Leaving a legacy

Recently I spent a few days in Montreal with my sisters in community, it was long overdue. So there I was  waiting at the bus station to get the bus back to Ottawa. It is currently ‘Reading Week’ also known as ‘break’, ‘writing your essays’ Week, ‘sleeping ‘ week, ‘escaping home’ week and many other titles! If you could see me at that moment, I don’t know if you’d laugh or cry or sign me in somewhere. Let me explain! I arrived half an hour early for my bus only to find over a hundred and fifty people already waiting. Along comes a bus (yes, singular!) which happens to be a 35 seater. So here I am waiting for the next bus, just another 50 minutes or so to wait or so I think. Next bus comes along on the hour....we still don’t make it on....wait another hour! Santa pazienza! Not wanting to waste time (it is study week after all!), I got a cup of coffee and am here sitting on the ground reading ‘Summorum Pontificum’, the Pope’s motu proprio on the Extraordinary Form of celebration of the Liturgy. I am trying to write some of the papers which are due for our Liturgical Law course.

 It’s funny, I am guessing that there aren’t too many young religious in Canada. I hadn’t realised that I would draw attention and hoped to ‘blend in’ with the other 100 students or so waiting for the bus. A group of students behind me saw that I was reading ‘religious stuff’ and hence a discussion arose about the Pope and his decision to hand over his ministry as Pope to another. As would-be canonists sometimes we can get lost in the canonical issues surrounding such a decision; however it is always grounding to listen to people and their reactions, opinions and thoughts on such a historic decision. One thing is clear, at grass roots, the admiration for the Pope has grown and people appreciate his decision, one made in humility and discernment. For many of my peers, the Pope could be our grandfather and to expect a man of that age and of declining health to carry the immense burdens of leading the Church in these difficult times is indeed questionable.

The media continue to analyse the ‘legacy’ which Benedict XVI leaves us. His brother cardinals plead that he keep writing.Personally, I agree with Jeffrey Tucker  who says that one of the many lasting legacies of the papacy of Benedict XVI concerns liturgical music. He has led through example and through the inspiration provided by his homilies and writings. The musical legacy turns the tide and foreshadows a future of beauty in Catholic art which  makes this little blogger nun happy! You can read his article here. The Pope placed a strong emphasis on addressing the amnesia of European culture about its Christian roots. In his writings, Ratzinger has consistently mined the depths of scripture and the theological concepts of the great Catholic tradition (especially the Fathers) while connecting both to philosophy and contemporary thought in a way that provides new insights, all the while keeping the person of Jesus and our relationship with Him foremost in the minds of readers. His books have been a staple diet for me, especially during the highpoints of the liturgical seasons,his books 'Jesus of Nazareth' volumes 1 and 2 have constant companions on my bedside locker over the past few years.There are many more blessings that the Pope has left us and which we are grateful to God for. It would be injustice to our Pope to judge his ‘stepping down’as his greatest legacy. His legacy will continue to bear fruit, even when his successor takes on his role as Pope and of steering the Church through these difficult times.

 Most people rarely give thought to the effect they have had or will have on others. We may not influence over a billion people like the Pope did, as head of the Catholic Church but our life does make a difference to those around us. As Robert Kennedy said: “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped”. When we take a few moments to contemplate how our individual modes of being affect the people we spend time with each day, we come one step closer to seeing ourselves through the eyes of others. By asking ourselves whether those we encounter walk away feeling appreciated, respected, and liked, we can heighten our awareness of the effect we ultimately have. Something as simple as a smile given freely can, temporarily, brighten a person's entire world. Our value-driven conduct may inspire others to consider whether their own lives are reflective of their values. A word of advice, given lovingly, can help others see life in an entirely new fashion. Small gestures of kindness can even prove to those embittered by the world that goodness still exists. By simply being ourselves, we influence other's lives in both subtle and life-altering ways. To ensure that the effect we have is positive, we must strive to stay true to ourselves while realizing that it is the demeanour we project and not the quality of our wondrous inner landscapes that people see.

As the pace and fullness of modern life serve to isolate us from one another, the contact we do share becomes vastly more significant. We unconsciously absorb each other's energy, adopting the temperament of those with whom we share close quarters, and find ourselves changed after the briefest encounters. Everything we do or say has the potential to affect not only the individuals we live, work, and pray with but also those we've just met. You never know whose life you are affecting, big or small, so be kind to one another, you never know what battle the other person is fighting!