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Pusillanimity, a Providential Finger and Discussions About a Pope

Written on March 20th, 2015

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It is a Tuesday evening during March break but more importantly the mid-point of the Lenten season of 2015. Tonight I am listening to a conversation on the life of Pope John Paul II and the movement of Evangelical Catholicism.

Peter Stockland uses these descriptive words for the place we find ourselves this Tuesday evening: “The very setting for the conversation between Father de Souza and George Weigel was silent testimony to the power of that shared conversation. The new Tyndale campus is the former Mother House of the Sisters of St. Joseph, who sold the property to the Evangelical university several years ago when the decline in vocations to the Catholic order made keeping it unsustainable.

As Father de Souza wisely pointed out, that transition from Catholic order to Evangelical seminary, unimaginable only a generation or two ago, went beyond the tyranny of the possible to ensuring that the Christian conversation will continue and God’s Word preached. And as George Weigel noted, the ultimate purpose of that conversation is beatitude—happiness—in following the path the Providential finger pushes us along.” (Peter Stockland at http://www.cardus.ca/blog/2015/03/happy-are-those)

I am wrapped up into the aura of the evening, spellbound not only by the dialogue taking place on the stage, but also because the architecture of the chapel simply and elegantly spoke to God’s presence. My eyes turned often toward the cross at the front of chapel, an unmistakable proclamation of the purpose and history of this place, the centrality of Christ evident. The connection to Lent, even though those words were not the theme of this night, seemed to pour in and out of my consciousness as I absorbed the words of the scholars.

Lent has come to be an ever increasing important season for me. I am not sure if it is aging, or life’s circumstances or a deepening knowledge of my own inadequacies and weaknesses in relation to an every growing understanding of magnitude of my God…but Lent has become a time of acknowledging God’s grace, anticipating His redemptive act on the cross and anguish as I anticipate His anguish on the cross for me, for us, for our sin.

The words of Nancy Nordenson (Comment, Spring 2015 p.14) say this in the context of Sacrament and Lent … “Sacrament comes from the Latin sacrementum, a translation of the Greek word for mystery. Augustine famously defined sacrament as a visible sign of invisible grace. Years ago I copied out words from a Lenten book into my journal, “Pray to remember that upon you rest both the favour of God and the power of the Spirit.”  This is how I think of God’s grace coming to us. And these words, “dedicate with faith your personal lifelong pilgrimage—-regardless of how insignificant it may seem to youas an important part of God’s liberation of the world.”

As the dialogue between the two scholars continues, Weigel quotes the late John Paul II using a word I have never heard before … “PUSILLANIMITY”. The full statement was actually something like this: “On a twist of do not be afraid, Pope John Paul II said be only afraid of thoughtlessness and pusillanimity.” I had no idea what that word meant (As an aside I could not figure out how to spell it and had to google it in various ways to identify the word and find its meaning. It brought me back to university days where we would all nod politely and in feigned understanding when our professors used words we did not understand. The gathered audience that Tuesday night was just the same.) For those of you in the same boat as I, it means lack of courage or gutlessness or spinelessness.

In this time of Lent, as I anticipate Easter weekend with the remembrance and celebrations yet to come, I acknowledge that upon me rests the favour of God and the power of the Spirit through His grace. As I continue on my lifelong pilgrimage I pray that I will be filled with the strength of the Holy Spirit to enable me to be thoughtful and courageous in my work.

I pray that same blessing for you … that you remember, as you resume your pilgrimage in these final stages of Lent, that upon you rest the favour of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

And as leaders in the final months of yet another school year may you be courageous and thoughtful as you feel the providential finger of our God pushing you along the chosen path.