Some time ago, I had the privilege of working with two classes of middle school students as we prepared for the school’s spring concert. That year, the theme for the concert was, “The Music Timeline.” Each grade had two classes and the teachers picked the era from which the students sang songs as well as performed a chorographic component. Being a true product of my generation, my grade partner and I picked the 70s, known as the era of Disco.
After many discussions about multicolored clothing and frizzed hair, my teacher-partner and I got to work with 40 students in choreographing “The Hustle,” “The Bus Stop” and “The Bump.” After the first awkward moments of learning the steps for each dance, it was practice, practice, and practice! During one after-school session, after realizing the gym was filled with the basketball team, we decided to take our group outside on the playground. Forty students stood on the playground as my grade partner and I stood on the fire escape. We plugged in our boom box through an open window and got to work.
It quickly became evident that even though the students knew and were confident of the steps for each dance, they did not have passion for what they were doing. “Stop! Stop! Stop!” I yelled. I jumped up and down on the fire escape and then ran down the stairs to them. “Passion! I want to see passion and you having fun!” Their reaction to my enthusiasm was rolled eyes, deep sighs, and sucking of teeth. I walked up the steps again, put the music on and danced with the teacher without a smile or gusto of any kind. I rewound the cassette and played the music again, but this time my partner and I put our hearts and souls into the dances. When the song ended, the students actually clapped for us, among many giggles. I told them, “That’s the passion I want to see from you!”
I could not help of thinking of this memory as I read Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter announcing the Year of Consecrated life. In it, he calls us to “live the present with passion.” (2) In this statement, he challenges the entire Church to listen attentively to the voice of the Holy Spirit that is present today. He reminds all of us about the holiness and the fervor that founders and foundresses had as they established their particular religious congregations. Pope Francis reminds us that the impetus of these beginnings was all about living the Gospel. He goes on to explain that the Gospel is truly the manual for the way in which we are called to live every day of our life, not only in the past but more importantly in the present time. It is not enough just to read the words, not enough to meditate on them, but rather to take the words, the message of the Gospel, and live them out in our actions and our words.
So, by now, you are probably thinking to yourself, “Yup, that is what religious, priests and those involved in secular institutes do every day. What does this have to do with me? I am just a regular Joe or Jane.” My response to that train of thought would be this: Have you forgotten that being a Catholic Christian is grounded within the radical consecration of baptism? Yes, this means YOU! By our baptism, every person is claimed under the sign of the cross to be the Disciples of Christ.
Do we really understand this reality? The Catechism of the Catholic Church talks about baptism in this way: “Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift…. We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water; anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God’s Lordship.” (CCC 1216)
Through this grace, every member of the Church is called into a vocation; a ministry of holiness. I am reminded of what the late Bishop Joseph McFadden used to say over and over again: “I need all members of the Diocese of Harrisburg to be holy, just as you want your Bishop to be holy.” So, our baptism challenges every one of us to our personal fidelity to the mission of holiness that Christ entrusts to us. Our specific call to holiness is a unique call and special grace. Some men and women, who are called by God, live out their baptism in a special way through pronouncing vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience according to the customs or “rule” of their secular institutes or congregations. These vows are a deepened expression of the consecration they already received at their baptism.
So, Pope Francis’ words to live the present with passion are a request for not only those who are consecrated within secular institutes and religious consecrations, but also to the entire people of God to live a life of passionate holiness.
Shall we dance?
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness