Wednesday, March 14, 2012

On Initiation

Continuing our studies of Christian initiation. We have been instructed by Fr. Mark Joseph Costello, who lives in Chicago with the friars of the Province of St. Joseph. He's a good guy and great fun to talk to about liturgy, ritual, and church architecture. Today with Brother Mark Joseph and one of our formators as our guide, we visited two Jesuit-run Catholic churches in Manhattan to study their architecture, especially the baptismal fonts. They were St. Ignatius Loyola Parish on the Upper East Side, and St. Francis Xavier Parish near Union Square. These churches were built in the late 19th century in the Baroque style associated with the Counter-Reformation and in vogue with the Jesuits long into modernity. They were quite exquisite, let me tell you -- almost too beautiful, too rich, if you know what I mean! At least too rich for the Franciscan sensibility. But, goodness, how breathtaking they are, how steeped in symbol, how blessed with the finest of Christian art and architecture.

It has been a pleasure to revisit the subject of Christian initiation. It takes me back to the often-contentious and always-lively worship class I took at Boston University School of Theology. Of course, it also brings me back to my own experience of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), in 1999-2000, when I was confirmed into the Catholic Church. I should describe for you my experience of confirmation. I have preserved two first-person accounts, first from a spiritual journal I kept through the initiation process, and a theological reflection written over five years later. But I think I will hold off on sharing those accounts until Pentecost.

I should also write a reflection to compare and contrast the experience of initiation twelve years ago with my experience of formation today. Alas, the hour is late, and inspiration is fleeting. Another good idea to be stored in the mental file cabinet until such a time as ready to be broken open.

Our study of initiation, ritual, and liturgy reminds me: I've been looking around, albeit half-heartedly, for a free concert of sacred music in Manhattan or Brooklyn. My only free time is the weekends, which limits when I can go out on do things on my own. I asked the brothers if they'd like to go with me somewhere. Perhaps a couple will take the bait, if I offer something to delight! I might wait until after Easter to venture; part of me is fatigued with Passion music. I'd like to hear some good liturgical or sacred music on the theme of Resurrection.

Now, to finish this post, then return to reading for next week's classes on Francis. Coming up: the development of the Rule in the first generation of Franciscan friars.

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