Sunday, February 06, 2005
We can't get no satisfaction, part 2Leo asked, "We don't feel respected. You don't feel respected. Is there some solution here?" I think the solution in part is to apply Luke's idealized community of Acts 2:42-47. The quote in full ... They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one's need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. Avoiding literalism, I think there are important lessons in this passage for modern day American Catholics. When Luke reports the early believers "devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers," he describes the four pillars of the Christian life: catechesis, community, liturgy, and spirituality. I can't speak for parishioners who feel alienated or isolated, but I can say that as a minister, I'm bound to continuing my own formation as a Catholic and a minister; I'm bound to life in parish community--the same one I serve; I'm bound to worship and pray as these parishioners do, and also to maintain my spiritual life. "All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one's need." Some have adopted this as the evangelist's endorsement for Christian communism. What it tells me is that believers belong together, believers hold important things in common, and that needs are attended to. If the Catholic faith called us to live in communes, I could deal with that, I suppose. But the fact that we might not be strong enough (or crazy enough) for the communal life at this time doesn't abrogate parishes from what can be done. The Irish-American passive aggressive lifestyle is probably something for the junkheap. But it takes discipline and courage to dismantle old habits. People notice sincere Christians, and are attracted to the lifestyle. I'm not too bothered that the exterior conduct of Christians, not the intellectual rigor of their apologetics, nor the beauty of their liturgy, is what draws new believers into the fold. Liturgy and doctrine are undoubtedly important. But they are not the first stages of evangelization. For my part, I never lose my high regard of parishioners. My optimism spurs me to continue to offer parishioners open meetings of the parish liturgy team, to organize planning and homily groups with the priests, to invite dialogue and even dissent, to aim for the ideals, yet be satisfied with the profound gifts people offer each week at parish liturgy. I also realize that building trust is an endeavor with a very long learning curve, especially where people have been battered, ignored, or disrespected. That's okay. I have lots of time.