Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Flawed Heroes and Graced Mystics

One of my favorite authors is Walker Percy. In his novels Percy presents flawed heroes that face crises of the human spirit and walk through the land of faith and despair on a search. Percy invites his readers to “wake up” to this search that breaks through everydayness: 
“Now in these dread latter days of the old violent beloved U.S.A. and of the Christ-forgetting Christ-haunted death-dealing Western world I came to myself in a grove of young pines.”[1] 
The search leads Percy’s characters to relationships that were there all the time. His protagonists experience coming fully to themselves. They awaken to the "water that does not run dry, the food and drink that alone can satisfy" (John 4:4). A convert to Catholicism, Percy struggled with questions post-modern Catholics are asking today. His search led him to live in his own “place of nowhere," Covington, Louisiana. His "place of nowhere" metaphor recalls losing ourselves in God to be true to our center (the mystical center or our inner bell[2]) and includes the realty that we are sent back into the community where God dwells[3].

Through the writings of Blessed James Alberione,[4] I have come to a deeper understanding of what it means to integrate the spiritual life in "everydayness." Blessed Alberione considered everything a gift of God that invites our unwrapping and response. The gospel of John influenced Alberione’s spirituality: “We all live off his generous bounty, gift after gift after gift” (John 1:16).[5]  A Pauline charismatic element is to “know the gift of God” (John 4;10). Alberione opened all the gifts available to him: scripture, great religious traditions in the Church, church documents, theology, the Eucharist, press, radio, television, etc. hoping to create a great synthesis in Jesus Master as he defined himself “way, truth, and life” (John 14:6). Holiness consists, he wrote, in living in Christ as St. Paul lived Christ until we say it is no longer I who live, Christ lives in me (Gal. 2:20). [6] Alberione sought and solicited the reunification of all sciences around theology, proclaiming the dignity of all branches of knowledge. According to him, whatever the subject studied, ultimately it was to study God, the author of all things, and of all the sciences which are the interpreters of created reality.[7]

"Still loading, please wait." We are
in continual conversion in our
response to God's grace.
Spirituality integrates all that makes up our human reality that we may live in Christ and through Christ in the Trinitarian relationship for a fullness of life. “The final reality with which we must all deal,” writes David Tracy, “is neither our own pathetic attempts at self-salvation, nor the horror of life in all its masks, nor even the frightening reality of sin in our constant attempts to delude ourselves and others; rather that final reality is the hard, unyielding reality of the Pure unbounded Love disclosed to us in God’s revelation of who God is and who we are commended and empowered to be in Christ Jesus.”[8] Grace is pure gift that transforms our everyday life. Living the Pauline Spirituality is our response to this gift as we "count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus" Romans 6:11.

[1] Percy, Walker, Love in the Ruins, N.Y. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999, pg. 3
[2] Rolheiser, Ronald, O.M.I., Course notes Boston College School of Theology and Ministry,
   Summer Institute, 2009.
[3] Ibid: “Christianity is by definition ecclesial.”  Also reference the chapter A Spirituality of Ecclesiology,
   The Holy Longing, Ronald Rolheiser, N.Y. Random House, 1999, pg. 135 ff.
[4] Blessed James Alberione (1884-1971) Founder of the Pauline Family of Religious Institutes
[5] The Message Bible, John 1:16
[6] Alberione, James, S.S.P., Thoughts, St. Paul Editions, 1972, pg. 49.
[7] Kaitholil, George, S.S.P., Jesus Way, Truth, Life, St. Paul Editions, 1984, pg. 104.
[8] Tracy, David, On Naming the Present, N.Y. Orbis Books, 1994, Pg. 101.


Sr. Margaret Kerry, FSP, celebrates 40 years of life and mission as a Daughter of St. Paul. With a Masters from Boston College School of Theology & Ministry, she gives presentations on the vocation and mission of the laity, media literacy, and evangelization. She directed the Association of Pauline Cooperators for 15 years and was creative editor of The Pauline Cooperator magazine. An author (St. Anthony of Padua: Fire & Light; Strength in Darkness: John of the Cross), Sr. Margaret is working on a young adult book. You can reach her at

1 comment:

Rae Stabosz said...

Sr Margaret Charles, you have outdone yourself. Love the Walker Percy, love the David Tracy, love the recollection of how the Founder strove to integrate all scientific study with theology. Plus, "Still loading, please wait."
Hahahah! I almost missed that.