Father John-Paul from Tucson’s Newman Center at last Sunday’s Mass:

“We’ve heard a lot of talk these last few days about ‘winning.’ We will have won when we’ve established a whole culture of life.”

Lots of loud voices lately. I think Father summed things up nicely. He didn’t elaborate and he didn’t have to.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Mary, who the whole Gospels said I think two things: “Do what [Christ] tells you,” at the Wedding at Cana and, on her way across the hill country to visit Elizabeth, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior,” i.e. the Magnificat.

She “pondered these things”–all things–in her heart, starting with the angel Gabriel’s announcement/invitation (actually, Mary was probably a ponderer since birth), and then for the rest of her life. She stood silently at the foot of the Cross, still pondering, holding what must have been the unbearable tension, sorrow, anxiety, and horror of having watched her beloved Son tortured to death.

Then she kept on living. She believed. She prayed. She served those around her.

So did St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who’s also been much on my mind as I’ve been writing about her for the past few months. “May we become little, more and more,” was her thought.

Really, this attitude goes to the heart of our faith. “I will give you the keys to the kingdom,” Jesus says to Peter in today’s Gospel. What IS that kingdom, if not the blind faith and insane-for-the-light hope that our pondering, little acts of love, constant efforts to purify our intentions, words, actions, and heart go out to all the world, help alleviate the suffering of all the world, help spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth?

Was Jesus who he said he was, in other words–or not? Because if he was, is, and the reign of love has been established, and death has been vanquished–do we really need to go around calling each other names, shouting each other down, going to battle stations about every contemporary “issue,” whether large or small: lording it over when we “win,” calling foul when we “lose,” hating, excluding, condemning while also labeling everyone who disagrees with us a hater, or a pagan, or a fanatic…

I ever more believe the “small,” the silent, the ones who ponder go a very long way toward keeping the world spinning on its axis. The ones who quietly devote their lives to searching for beauty and making things beautiful, and by beauty I of course include moral beauty.

I just wrote a column, for example, on a sublime book of photographs by a guy who spent 15 years in the jungles of Central and South America exploring the world of moths. He was 75 by the time he finished.

There is a moral beauty there, to my mind–the working in relative obscurity, the attention to detail, the staying up all night to photograph creatures who are nocturnal. Just as there is a moral beauty in someone who faithfully cares for her aging mother, or practices the violin, or tends a garden: activities that are away from the eyes of the world in other words. It’s not to say those are the only places of moral beauty but as Christ said when you have the adulation of the world for what you’ve done, you’ve already received your reward…

Celebrating such people and such actions and such lives is itself not calculated to gain a whole lot of approval, attention or interest.

I still think it’s the best I can do. And the best of what I and a whole lot of other people I admire, revere and love do.

Blessed Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”


14 Replies to “UPON THIS ROCK”

  1. Beautiful, both words and photo. Thank you.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Thank you, Marianne–much appreciated.

  2. Heather, your post reminded me of a story by Solzhenitsyn: Matryona’s House. The story ends like this: “Misunderstood and rejected by her husband, a stranger to her own family despite her happy, amiable temperament, comical, so foolish that she worked for others for no reward, this woman, who had buried all her six children, had stored up no earthly goods. Nothing but a dirty white goat, a lame cat, and a row of fig-plants. None of us who lived close to her perceived that she was that one righteous person without whom, as the saying goes, no city can stand. Nor the world.” Thank you.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Ron, WONDERFUL QUOTE. Exactly what I was trying to get at–the one righteous man or woman, who we so desperately need to keep hope alive..I did not know the story and have just read it on the Internet Archive–then read a couple of commentaries. From “The Making of a Russian Icon:Solzhenitsyn’s ‘Matryona’s Home'”:”The tragic destiny of Matryona is not alone the product of a “new” upheaval in Russian life. Woven into that destiny is the record of men driven by crude impulses of need and greed, men who have accepted the rituals of Christianity but who have remained alien to its essence, its ethic of love and self-sacrifice.”

      I urge everyone to do the same: many consider this Solzhenitsyn’s best short story. Many thanks, Ron, for bringing it to our attention!

  3. I love this. Thank you Heather!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Thank you, Rose! Happy July!!

  4. Anonymous says: Reply

    Great reflection. Thanks Heather.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Entirely my pleasure–thanks for reading.

  5. Anonymous says: Reply

    So beautifully stated… exactly what I needed to hear! I agree with your take on the most Christ-like way to live in this world. Thank you Heather!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      I am really pondering this “one righteous” man or woman who keeps the world going…partly because of a story a friend told me about one such person, to whom I hope to devote a future arts and culture column–I’m heartened to know this notion resonates with so many. Thank you.

  6. In the last sentence of your post, did you intentionally leave out the “I” in the quote of Jesus speaking to Peter? There is poetry in your prose. I will ponder these things. Thank you for lifting up the good, the beautiful, and the true.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      I sure did not intentionally leave it out, James, and have fixed the sentence–thank you, and thanks as well for the support. Very glad you like my work–

  7. Phillip Aller says: Reply

    We decrease, as Christ in us, increases.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Exactly, and that we can feel ourselves “decreasing,” and laugh at our smallness, I take as a very good sign. Age is great for this, I’m finding…thanks for reading, Phillip.


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