Here is an article the I wrote for the Prairie Messenger. It`s a reflection on the revised English Missal, scheduled for use this Advent.
Church emphasis should be on unity not uniformity.
I`d love to hear your reactions to the changes. What are the feelings in your part of the world? Do folks even know of it, or is it going to come as a surprise? How is your diocese and parish preparing for it?
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops – Roman Missal Updates
Today’s gospel reading begins with Jesus teaching in Capernaum. Those listening were “astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority.” (Luke 4:32) Many years ago, I was studying towards a Catechetical Diploma from a conservative distance university. This line was quoted often to us students. We were promised the gift of teaching “with authority” based on the orthodoxy of our learning. Our authority came from being able to say “this is the teaching of the Church.” At the time I thought it was cool.
I spent three and a half years learning the foundational doctrine of our Church. There was no dialogue with course readings. Course marks were based on your ability to repeat what was read and memorized. The writings of past saints and recent popes, the documents of Vatican II, and catechisms were all studied and used as apologetic ammunition. Got a question about Catholic doctrine? Here’s the answer and the proof. It became a game to “spot the heresy” in homilies and writings.
As I was finishing the program, I went through a personal experience with our local church that side-swiped me off the orthodoxy road. As I began to question the integrity and authority of my pastor and bishop, I also began questioning the integrity and authority of what I had learned. My faith was no longer black and white, and a black and white theology could no longer nurture me. I’ve been entrenched in the greyness of questioning and seeking ever since.
The Catholic faith, at its finest, unabashedly uses our God-given gift of reason to seek understanding. We need the foundation of scripture and tradition. We need to understand doctrine in order to have an informed conscience. But, we also need to be in constant dialogue with church teachings to discern that which is built on rock and unchangeable, and that which is organic. This is the job of our theologians. They are taught the specialized skills needed to explore all aspects of our faith. As with all academic specialties, they are accountable to their peers to ensure that integrity is maintained within the theological community.
Unlike other academics, they are also accountable to a higher power – one that sometimes leaves little recourse for self-defense or dialogue. Recent news has centered on the silencing of Elizabeth Johnson`s book, Quest for the Living God. This week the focus of attention is on the English language theological journal, Theological Studies.
People listened in awe to Jesus because he spoke with authority. It’s worth a moment to consider his style of authority. Where did it come from? Is it reflected in the authoritative stance of some of our teachers and leaders?
Vatican Pressures Theology Journal by Thomas C. Fox(NCR)
Retreat from Theologies Frontiers by Thomas C. Fox (NCR)
Following the happenings in the Catholic Church can be a heady endeavour. At times you want to pull your hair out and scream “enough!” It begins to weigh you down, and sucks all the energy from you. The rants no longer bring relief. The right-left bashing and incivility on the discussion boards seem meaningless and petty. People, get a life! And then that ever-present question starts to wind its way from deep within…so, why am I still a Catholic?
Last week, in the midst of my funk, I read a review on a book called Why Stay Catholic?Unexpected Answers to a Life-Changing Question by Michael Leach. (March 15, 2011). Thanks to the glories of my new iPad, I down-loaded the book in seconds and dug in. It’s format is very readable. This isn’t a heavy, theological tome trying to convince you with apologetics and dogmas. The chapters are short reflections, full of quotations from spiritual masters and ordinary folk. It’s an unabashedly optimistic and hopeful look at the good that is present in Catholicism, despite the sinfulness.
Here’s an example. The chapter is called “The Bethlehem Principle (There is Room in the Church for Everyone or There is Room for No One).”
There is room in the church for every pope and for everyone he corrects and for everyone who corrects him; for members of Call to Action and followers of Opus Dei; for those who receive communion on the pillow of their tongue and for those who prefer the cup of their palm; for those who save their money for a pilgrimage to Medjugorje and for those who blow it at Vegas; for sinners, saints, and fools…If there is not room for everyone, the church is not a home but a country club.
It was James Joyce who said “Catholicism means here comes everybody!” I need to be reminded of this when I feel weighed down with doctrinal walls and those who spend their energies building and fortifying them. I need to be reminded of this when small-minded pastors and bishops draw lines in the sand like bullies, daring anyone to step across. I need to be reminded of this when I get irritated with those who espouse ideologies and theologies that differ from mine. The Church is greater than our pettiness. And, we do a grave disservice to the Church when we try to judge who is in and who is out.
I love the serendipitous aspect of books – when the right book falls into your lap at the right time. Why Stay Catholic? is one of those books. Here’s to hope and optimism!