One of my regular readers, an American IT expert visiting Davao, who calls himself Charlie5 (he says he is a Daoist and a shaman), sent in a response to last week’s article, After The Pope Has Gone. He makes some interesting counterpoints to my article and I decided to publish his reply in whole (making only minor edits for spelling and brevity):
Was there a miracle?
The miracles, if they occurred, would have taken place in the ‘netherworlds’ of the hearts and minds of the true believers, miracles that inspired the outpourings of grace that would have been noticeable by the people present at the mass. I was at the SM mall watching with hundreds of Davaoeños, and when they raised their white handkerchiefs with the crowd, I thought it to be a moment of grace, similar maybe to a really good episode of “Little House on the Prairie.”
Is grace a miracle? Do you take it for granted, the grace of spontaneous outpouring hearts and out-flowing love?
I enjoyed your article this morning, and I liked the idea you came up with, on the Vatican offering to pay for the whole mess. I hadn’t thought of that solution to the dilemma clearly present as we watched all the coverage leading up to the event. That would indeed have been grace, taking the pope’s message of poverty and humility further into practice, and would have set a fantastic example.
We have heard the Catholic Church complain now, though, for at least a decade, about financial losses, churches closing left and right. Of course from where we sit, they still have gold plated roofs at the Vatican, things like that. My guess is, though Francis himself may have honestly wished for it, he’s probably like a democratic ‘President Obama’ trying to implement his ideals with a republican legislature tying him back down, ‘checks and balances’, as they say. I bet Pope Francis couldn’t have made it happen if he wanted to, because, as the philosopher Hegel said, this is not the divine infinite we live in, this is the realm of the finite, the realm of inequality.
And I disagree with you about the answer to the tears.
I wrote to a friend a few days after the pope’s mass, a woman back in the US who suffers with just such a question and with just such pain, and explained this pope’s graceful response, a response similar to one my dad once displayed in my presence; my dad was a former Jesuit, the same order that this pope came from (Francis is the first Jesuit pope in the history of the Catholic Church).
My dad was also a Jesuit priest at Fordham, until he got my mom pregnant with me.
Well, one day, very late in his life, maybe a couple of years before he died, we were getting into the elevator with our groceries from C-Town (he called it “K-town” for the weird logo) to our 6th floor apartment on Marion Avenue, and this old guy got into the elevator with us.
Apparently a tattoo of a six digit number was showing on his arm and my dad asked this stranger, ‘Excuse me, but does that mean what I think it means?’
And the older Jewish man replied ‘Yes, I am a survivor of Auschwitz’.
And it shocked the hell out of me, 15 or 16 years old at the time, to see my father break down in honest and total tears, and take both of this man’s hands in his, and say, in complete tears, crying with compassion, “God bless you! God bless you!”.
I did tear up, at several points during the pope’s mass.
And when I wrote to my friend back in the US, I told her truthfully, ‘As I write this tonight, it is suddenly pouring here in Davao, pouring irrationally hard like a New Orleans thunderstorm, like the universe itself is crying.’
For weeks I’d been struggling to find the right way to answer the personal pain that she had finally opened up about via email and eloquently explained to me. I took a couple of shots at it on my own – I thought I was a smart and strong shaman – but I failed completely and she let me know it, speaking of her simple need for empathy.
When the pope cancelled his speech on the environment on the fly and launched into his explanation, how “it is only when Christ cried, he’s capable to cry, that he understands what’s going on in our lives”, THAT was the miracle I had been asking the universe for, waiting for without knowing it. And I cried for my friend.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.