Dec 24, 2010

Christmas Eve in Litmanova

(Update: I'm not sure why the original photos included with this post are no longer visible, especially since they were my original photos. But I have 'deleted' the remnants of them, to remove the distracting exclamation points!)

Spent a wonderful Christmas eve at the Marion Shrine of Litmanova, Slovakia, with my young friend, Mike, and his charming carpenter father, Honza. Mother had to stay home back in Liptovsky Mikulas to care for her ailing mother, but we returned in time for our Christmas Eve dinner.

When one is present in such a place of holiness and peace, you realize why you are 'Catholic' to the core of your being, for a Marion shrine of this nature epitomizes all that is best about the Catholic mystical tradition, and what distinguishes it from other Christian traditions. What also wells up within your heart is the quiet, peaceful, but firm determination to fight all those forces within the religious institution that are impervious to this spirit of holiness, peace and love. It is a never ending battle, this need to resist the forces of exclusion and intolerance, which would twist the religion into an instrument of prejudice and tribal superiority. However, the gentle grace of the Mother of Litmanova gives one the courage and inner peace to continue to witness to the holiness of being called to the gay vocation.

Christmas blessings to one and all from Mary's holy mountain in Litmanova, Slovakia.


JD said...

I have a hunch that its the Catholicism of people like this family- folk Catholicism, essentially, that is the *real* vitality of the tradition.

And its still living, hanging on in some measure. The key, for me, is a kind of unacknowledged space between the hierarchy's officiating and the reception on the part of the faithful. On Christmas Eve the bishop was empowered to give us the papal blessing, containing a plenary indulgence, on the condition of course that we are Catholics in good standing, Eucharisted and cleansed by sacramental confession.

Now how many of us in that packed Cathedral really fit the criteria? I'll be it was none too many. Still everyone bowed their head for the blessing. No one stepped aside and said "this doesn't apply to me". I'd like think I still received it, and I imagine most were thinking the same. The bishops words were a kind of protocol or script, but not even the Pope can really inscribe the limitations on his own "sacred powers", as it were. Once the blessing is "out there", its up for grabs.

There was a beautiful moment when I was praying at the altar in front of the Nativity statues and a woman came up to pray beside me. She kind of looked around for a moment, then promptly stole some of the straw beneath the Christ Child.

That small gesture tells me something is still alive, the embers of the sacred are still hot beneath the peat of institutionalism, secularity and disenchantment.

It is on that visceral level of the holy hay where I believe religion really lives, at least, this religion that I so love.

I had such a wonderful and spirit filled Christmas with my family. Glad to see you had a good Christmas too.

Jayden Cameron said...

wonderful story about the Christmas straw and the Christmas blessing, JD. And as the Primate of England, Archbishop Nichols recently said (in response to 'rule book Catholics' irate over existence of Soho gay masses in London) no one has the right to judge the consciences of church goers or to deny them communion. There are pockets of light out there and the sacred burns in the most surprising places. The Marion shrines in particular continue to radiate. Glad your Christmas was a good one. I'm still on break and off to London again for more theatre. Peace.