FR. MICHAEL WRITES:-
Is it a comment on the state of the nation’s literacy when the marketing people currently advertising Bruce Springsteen’s newly published autobiography Born to Run present it on the posters as ‘THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY, IN HIS OWN WORDS’? Or is it a comment on the literacy of the marketing people? I much prefer the latter option! In any case, Springsteen’s book has leapt to No 1 on the New York Times Bestseller List. It was reviewed in last week’s Catholic Universe as the star was baptised a Catholic but brought up as a lapsed one, so to speak. Everyone is praising the book not only because it’s about so much else of the rock star world, but also because of its candour. Although he says he’s held a lot back, Springsteen is very clear about the difficulties of his childhood, his long struggle with depression and his salvation (his own word, naturally) on stage. While delighted for him that he has found salvation in his own terms, I am, without reading the book, anxious about its title and the trajectory of his life. Is he running away or towards? Or is he just running in order not to stop because to stop and look would be too painful? We should regularly be asking these questions of ourselves of course and of our relationship with God who is, certainly and literally, our salvation.
One luminous example of overcoming personal crisis within Christian discipleship we celebrate this Saturday, St Teresa of Avila. In her autobiography, which, apparently remarkably, she wrote in her own words, she tells of when, aged seven, she persuaded her brother to join her in an endeavour to be missionary martyrs. They ran together out of the gates of Avila in pursuit of glory but happily were rescued by their uncle. Entering the Carmelite monastery to live radically for Christ in lieu of mission and martyrdom, she grew by her 40s to a crisis, because, born to run, as are we all, she wasn’t getting anywhere. It was simply the Lord calling her through the Cross to her salvation, which is to say, founding the Discalced Carmelite Order we know and love today. Among her canonised spiritual daughters, of course, were two twentieth century giants, St Thérèse of Lisieux, Patroness of the Missions, and St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, martyr of Auschwitz.
It is because we are all born, if not specifically to run, nonetheless to run our vocation’s course through joy and sorrow, success and failure, through tepidity and routine, ultimately to flourish in Christ, that we should all be thrilled this week at a new beginning in our parish. With Cardinal Cormac and I privileged to assist them, together with some parishioners, the Comboni Sisters at 2 Chiswick Lane, have now officially opened their Centre for Spirituality and Mission. What a tremendous reminder and above all resource for us and for the many more from outside the parish who will also use the centre, that our running, in fact, is from glory to glory as we are transformed into Him (2Cor 3:18) who is our salvation. Let us pray for the Sisters and their new work, that God will bring many to greatness of life through it. Indeed, some might have to write autobiographies, in their own words