Mary Marrocco

Mary Marrocco

Dr. Mary Marrocco is an associate secretary for the Canadian Council of Churches. She is also a teacher, writer and lay pastoral worker. Her column, Questioning Faith, features topics about the teachings of our church, scriptures, the lives and writings of the saints and spiritual writers and theologians. She can be reached at marrocco7@sympatico.ca.

In a parish discussion — a mini-synod, you might say — we had a roundtable talk about whether people would return to Church once pandemic restrictions ended. One young participant saw it this way: “If the Church has something people need, why wouldn’t they return?”

There are moments when the ground beneath us shakes, and we get a shocking glimpse of our failing in love.

“Christianity’s holiest site,” a news story said, is Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher, “the place where Christians believe Jesus died and was buried.”

We humans need to be tended. Sheep are tended by a shepherd. Gardens are tended by a gardener. Even databases are tended by experts.

Sam was trying to decide if he should apologize to a high-school friend of his. They’d gone out for lunch, re-connecting after having being out of touch for a while. To Sam’s surprise, his friend Kim remarked smilingly, responding to a story he’d recounted:  “I can see how that happened to you. You always were a fool and a nuisance.”  The conversation continued, but a sick feeling in Sam’s stomach stayed with him throughout lunch and long after they’d parted.

A local parish held a small procession, which included standing on the corners of a busy downtown intersection holding signs for an hour. These were not rabble-rousing parishioners; quiet and unobtrusive, they were the most diffident, retiring sign-holders who ever pressed themselves against walls. Many passers-by called encouraging words or honked supportively if driving. Many others shouted derisively, called names or yelled recriminations, one even throwing a soda can at one of the sign-holders — who, as she later reported, simply stood still praying for the can-thrower.

These are dangerously murky times. Passionate voices ring out all over; few listen to each other. We risk losing one another as forces pull and push us apart, like the sudden crush in a crowd, when people going different directions create forces by which some get suffocated and trampled. How can we find our way together amidst such forces?  

“Our manuscript has gone safe to the Printer.” So wrote Sheldon Vanauken (“Van”) in A Severe Mercy, after his beloved wife’s painful and young death.

It gives me pause to hear people say they “identify” as Christian, or see questionnaires and forms asking people to check if they “identify” with a particular religion or none.

In the animated movie Up, a shy lonely man knows joy, married to the love of his life and delighting in their little home, even with its sorrows. After Ellie dies, Carl becomes increasingly sealed in by grief and pain, his frown deepening into fixed furrows, the beautiful nest becoming an airless bubble. Soon, booming industry and development surround and dwarf the little house, until Carl becomes a bewildered, angry prisoner within the world and within himself.