Mark Amato of the Houston CPP Community and I were chatting about the Passionist Charism and what attracts us to it the other evening. I can’t speak for Mark or anyone else for that matter, but I did tell Mark that I would share in our Blog, what it means to me.
I think a more popular word for charism today is spirituality. For me, Passionist spirituality centers on the Cross of Jesus which becomes my cross when I take it up. What the heck does that mean? Is it just figurative, pious language? No! Not for me, it isn’t. When I look at the Cross, I see a man who claimed to be god who has surrendered himself to the things he cannot change and now—here’s the important part—he doesn’t curse these things or these people, but he prays: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Wow! Only God could do a thing like that, right? Wrong! I can do it.
The closest spirituality I’ve found to this is Alcoholics’ Anonymous (AA). AA was started by two very successful men, one a stockbroker and another a physician in 1935 who were struggling with their demons. In an attempt to deal with his alcoholism, Bill Wilson, the stockbroker had tried the Oxford Group, a Christian organization founded by the Lutheran Minister, Dr. Frank Buchman. Dr. Buchman had been struggling with the problems in his life when he heard a sermon on the Cross of Christ by Jessie Penn-Lewis, a Welsh Evangelical speaker and author. He recounts that experience:
“I thought of those six men back in Philadelphia who I felt had wronged me. They probably had, but I’d got so mixed up in the wrong that I was the seventh wrong man…. I began to see myself as God saw me, which was a very different picture than the one I had of myself. I don’t know how you explain it, I can only tell you I sat there and realized how my sin, my pride, my selfishness and my ill-will, had eclipsed me from God in Christ…. I was the centre of my own life. That big “I” had to be crossed out. I saw my resentments against those men standing out like tombstones in my heart. I asked God to change me and He told me to put things right with them. It produced in me a vibrant feeling, as though a strong current of life had suddenly been poured into me and afterwards a dazed sense of a great spiritual shaking-up.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Buchman)
The Oxford Group didn’t work for Bill, but it gave him the framework for his now famous Twelve Steps. For those familiar with these steps, they will understand how they came directly from Buchman’s experience related above.
I firmly believe, that if we tell the story of Jesus’ Cross, relating it directly to our own experiences, we will bring new life to our world and that of those we come in contact with in our daily lives. Like Coleridge’s Mariner in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, we each need to tell our story, and that’s what Passionists vow to do and have been doing for almost three hundred years, not only in their preaching, but more importantly in their living. I’m lucky that they let me partner with them.