Tonight I will host a viewing of “I Would Be Called John,” a one man play about Pope John XXIII, starring Charles Durning. Written by Eugene Kennedy and shot in 1986, the show aired on PBS during September of 1987.
It was interesting to watch the film a few times in preparation, and to hear some of Bl. John XXIII’s ideas, hopes, dreams, and prayers for our Church. His life was certainly interesting, growing up as the son of a tenant farmer, then his life in the Church. He was a humble man and that humility came with him to the Vatican. Pope John XXIII’s focus was very much on how to make a faith real for people.
One thing that struck me is that he wanted hearts and minds that were fully engaged with faith and with the world – and that meant not only transforming the Church for those of us who are members of the Body of Christ, but also for the Curia and those in the Vatican. He had an almost mischievous intensity about what the Holy Spirit urged him to do, something that had been brewing in him for a lifetime of service.
This also came to mind… I am constantly amazed by the over-the-top praise (OK, I have done it myself…) and over-the-top criticism of Pope Francis. As I watched the movie and saw what Pope John XXIII was up to, I saw a connection to what Pope Francis is up to. I also saw connections to what the four popes in between were up to, as well. It is all God’s work in the world, through Christ and by the Holy Spirit. Each moment is but a moment, just like we are all members of the Body of Christ.
We are in this season of Advent waiting, the Holy Waiting that we are called to by God. If we think that all of this is happening on our timetable and in our lives, think again. We sit in the shade of trees that were tiny seeds entering the earth a long time ago. So it is with faith, our lives are the seeds of future growth.
This year I am experiencing a rare form of patience, one typically unknown to me. How grateful I am to have been asked to facilitate this movie night, because it led me to see Pope John XXIII in a deeper light – and Advent too. I think of him, that he must have known that the seeds he scattered back then, would take a long time to grow. What hope, what waiting, what patience! From saplings to the ancient woodland forest, God’s work is everywhere. Like Advent, seeds spread long ago, still germinating, still growing, still taking root to this day. May we all find the peace of Advent in that long arc of grace, God forever at work in this world.
(The DVD “I Would Be Called John” will be shown at the Church of the Immaculate Conception on Wednesday, December 11, 2013, at 10 AM, hosted by Deacon Michael Melanson, and again at 7 PM, hosted by me. Viewings will take place in the Flicker Room, at the Parish Center. There is no admission, but donations are always gratefully accepted. All are welcome!)