Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14b-16a
1 Corinthians 10:16-17
As leaders we have our "rituals and rites" so as to remain in touch with the Inner Life that directs us and keeps us buoyant.
In the Catholic Tradition we have two "rituals or rites" that stand out as reminders that Jesus Christ, the Son of God is present in our reality and, is able to direct us, if we so choose.
The first, and central rite of our faith, is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Oh, there is such a hunger for real, honest-to-goodness unity amidst great diversity in the city of Birmingham. We "feel" it in the school with a variety of faiths, (Christian, Islamic, or, none at all). We are slowly becoming more diverse with the welcoming of our Hispanic brothers and sisters here.
But the hunger comes from being deprived of a welcoming environment in so many parts of our city that surrounds the school. Many people do not understand the plights of their neighbors, nor really care. Each time we, as a school body gather around the altar at Holy Family Church across the street, graces, power and energy flow from that table which help us become more and more, "at-one" with each other. Granted, our senses do not perceive what the bread and wine truly are, Christ’s Body and Blood, but this spiritual food nourishes us in ways of which we are not even aware. It is called mystery, known only through revelation from God, and revealed in God’s own time.
The second ritual is the Sign of the Cross, that is, blessing oneself with our right hand, first on the forehead ("In the Name of the Father"), then upon the heart, ("and of the Son,"), then the left shoulder, ("and of the Holy Spirit"), and, finally the right shoulder ("AMEN," "So be it"). Why make the sign of the cross? It is a reminder that God is always present. It renews our baptism as members of the Body of Christ. It grants us the power of God’s name, we are reminded of the new life that has been given to us through His Death and Resurrection. We remind ourselves that we serve, daily, with sacrifice, as we take up our cross. It commits our whole being, giving our mind (Father), heart (Son), and daily labors (Holy Spirit) to God. This is not to mention that we show our faith in God’s presence, publicly, when we make this sign of the cross. This is not magic. I am not sure what happens when our athletes hit grand slam home runs, or score the buzzer-beating last shot in basketball and then point to the sky (heaven? divine intervention?) and then make that sign of the cross. It is pure mystery, which means surrendering to the Will and activity of God.
We are hosting all of our new 9th graders in an Academic Bridge Program this week. It is so wonderful to see another generation of students be transformed within the Body of Christ, to be shaped and guided toward their purpose for being on this planet. Blessings from the Altar of Sacrifice and the Sign of the Cross.
(Segments of this blog, are taken from AIM Magazine, Vol. 46, No. 3)
Fr. Alex Steinmiller, C.P. is president of Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School, Birmingham, Alabama.