cardinals, communication, continents, Galilee, geography, global, Jerusalem, Jesus, Luke, Nazareth, Pope Francis, spread of Christianity, St. John Neumann, Syria, The Sophia Center for Spirituality, zeal
As some people my age, I have come “kicking and screaming” into the world of technology. Those who know me, however, are aware of my enthusiasm for the GeoMaster APP which has enabled me to learn the names and locations of places everywhere around the world. I now feel connected to people and events as never before because I know where they live and see where it’s all happening. In an organic way it has expanded the reach of my prayer as well.
This morning I found an incredible synchronicity as I began to prepare this reflection. It began (rather whimsically actually) with a line from Luke’s gospel that says Jesus left Nazareth and went to live at Capernaum by the sea. I had a fleeting image of him sitting in a beach chair watching the waves…but was brought back to my task as I continued to read chapter 4 which gave me a totally different picture. He went all around Galilee, it said, teaching and preaching the Kingdom and curing every disease and illness of the people. His fame spread to all of Syria and great crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and beyond the Jordan followed him. On a map these countries of the Middle East are among the smallest, but we need to remember that Jesus traveled on foot and only occasionally by boat – small boats.
Next I read about the canonized saint of the Catholic Church whose feast is today. St. John Neumann, born in 1811 was an immigrant to the United States of America when he was 25 years old, coming from what today is known as the Czech Republic. He was a priest of the Redemptorist Order and, his biography states, did “missionary work” first in New York, then in Maryland, Virginia and Ohio, where he was popular with the German community. Named Bishop of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania he became a champion of education, drawing many religious communities of nuns and priests to teach in the schools and creating a system of diocesan schools that remains strong today. He died in 1860 and proclaimed a saint in 1977.
When I went to http://www.americancatholic.org to read about John Neumann, there was a headline on the website about Pope Francis having named a new group of cardinals. There are 15 eligible electors (those who will name the next pope) and 5 honorifics (cardinals who are too old to participate in a conclave but were named because of their long and outstanding service to the Church). The 15 come from 14 nations on every continent including Cape Verde, Tonga and Myanmar. There are 3 from Asia, 3 from Latin America, 2 from Africa and 2 from Oceania. This is an astounding shift and I am proud to say that I can locate all of those places on a world map!
What does all this mean for me today? It just points up the growth and spread of Christianity from a small band of followers of Jesus in a tiny territory over 2,000 years ago to over a billion believers scattered all over planet earth. The miracle of this all boils down to zeal and communication – gifts, talents and willingness exercised by good people not unlike you and me whose faith has continued the story and helped new chapters to be written. Today these include renewed relationships among Christians across the denominational spectrum as well as new connections with those of other religious and philosophical traditions around the world. I am grateful for that today and can only conjecture…where will it go from here?