(This article was originally published in The Furrow, in April 2018. We are grateful to the Furrow’s editor, and to Philip McParland, for permission to reproduce it here.)
In our world today there is a movement to rebuild Christianity from the bottom up. This movement is gathering momentum across all the Christian Churches. It is referred to by people like Richard Rohr as Emerging Christianity.
Emerging Christianity is the recognition that Christianity is more than a belonging and belief system. It is primarily a spiritual path that is the way of Jesus. Emerging Christianity is rediscovering a truth that seems to have been forgotten — it is not just enough for us to have faith in Jesus we also need to have the faith of Jesus. In other words, with St Paul, we need to put on the mind of Christ (see I Cor 2:16).
One of the leading figures in the Emerging Christianity movement is an American pastor and author called Brian McLaren. This is how he articulates the search for a new kind of Christianity:
“We are on a quest for a new kind of Christianity — a faith liberated from the institutional and dogmatic straight-jackets we inherited, a way of life that integrates the personal and the social dimensions of spirituality, a practice that integrates contemplation and dynamic action.” 1
In this article I would like to attempt to offer a description of this new movement within the Christian tradition. It is a description that seeks to be as concrete as possible. It seems to me that Emerging Christianity is a way of life that includes among its values contemplative practice, compassion, companionship and care for the earth.
In response to the call of Jesus, Emerging Christianity recognises the need for personal transformation. Contemplative practice has a major part to play in this transformation process. Contemplative practice is a way of praying that allows us to receive, to listen, to let ourselves be loved, to accept the gift that has already been given to us. In the words of the late Michael Paul Gallagher it is “relaxing into the reality of being loved.” There are many reasons why contemplative practice is so necessary for those who wish to live like Jesus. Here I would like to focus on what I believe are the two more important ones. Contemplative practice is a form of divine therapy that breaks the power of the ego or false self and heals the wound of conditional love. It also helps us to recognise and accept that our deepest belonging is in fact to God.
TAMING THE FALSE SELF
The false self is created by the childhood wound of conditional love. At some stage in childhood most of us started to feel that our parents did not love us as we were. The pain of this was too much for us to cope with at that very young age. We became wounded and were unable to remain true to ourselves. Sooner or later two things happened: (1) our true selves went into hiding in order to protect themselves; (2) another self developed around the demands and expectations of our parents. This other self was an acquired self, an idealised self, a false self.
Because of the false self we need to own something, do something or be something in order to feel worthy of love.
Sadly the culture we are living in today reinforces this definition of ourselves. It promotes accumulation, achievement and the need for human approval. It openly and often shamelessly makes us believe that possessions, power and popularity will make us happy and fulfilled. The truth is they cannot make us happy because they are external sources of value. They have us look for happiness in the wrong places, in things outside ourselves.
To tame the power of the false self and its investment in the three A’s we need to find a way of healing the wound of conditional love. Our relationships with significant people have a part to play in this healing process but human love is not enough. Only unconditional love can heal conditional love and only God is unconditional love. Contemplative practice is about exposing ourselves to the unconditional love of God. It allows us to claim belovedness.
Our belovedness is our original blessing, the face we had before we were born, as the Buddhists would say. We were born into this world as God’s beloved sons and daughters. This is our core truth, our deepest identity. But because of our childhood experience we lost touch with it.
There is a story — apparently true — about a new born baby’s homecoming. The new-born’s precocious four-year-old sibling tells her parents, “I want to talk to my new little brother alone.” The parents put their ears to the nursery door and hear the little girl saying to her baby brother, “Quick, tell me who made you. Tell me where you came from. I’m beginning to forget!” The four-year-old represents most of us, caught in between knowing and forgetting and wanting to know again.
The reason many of us end up restless, fragmented and dissatisfied is because we have lost the awareness of our belovedness. This is why we need some form of contemplative practice in our lives. In the silence of contemplative practice we are able to listen to the still small voice within us. This still small voice is the voice of unconditional love and it speaks words of affirmation and approval into our hearts. Contemplative practice is the divine therapy that heals the wound of our low self-esteem. Without a form of prayer that exposes our wound of conditional love to God we will keep filling our lives with possessions, restless activity and superficial relationships.
CLAIMING OUR DEEPEST BELONGING
But the false self is not the only thing we need to tame. We also need to let go of our tendency to become too emotionally dependent on our group of origin and our groups of adoption. One of the deepest needs we have is to belong. The most important and fundamental group we belong to is the family. But we can also belong to a club, a community, a church, a professional body. When we belong we not only feel connected with others, we also feel safe and secure.
Feeling connected and secure within a human group is of course a very good thing but like many good things it has potential dangers. The groups we belong to often let us down. They can fail us leaving us feeling hurt and disillusioned. This sometimes happens within families. It can also happen in our experience of church. Many of us know people who have ‘left’ the church because someone has said or done something that made them feel inadequate and unwelcome.
