no to a church of self-preservation

An Advent Journey with Pope Francis and Evangelii Gaudium, Part 10

I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for self- preservation. (Evangelii Gaudium, 27)

Pope Francis nails it! For those who fear that this new pope is about to overturn all the customs and traditions of the Church, carefully re-read the above paragraph. He is not asking us to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water. But, he is asking us to consider changing the water as needed. We are called to transform and refresh what exists so we may more effectively answer our greatest call; that of evangelization. The “baby” remains safe…and cleaned up and sweeter smelling too!

The classic example of focusing on self-preservation rather than on suitability for evangelization is the New Roman Missal. The rationale was to remain more faithful to the original, Latin translation. The language is pleasing for those who prefer the more traditional worship styles of the past. But, the modern tongue stumbles in speaking the words. Modern ears strain to hear and understand. Is this a good evangelizing tool?

Church as self-preserving sanctuary, or a risk taking missionary? It’s clear which is the choice of our pope.

pondering inclusive language

Canadians joke about keeping up with political correctness. The accepted name of a group often changes several times before an accurate yet respectful one is agreed upon.

For example, the term ‘mentally retarded’ is now considered politically incorrect for it is a label that automatically identifies a person as less than, slower than, inferior to the ‘norm’. It was initially replaced with ‘mentally handicapped’ or ‘disabled’, but this still focused on what a person could not do. Now, the preferred term is ‘mentally challenged’, for it doesn’t erase or negate the specific challenges faced by a person. In fact, it invites us to respect the difficulties of these challenges while working together to overcome them.

Words ARE important, for they reflect deeper beliefs and understandings.

Inclusive language is becoming the norm in all academic writings and in journalism. In recent decades, it has slowly made its way into our prayer and worship. We use the more inclusive New Revised Standard Bible for our Lectionary. Our ears have become attuned to a reasoned and rational inclusivity in the reading of God’s Word, and in the singing of our hymns.

I wrote a blog post for NCR highlighting a commentary written by Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, a doctor from Mumbai, for The Tablet. She gives us a window into the Church in India where inclusive language was taken very seriously by her bishops, yet is glaringly missing in the New Roman Missal. Her article is titled New missal makes women invisible.

Louise McEwan has written a thoughtful piece on inclusive language called Speaking about God on her blog, Faith Coloured Glasses.

As a writer, I fret, fuss, and worry over words; knowing that the perfect word or phrase can bring clarity and meaning to a thought. I also know that the wrong word or phrase can be a source of misunderstanding or misinterpretation.

Language IS important. Politically correct language promotes respect amid our differences. Inclusive language insists that we expand the male-centered world view of the past to embrace both women and men in the fullness of their humanity.

NCR Today Blog

Readers and friends of catholic dialogue know that I am a big fan of the National Catholic Reporter down in the US. NCR commentaries and articles have often provided the spring-board and inspiration for my own blog posts. It is one of my go-to sources for international Catholic news as are The Tablet in the UK and our own Prairie Messenger here in Canada. Unlike some Diocesan sponsored newspapers, these journals provide a wide range of voices and critical reflections on the Church in our world. In the spirit of dialogue, I try to read a few more conservative journals also. I enjoy hearing all sides to an issue and seeing how diverse views are presented.

A couple of weeks ago, an editor from NCR sent me an email. He had come across the catholic dialogue blog and the Prairie Messenger columns. He liked what he saw, and wondered if I would be interested in joining the NCR Today Blog Team. In hind-sight, responding with an email that said ‘are you kidding me?’ was probably not the most professional response. But it was an honest one.

I continue to be amazed at the connections that are made through the internet, and in the blog world. The opportunities for open dialogue and networking are phenomenal. In the past, most church conversations took place in curial halls or behind pastoral doors. Today, passionate and committed lay women and men, religious and priests share their voices and share their faith across the miles and across cyber-space. True faith requires a journey of exploring and questioning. Faith grows when we have the opportunity to test out new thoughts on others, to enter into respectful dialogue that seeks understanding.

And we learn. Each and every day we learn from what others are saying and writing. I chose a relatively safe topic for my first NCR Today blog post – an invitation to share experiences on the New Roman Missal. It provided a lively discussion on this blog, and managed to nudge a healthy response on the NCR blog also. In fact, the responses are far wittier and interesting than the post itself! 😉

Here is the post,

20 Sundays of ‘And with your spirit’ | National Catholic Reporter.