About 2 years ago, there was a very important meeting at the Vatican.
On one side of the table was a group of very proper, well dressed academics with their books and notepads.On the other was a group of people who had lots of tattoos, piercings, and tablets.
The person that brought them together had one goal in mind; to move a generation of teens and young adults to tears.
Let's start at the beginning, because believe it or not, that meeting at the Vatican was not the beginning. The whole thing started with a wish.
The Catholic Church wanted more 'young people' to come and see the Sistine Chapel. Lots of tourists see it every year and listen to the guides tell them all about the wonder and beauty and artistry of it. But, not a lot of young people were coming anymore. Museums with people talking were not something the young were interested in due to the rise of digital media.
The result of this desire was a phone call to Marco Balich, the artistic director responsible for the last few opening ceremonies at the Olympics. He is a master of engaging people in an age of social media. The Vatican asked him to create a plan to engage more youth in the Sistine Chapel.
A few months later, the meeting I mentioned at the start of this article occurred. The 'properly dressed' people with their notepads were Vatican art experts and historians. The tattooed tablet holders were top video game designers. The goal of what would become several creative meetings was clear for each group. The academics' job was to teach the designers everything about the Chapel. The designers job was to make it come to life. Mr. Balich's job was to help the groups understand each other.
At the start of this NPR story, I began laughing at the thought of these very different groups of people just looking at each other. But, by the end of the piece, I realized that the point of this story was what can come out of two groups learning to listen to each other. And, I'm being very specific with my vocabulary here. We, as a world, are not very good at really giving others a chance to teach us their story. When groups of people come together to do something new, they need to trust that it is for a common good and recognize that they must learn to listen to each other meaningfully.
I am proud of our Parish for all the community work and partnerships we have entered into over the last year. I feel that we are learning to listen to each others' stories. It is not easy. It is especially difficult when we don't feel listened to. But, we all keep meeting and setting goals for activities and events that are for the common good. I believe we are doing what God is calling us to do. Compared to all the ills of this world, it may seem small. Yet, like Bishop Gutiérrez mentioned on his first visit to us: "..a single drop in the water causes a ripple that can travel miles." We are making a difference to our little microcosm of the universe and the good coming from that is spreading. And, we are doing it together!
Last weekend, the interactive show Universal Judgment: Michelangelo and the Secrets of the Sistine Chapel opened in Rome. And scores of teens and young adults went to see it. The news reported that many of the spectators left in tears, because they didn't realize how meaningful and beautiful the Chapel was and how important a connection it was to their faith. One group of diverse people, one goal, lots of time and effort, but in the end: mission accomplished!
Yours in Christ,