Use words only when necessary…. St. Francis of Assisi.
These words ran all over me while visiting the Franciscan Monastery in Kinnebunkport ME early one evening in July. We were walking the grounds with another couple (my husband’s cousin and his wife), and the questions began to flow.
She said – “I’m not sure what this is.” as we approached the outdoor Stations of the Cross.
“It’s the Stations…” I answered. But, as she didn’t know what that meant, we started with “It tells the story of the crucifiction.”
We walked around the stations, giving the general idea of each as the story unfolded. And then he says – “But I don’t understand why they wanted to kill him.” and I begin to sweat inside a bit as I try to find the words to express what I believe – without being preachy, or talking down or assuming more background than was there.
But more than that I felt another struggle. On the surface, these folks were asking questions about the Catholic Church. But, I couldn’t shake the idea that what needed saying was something that spoke to Faith, and Love and spirituality that underpins these traditions. And then again, maybe the questions just were the ones about the practices and traditions and stories. I didn’t want to head off in a direction on my own. I tried to listen and respond to the questions asked. I tried not to be so surprised that someone that I think was baptized as a Catholic could grow up without some of the basic ideas of the Church (but I was later informed that his family didn’t really go to church except with gramma on holidays).
And, I’m not sure what was going thru JP’s mind. He explains things succinctly and efficiently. I never detect what feelings might be underneath the words. But that’s another issue, for another day, and far out of reach of anything I would put in a public place.
I’m home now — it was a lovely evening in spite of being skeeter food. I’m still praying and discerning. Do I send a Bible and a note suggesting that he read through the New Testament and see if he can figure it out for himself? I’m not sure. I do know that I want to keep the dialog open. If these are seekers, then I want to help open doors.
For now, I’m reading Henri Nouwen’s “Life of the Beloved” – which I found on the bookshelf last night. I think it might just guide me to some answers.
And perhaps I can find those words when they are needed.