think my soul grew wiser in the kitchen of Nick’s grandmother. For I believe aging does not always occur through what you do . . . but sometimes through what you don’t do. When we sit a minute or two longer in that ladder-back chair and rest in the golden morning, we learn that life passes by as swiftly as we let it. We learn that when we abandon the frenetic rhythm of our daily schedule, we begin to hear the pulsing beat of the heart of God.

I confess that, in the busyness of life, I had forgotten just how much I yearn for simplicity. But it only took a few moments in the quiet of the farmhouse to remember that my heart is happiest when it is beating in time with God’s heart.