Another danger with our attachment to the group is the possibility of compromise. Our emotional dependency on the group we belong to can be so strong that we end up compromising ourselves, our principles and our values. We side with the group even though we know the group is only protecting itself and its reputation. In recent years we have witnessed this happening in many of the big institutions that play an important part in our lives. No wonder there is a major breakdown of trust in our society.
Our over-identification with the group we belong to can also lead to dualistic thinking. Dualistic thinking tends to put groups in competition with one another. This often finds expression in statements like: ‘We are right and you are wrong, we are good and you are bad, we have the truth and you do not.’ Behind each of these statements is the belief that our group is better than yours which of course is not true. Dualistic thinking is an assertion of the ego and the ego always seeks to dominate and control.
Our experience of life tends to leave us feeling dissatisfied and disillusioned. Our investment in the three A’s only reinforces our low self-esteem and the groups we belong to often let us down. We have no choice but to search for an alternative source of love and security. Contemplative practice helps us to find the love and security we need in the personal relationship that God has with us. Perhaps this is the reason St Augustine once wrote, “You have made us for yourself 0 Lord and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
The world we are living in today is divided. The gap between the rich and the poor, between the East and the West, between political ideologies and of course between religions continues to widen. Globalisation has not brought a new sense of world community. Indeed in many ways the peoples that inhabit this earth seem to be further apart than ever. Without doubt a shift needs to take place in our consciousness. I believe that the best word to describe this shift in consciousness is compassion. Our willingness and capacity to offer each other compassion is essential if we are to have any chance of living together in mutual understanding and peace. Emerging Christianity recognises the absolute necessity of compassion.
It is important that we understand the true meaning of compassion. Compassion is more than doing deeds of kindness for people who are in need. It is more than fixing things. It is more than finding solutions for people who have problems. In essence compassion is simply about being there for people without pulling back in fear or anger. Compassion is being with others. It is walking with and alongside other people. In a rescue situation it is the difference between throwing a rope into a well and going down into the well. Throwing the rope is a detached action that costs little. Going down into the well is personal involvement in the situation.
Compassion can also be described as standing in another’s shoes. To stand in another person’s shoes is to see the world as they see it, from their perspective. This may not be easy. It may require us to let go of our opinions, our prejudices, our need to be in control. Compassion invites us to allow others to find their own solutions to their problems. This means that we may have to let go of our need to fix things. True dialogue requires this kind of compassion. Openness and a willingness to stand in the shoes of others create the possibility of compromise and consensus.
In its purest form compassion is the ability to feel with others. The word itself literally means ‘with passion.’ To enter into the passion of others is to be truly compassionate. There is a story told about the French diocesan priest known as the Curé d’Ars. When the only son of an elderly widow died the Curé came to visit her. People expected him to help her make sense of her loss. Instead he simply sat beside her, put his hand on her shoulder and let his tears flow with hers. This is a beautiful example of compassion. Compassion is more than sympathy. It is empathy.
Compassion recognises and accepts the weakness and fragility of the human condition. Many years ago the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Runcie, wrote an article in a Sunday newspaper in response to a media ‘witch hunt.’ He was addressing the way the newspapers were attacking a priest in the Anglican Church about an aspect of his moral life and behaviour. Inviting them to have some compassion he said, “In this earthly tabernacle there are many mansions and they are all made of glass.” Beautifully put! We are all (including journalists) wounded, weak, vulnerable. We could all display a label, ‘Fragile, handle with care.’ We could all say with W.B. Yeats, “Tread softly or you will tread on my dreams.”
As I mentioned earlier, in our world today we have a great need to create and build inclusive community. There is a tendency in human nature to divide and to exclude. It makes us feel safe to divide the world into who is right and who is wrong; who is good and who is bad; who is in and who is out; who is worthy and who is unworthy. History has proven this time and time again with devastating consequences. West verses East; democracy verses communism; Catholics verses Protestants; Islam verses Christianity; liberals verses conservatives; the list could go on! Dividing the world in this way justifies our need to dominate, to be in control, to feel better and more important than others. It often gets politicians and heads of state elected. Yet the reality is no one person or group has a monopoly on the truth and on goodness. Every individual and every group are right and wrong, good and bad, worthy and unworthy. Jesus once told a parable about wheat and weeds growing together in the same field. His followers wanted to act immediately to separate them, but Jesus said no. If you do this you may pull up the wheat with the weeds. Leave both grow together until the harvest. Then it will be easier to separate what is to be kept and what needs to be thrown away.
Compassion does not see people and situations in black and white. It accepts that there are many shades of grey. It is not threatened by difference; in fact it is comfortable with difference. Compassion recognises that every human person is a child of God and that the Father “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matt 5:45). In answer to the question, “Who is my neighbour?” it responds, “Everyone!” Compassion seeks to include rather than exclude. It breaks down barriers, builds trust between people and creates inclusive community. For this reason compassion is absolutely essential if there is to be peace among the peoples and nations of the world.
