Mar 23, 2016

Easter blessings in Litmanova

Tomorrow I leave for the little mountain village of Litmanova in Slovakia on the Polish border, site of the 1990-95 Marian apparitions to two village girls. A very peaceful, quiet place without tourists or fanfare - or souvenir stands or Italian style bistro's. In fact, there isn't a single restaurant in the entire village, though there are several small pensions and one small village store.

I've always loved this minor, little known apparition because the Blessed Lady in white came down from her heavenly cloud, walked across the small storeroom where she had appeared to the two shocked young girls of 12 and sat down on a little wooden bench and spoke with them. The bench is still there, covered in plastic, and pilgrims can kiss it. The utter simplicity of the place is so beautiful, and the peace is lasting and profound. There is even a sacred spring with crystal clear water. I've been here a number of times and became friends with the local Greek Orthodox priest who administers the site, a kindly, good man without complications or pretensions. I even contributed the English translation to the official site, which interested readers can access here: Litmanova-Zvir and here at The Byzantine Forum.  No fanaticism here at Litmanova, only simple faith in 'the Lady,' and pious devotion of the old school. Remarkable and inspiring.

In preparation for this triduum of Easter at Litmanova, I started reading Matthew Fox's most recent book, Letters to Pope Francis. It is a book imbued with hope and the promise of a new dawn, as Fox was responding - as we all were - to Pope Francis's warmly human, humble and accessible side in those early days of the springtime of his papacy. The book is well worth reading for its deep, prophetic insights into the possibility of a new Christianity and it offers healing for any of Fox's readers who also read his searing indictment of the Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI years, the powerful, brilliant, indispensable, The Pope's War. 

Sadly, we have all learned since the early days of Francis' tenure as Pope that hope does not reside in the figure of a Pope or in the institution itself. Matthew Fox's dissillusion with Pope Francis, which is profound,  has been most eloquently expressed in his articles on the canonization of Junipero Serra, which can be accessed here at his blog: Matthew Fox. 

It is sad that a reforming pope who has actively sought the perspectives of the faithful would be so blind to the history of indigenous peoples on two continents, and deaf to the protests of indigenous and non-indigenous Christians alike.  And it is sad that, as many nations and peoples await Pope Francis’ encyclical on Eco-theology and Climate Change, he would follow his predecessors’ example in favoring the perpetrators of colonization and genocide over the indigenous peoples of this hemisphere and their living legacy of respect for nature…a legacy that is vital to the survival of the life on Earth as we know it today.
This is a severe blow to the hopes of people looking to a reformed papacy. Granted, Pope Francis is only human like the rest of us and humans err—as he says, he himself is a sinner.  And this decision is a grave sin indeed.
Powerful words for this Easter as we prepare to celebrate the Paschal Mystery of the Crucified and Risen One and as all of us connected to the Resurrected Savior await a new dawn. 
But to end these random thoughts on a note of rebirth, here is a beautiful image sent me by a student today, witnessing to the profound interconnectedness of life and all living things, bound by compassion: