I've never been truly "burnt out" but I know many of my peers who are. I never wanted to get to that point and so I pushed myself to take a sabbatical. With out that time, one can become nitter, tired, and unwilling to serve. I know that it is important to refresh and renew the reasons one works for the Church.
Sabbatical is a period of rest (not that I'm resting much rest with this much travel.) The hope would be that I would return recharged in the field of ministry. After a week of pilgrimage and Mass at Church of the Resurrection, I find that I'm more recharged than I have been in years.
What is wondrous is that it came at a time I didn't expect. I knew the Church of the Resurrection would be special. It is the Church that has been built while my good friend Meg Metuska was serving as the music minister. I knew she would do an excellent job, but to be honest, when I walked in the church, it seemed just like any other modern suburban church. Well planned chairs around an altar in the center, lots of brown and neutral tones, and not a lot of excitement. The theology behind such a church building is that "The assembly is the decoration of the Church." I believe in this concept, but honestly, when the task is capturing a space in its use using in photography, it helps to have a few stain glass windows and such.
Was I surprised! The choirs sang beautifully. The congregation filled the room and made it feel like a home. And then the psalm was sung and I found myself near tears….
"Lord, every nation on earth will adore you!" Came the response. How well I knew that it was my mission to bear witness to that! After the responses the words were sung:
Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save.
The words of the psalmist accurately spoke the prayer of my heart and the mission of AD SODALITATEM.
And then Fr. Mark gave what I believe was the pinnacle of a homily for Epiphany. When we realize something, we cannot ignore it. He told the story of his niece who could find the delightful sound of Christmas music even in a noisy bustling shopping mall, or see the joy in a baby, even when it was crying. Wise men from the East saw a star, and knew it was something more. Shepherds responded to the angelic choirs. But what is mysterious is that only these wise men and shepherds responded because it was only these wise men and shepherds that listened. Fr. Mark's niece was like the wise men and shepherds, she could hear and see beyond the noise and distractions of the world, she could listen.
Fr. Mark's point is that God's music in our lives is abundant and constantly playing, but it is our failure to listen that keeps us from hearing it. We pay attention to the noise that gets in the way. This is why we sometimes feel as God is beyond us or abandoned us, and why when we finally hear the music, it is well and Epiphany.
Suddenly, I looked around the room and found amazing beauty in the Church. The people, the gifts of bread and wine, the sound of children, the soft glow of a candle in the Eucharistic Chapel. I would hope you would look at my Google Earth pictorial by clicking here. But in addition, I would hope you would look at a special pictorial about a special artistic work in the parish called the Stations of the Resurrection.
Not only did I wake up to realize the beauty of the people, the music, the architecture, and the art. I suddenly noticed that there was an awful lot of blue in the Stations of the Cross that are typically found in a Church. "That's funny." I said, only to realize that, they weren't the Stations of the Cross at all. Resurrection Parish keeps the Stations of the Cross in an outdoor prayer area. Inside the church building, they started a new tradition in the life of prayer in the community. They commissioned original artwork to be developed off of 15 meditation points found in the Scriptures surrounding the experience of the Lord's Resurrection. This was a brilliant way for a Catholic parish to both honor the tradition of the past and to be creative. The mosaics were created by Helen McLean especially for this parish. I encourage you to look at the pictures. The parish staff will help you with prayer aids should you wish to pray in this experience. The parish website is www.churchofresurrection.org
Finding the beauty in a Church I initially thought was bland was my epiphany on Epiphany. The whole worship experience seemed to reveal why sabbatical is so important. I found myself connected to the mission of the Church in a way I have not felt for years, and I felt great harmony that I am on the right path, and all of that after just one week. Only 51 more to go! What more can I expect from God?