Thursday, July 25, 2013

Too Many Doors

Blogging Challenge: Day 4

I heard once that, according to the principles of Feng Shui, it's bad to have too many entrances to an office space.  I'm guessing it has to do with energy escaping or the flow of chi or something.

Vilhelm Hammershøi, 1905
Whether or not you give any credence to Feng Shui, I can personally attest to the fact that working in a room that sits at a sort of public crossroads is not ideal.  My work space adjoins three other offices and the hallway, and I also serve as the gatekeeper for the CEO.  This means that there is a steady flow of traffic through my office, plus a constant multi-layer buzz of noise and activity coming from the adjoining offices.

My boss has sometimes called me "the water cooler" because my coworkers have a tendency to gather in little gaggles in front of my desk and chat.

Some people would probably love being at the center of things and always up on the latest office gossip, but this work environment leaves an introvert like me feeling jumpy and exhausted by the end of the day.  It makes me less productive, too - I need a certain amount of quiet and privacy in order to focus and do my job well.  I often wish my office had fewer open doors.

Pope Francis has talked a lot, directly and indirectly, about opening doors.  Here he is in one of his homilies back in May: 

We think today of Jesus, who always wants us all to be closer to Him, we think of the Holy People of God, a simple people, who want to get closer to Jesus and we think of so many Christians of goodwill who are wrong and that instead of opening a door they close the door of goodwill ... So we ask the Lord that all those who come to the Church find the doors open, find the doors open, open to meet this love of Jesus. We ask this grace. 

This is an important message, especially in an era when tribalism and "us vs. them" seems to be the prevailing narrative. It's good to be reminded that, when it comes to reaching out in love, the Church can't possibly open too many doors. 

However, I think the way in which each of us individually opens the doors of his heart will look different.

I've been thinking about this as I read coverage of WYD.  Pope Francis is becoming notorious for giving his handlers and security people headaches by, essentially, opening doors - seeking out closer contact with those he meets and making impromptu changes to his schedule in order to reach more people.

One example was his last-minute addition of a pilgrimage to Aparecida on what was scheduled to be a day of rest without any scheduled commitments on Benedict's original itinerary.

This change may relate partially to the difference in physical health between Benedict and Francis, but it probably also has something to do with their personalities.  As an introvert, Benedict's self-knowledge and prudence would lead him to plan in the appropriate amount of rest and time alone to allow him to be fully present and effective as a loving pastor.

As an introvert, I know that I become less effective and less able to deal with people calmly and helpfully if  I'm working in an environment with constant interpersonal interactions.  They wear me out and don't allow me to recharge.  The same applies more broadly to the Christian life and my personal pursuit of holiness.  Although it is my responsibility to push my comfort level to a certain extent, it is also my responsibility to work with my personality, both strengths and weaknesses, to determine how I can live out my calling as a disciple of Christ most effectively.

At this point, I'm about ready to sock anyone who implies that Benedict is less loving and open than Francis.  But that doesn't mean the two of them won't come across differently, or that some people might respond differently to their distinct personalities.  As Simcha Fisher noted recently, none of us is the whole Church, and something one person doesn't respond to might be just what another needs to hear.

We need to recognize how each of our two recent Popes, in his own unique way, opens the door to God's love.

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