The importance of the laity.
Years ago, the NCR posted 'vocation ads' - I'm sure they still do - I don't receive Catholic newspapers and rarely read the online versions unless I run into a link to a subject I have an opinion on. I get the news I need and avoid the superfluous that way. But I digress. In the 'personal' or 'want ad' section, start up religious groups sometimes advertised seeking vocations.
Among these ads were those maybe classified as, "Women suffering from the effects of abuse from this or that religious order support group" - a sort of recovery program and nascent religious congregation offered for the rejects. Likewise, from time to time I recall ads for a new Benedictine or Franciscan community - strictly contemplative of course - organized just for gay/ssa men. I always wondered who these people were, had I ever met them when I was discerning or living a quasi-hermit-monastic-contemplative life myself? There always seemed to be a ton of start up contemplative groups - wearing habits with a nunish horarium - although a couple I actually encountered always struck me as maybe just a little too "comfortable" - and maybe a bit off their "rule". Which may help explain why I'm usually rather skeptical about new religious groups. In retrospect, I'll admit I have been too critical, since a few I mistrusted are still around.
The "contemplative" status always made me suspicious. Especially the inner city attempts. Getting by with the witness of the habit, preaching without words, and engaging people in conversations about the faith, then just returning home to their comfortable apartment monastery or an old re-habed convent. Not that it's a bad thing of course. Although they wanted to be poor and minister to the poor, there always seemed to be funds for beautifying the chapel, for travel to this conference or that religious gathering, as well as pilgrimage/vacation/retreat, and so on. The homeless or mentally ill were left on the margins where they found them, and the contemplatives went home to sleep in a nice comfy bed.
Frati Minori Rinnovati
Doing it right.
Doing it right.
This is their 'house' in Naples.
Railway cars as their friary.
I stayed there in the mid 1970's.
It hasn't changed and the order is thriving.
"Contemplatives" in the world.
Yesterday I mentioned something to the effect that we, the laity are the Church - that we actually have a role to play rather than cultivating the sense of expectation that the "Church" has to do something all the time. I said:
So many people seem to believe they need a degree to do any sort of work for the Church or the poor. So many people attracted to religious life think of contemplative life as opposed to serving the needs around them, completely unaware that the active life can be as contemplative as cloistered life. The Missionaries of Charity demonstrate that. But we do not have to be consecrated religious to follow a vocation. Jean Vanier and L'Arche is a wonderful example of that.
You don't need a costume or a habit or a degree or a title to help the poor, the marginalized. The Church needs to do more? You are the Church - we are the Church.
Today I remembered something Madeleine Delbrel wrote - I came across it in Magnificat as a meditation for the day. She expressed the very same sentiments I came to understand as God's call in my life. Albeit my interpretation is quite idiosyncratic if not eccentric, and I haven't been at all the 'good and faithful servant' Delbrel exemplified, barely even able to manage the 'only doing my duty' part. Again I digress - but what Delbrel wrote expresses what I often try to say.
"To be people immersed as deeply as possible in the midst of the world, with no rules, no vows, no habits, and no convents separating us from the world; to be poor, but just like people you find everywhere; to be chaste, but like people from every social stratum; to be obedient, but just like people of every nationality.
We will not be the Church, and salvation will not reach the ends of the earth, unless we help save the people in the very situations in which we live. And we will not be working toward salvation, we will not let it pass through us, unless in their very midst, we remain purely and unchangeably the Church." Magnificat, Wednesday Meditation, July 9, 2014
“Many people are good at talking about what they are doing,
but in fact do little. Others do a lot but don't talk about it;
they are the ones who make a community live.”
― Jean Vanier
Presence - our real presence mirrors the Real Presence of the Eucharist.
Over the years, this is what I have come to know as true. Our lives witness to the truth of the Gospel. If we are faithful, the Holy Spirit attracts those around us to the Church. The Church waits with open arms, Catholic teaching is recognized as lovely and true. The Church's ministers are there to reconcile those who return. Evangelization is not about 'fixing' people or seeing success - it is about living - a living witness, even a silent, loving action at work in the midst of them. "He walked in peace through the midst of them." Without thinking of them as 'them' however, as if we, or I am different from 'them'. As Delbrel explained, "To be people immersed as deeply as possible in the midst of the world ... just like people you find everywhere." Christ dwells in our midst.
It's like that. I just have trouble expressing it. My apologies.
Pride goes before the fall.
I don't go to gay parades or raise Rainbow banners. I'm Catholic. All my friends know that.
Many of my friends are gay - a few are faithful Catholics, some not so much - other people I know may like me, but not the Church. Others acquaintances are 'spiritual' but not religious. Most are older now, but some are younger. My doctor is gay, my barber is gay, my lawyer is gay. Several of my neighbors are gay. I have gay-bisexual friends married to women. I have gay friends and professional acquaintances I'm in contact with who are sexually active, a couple are legally married, and so on.
Over the years, whenever I'd see these friends or socialize with them, I've never ever told them they are embracing a sinful lifestyle. Why? Because they already know what the Church teaches. The entire world knows what the Church teaches. If anything, Church teaching was clarified whenever they chided me for my Catholic faith and being in a Church that they enjoyed telling me hates me. Gay people already know what the Church teaches - which is why gay activists militate against it - therefore I have no need to repeat Catholic teaching to them. If they ask - that is a different matter. When they tell me the Church hates me, I explain to them why that isn't true.
I think that may be what Pope Francis means when he says things which confuse many good Catholics: what he may be saying is that we don't have to try to pound it home or make 'them' accept it. Therefore, going out to the peripheries does not mean wearing Rainbow flags or marching in Pride parades. It can never be about suspending Church discipline or the commandments, or working towards the development of doctrine to make the Church more inviting or to make people feel welcome, or worse, tell them conversion is not necessary.
"We will not be the Church, and salvation will not reach the ends of the earth, unless we help save the people in the very situations in which we live. And we will not be working toward salvation, we will not let it pass through us, unless in their very midst, we remain purely and unchangeably the Church." - Servant of God Madeleine Delbrel
St. John Bosco - he worked the streets.
Song for this post here.