Those of you of a certain age probably remember the Calgon Soap commercials. They usually had a harried housewife in the midst a hectic crisis at home, only to say, “Calgon, take me away.” And with that, she was transported to a wonderfully relaxing bubble bath, all her cares gone away.
I must say that since Simon-Felix resigned, there have been a few times when I wished Calgon could have taken me away.
Generally, the role of subprior in capite is kind of a placeholder position. Since the prioral election must occur within 30 days of the resignation of the prior, it is by constitution designed to be a short-term gig.
Consider what has happened since Simon-Felix resigned. The world is in global pandemic. We have inherited new and significant changes to our kitchen. Classes at Aquinas are not at Aquinas but are recurring remotely. Most of the people of God are deprived of a public Mass. Kevin Heitart, our beloved maintenance man had to take a new job. Maybe, in the words of Jeremiah, I was a trusting lamb being led to the slaughter.
But, then, yesterday, Pope Francis showed what spiritual leadership looks like. A solitary figure in Saint Peter’s Square, begging God for deliverance. A tiny, solitary man in the midst of massively beautiful architecture, reminding us that above all else, we are all in this together. Reminding us that just as he was for the disciples in the boat, Jesus is close to us, wondering why we doubt his powerful love for us.
We gather today to participate in something that is ancient and wonderful. And we gather, not as individuals, but as a body of friars connected to an order that has evangelized for over 800 years. Do you think Dominic had any idea the order he founded would still be here today? Consider what the Holy Spirit has done. The innovative practice of preaching inspired when St. Dominic encountered those on the outside, those who were marginalized, was inspired to seek permission to preach, something reserved to bishops at the time.
Today, over 800 years later, we stand in a world not much different than the world St. Dominic faced. There are many more people outside the Church than in it. Many have not heard a compelling witness to the gospel that calls them into a relationship with Jesus. The Church itself is still reeling from scandals and can seem out of touch to people.
I think it is for this reason that Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have all, in their own ways, challenged us to bring the gospel to the margins, to the unchurched, to a world filled with sadness. We have something beautiful, something wonderful to offer. We have Jesus.
Today we seek the Holy Spirit to empower us to cooperate with God’s will. On a day when the chapter will elect a prior, all of us beg the Holy Spirit to inspire us to do his will. And so for those not on the chapter, more than anything, the chapter needs your prayers today for a blessed and fruitful election. We need your prayers that the man the Holy Spirit has chosen to lead this priory may in fact be the man we elect.
Those on the chapter must remember that this vote is a cooperation with the Holy Spirit. We are not voting for the candidate because we like him, or we think like him, or because we think he is a good person. No, our vote is much more than this. We vote for the person we believe the Holy Spirit has chosen. We vote for the person who can serve the needs of all members of the community. A vote in the Holy Spirit is a vote outward – a vote that is cast in faith for the needs of this house during this time.
Let me end by coming back to Pope Francis yesterday. I believe what he did yesterday was a moment of cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Begging God for deliverance in an empty Saint Peter’s Square, he looked small. But standing on the balcony, being led by Christ, he was the Supreme Pontiff, the Holy Father, who reminds us that no matter what happens, as long as Christ leads us, we cannot be led astray.