roamin` catholics

Friends and family are well acquainted with my feelings about a certain Christmas homily from several years past. In front of a church of regulars and many `C and E` Catholics, the pastor announced loudly and strongly that the most important place to be in the world is inside the four walls of this church!

The memory of those words set me off on a long, impassioned rant. I`ll challenge that belief straight from the depths of my gut, spewing forth my anger at such a closed-minded and judgmental theology. There are those that are in. And those that are out. Choosing which category a person falls into is easy…does their back-side warm a pew on a Sunday morning?

Today, another pastor challenged us to be roamin`Catholics. We are called to go beyond the walls of the church; beyond the altar and tabernacle and into the world. Our faith is not a Sunday morning activity. It is meant to be a life choice, shared through our daily lives. AMEN!!!

This difference in views might not seem like a big deal. But it really is a big deal. Some folks view their faith as a call to barricade themselves from the rest of the world. The world is evil. The Church is good. Therefore, we should have as little to do with the former and give all our time and energy to the latter. This kind of ecclesial-centric faith emphasizes the liturgy and sacraments. And, since the liturgy and sacraments are number one, then so are her ministers. This is at the core of clericalism. The more this mentality is fed, the more power is hoarded and the greater is the divide between the ordained and laity.

Being called beyond the walls of the church does not minimize the importance of the liturgy and sacraments. Catholics believe in the efficacious grace of sacraments. We need their healing, nourishing, energizing, and forgiving gifts, given so freely and generously by a loving God. We need to gather as a community of faith and prayer. But we gather in order to be sent.

We are all called to be roamin` catholics. This is at the heart of the new evangelization, spoken about so frequently by recent Popes and Bishops. It is time to unlock the proverbial tabernacles and truly bring Jesus into the world.

cheers for parish catechists!

A National Catholic Reporter article is, yet again, my inspiration for a post; actually a series of posts. Heidi Schlumpf gives a much needed shout-out to catechists and DRE’s (Directors of Religious Education) in Unsung (and underpaid) heroes of the parish.  She praises those (mostly) women and (few) men who generously give their time to help form our children in the faith. She describes the many challenges faced; over-worked and under-paid DRE’s, under-qualified teachers, demanding priests and uncooperative parents. The article is a good opportunity to ponder catechetical experiences in your own part of the world.

The next few blogs will focus on various aspects and issues within parish catechetical programs. Of course, my own sharing is but one view and one experience. Keeping with the goal of this blog, I hope that it will open up a much needed dialogue on this important task.

defending the faith – should we?

image via microsoft

Marceta wrote the following comment on yesterday`s post,

But it seems to me that “defending the faith” is about debating and positioning. The focus is on rules and regulations. I would rather families send their kids to learn more ways to ‘live’ their faith.

She is right. The term, “defending the faith” is loaded with ideological tones. The way we interpret the term affects the way we live out our religious identity. In our Catholic tradition, it brings to mind images of Crusaders in fighting mode – off to not only defend the faith, but to forcibly convert the heathen masses. Zealous apologists are our own modern day Crusaders. Often blessed with an amazing mental capacity to remember and recall details of ecumenical councils, papal pronouncements and scripture references, they are ever-ready to give theological backing to all doctrines and beliefs of the Church. And, as Marceta wrote, apologetics is often more about debating and positioning.

And yet, if we truly believe then we must be ready to give the reasons for our belief. We must be ready to share that which gives us joy and hope. 1 Peter 3:15 provides the well-known exhortation, “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.”

So, here’s a question….

In the past, we were taught that we are all part of the “Church militant” – the communion of saints here on earth whose role is to defend the faith.  What image can we use that still affirms the need to speak intelligibly of the “hope that is in you”, but with a good dose of gentleness and reverence?