A COMPASSIONATE HEART
How then do we become compassionate? How do we develop a compassionate heart? One thing we need to do is accept God’s compassion. Jesus said, “Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate” (Luke 6:36). The Father looks on us with compassion. The Father treats us with compassion. We must allow the Father be compassionate towards us. If we do, this will help us be compassionate with ourselves. It is a fact that many people find it difficult to offer themselves compassion. This is probably because of low self-esteem. We feel we are not worthy of compassion. If we are not able to be compassionate with ourselves it is likely that we will find it difficult to offer compassion to others.
Another thing that helps us to become compassionate is the acceptance of our woundedness and our weakness. One of the most painful journeys we have to make in life is the journey to self-acceptance. To really accept ourselves as we are we need to accept our wounds, our weaknesses and our vulnerability. We do not need to be perfect; it is alright to fail. Imperfection and failure are part of the human condition. There is nothing wrong with showing weakness and with being vulnerable. We do not need to protect ourselves behind a coat of armour. Wearing a coat of armour does not allow anyone in; not even God. In saying ‘yes’ to his humanity Jesus said ‘yes’ to weakness, limitation and vulnerability. We are no different to Jesus. We cannot say ‘yes’ to our humanity unless we say ‘yes’ to weakness, limitation and vulnerability. Without this `yes’ it will be very difficult to grow in compassion.
It is said that Jesus was the compassionate face of the Father. The religion he practiced and preached was certainly built around compassion. We can understand why. For those of us who seek to follow Jesus developing a compassionate heart is not an optional extra; it is a must.
The Gospel is an invitation to create and build community. Emerging Christianity accepts the importance of community, but it recognises that the experience of community for those who seek to follow Jesus needs a new emphasis. This emphasis can be described as a movement from convention to intention. To be a Christian in the world of today it is not enough to be a member of a church congregation because of social or cultural expectation. To belong to a church requires a deliberate decision and commitment. This is what is referred to by Emerging Christianity as intentional communities. To belong to an intentional community offers a whole range of opportunities for our human and spiritual growth and development. Not least among these is the experience of companionship.
We know that from the very beginning of his public life Jesus gathered a group of companions around him with whom he formed community. Jesus certainly recognised the need for companionship in himself and in his followers. But he also saw it as a powerful means of evangelisation, an effective sign that the Kingdom of God was at hand. The Gospels are full of stories about the way Jesus modelled the qualities of companionship. For me one story stands out for the way it brings the qualities of companionship together. It is a resurrection story known as the Emmaus story.
At the end of St Luke’s Gospel (24:13-35) we find a description of the experience of two people as they travelled from Jerusalem to Emmaus after the death of Jesus. The story tells of how they were joined on their journey by an apparent stranger who walked with them. Their relationship with the stranger began with the experience of acceptance and ended with a shared meal. On the road there was mutual listening and soulful conversation. In my view this story is a deeply rich and meaningful account of the experience of companionship.
In the story companionship begins with mutual acceptance, in fact it begins with mutual unconditional acceptance. Unconditional acceptance is the essential starting point and foundation of companionship. Unconditional acceptance is an attitude that is inclusive and that transcends race, colour, religion, class and sexual orientation. With it there are no conditions and no requirements. There is also no judgement and no condemnation. If there needs to be criticism, this criticism is offered in a way that makes a distinction between the person and the person’s behaviour.
The renowned psychotherapist, Karl Rogers, discovered in his therapy work that unconditional acceptance or unconditional positive regard as he would put it was absolutely essential if people were to begin a process of healing. When people take off their mask, when they take off the suit of clothes they hide behind they need to know that they are still accepted. Without this type of acceptance there is little or no possibility of companionship developing.
A second thing the Emmaus story tells us about companionship is the importance of listening, mutual listening. In the experience of companionship listening, good listening, attentive listening is essential. People need to be heard. To be human is to have a story to tell. We need opportunities to tell our story; we need people to tell our story to. A companion is someone who allows you to tell your story, who encourages you to tell your story, who helps you to tell your story. When we listen, really listen to another we create a welcoming space in our hearts for that person. Often this is enough for the person sharing their story to feel better.
Attentive listening isn’t easy. There is always the temptation to interrupt, to respond or react too quickly. We need to learn when it is right to stay quiet and when it is right to speak. If we rush in too quickly with our opinion the other person may close up and an opportunity may be lost. We need to remember that those who have an opportunity to tell their stories to someone who listens attentively find it easier to deal with their circumstances.
On the journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus there was soulful conversation. Soulful conversation is not that common and yet without it there is no real experience of companionship. Soulful conversation is about diving deeper. To have a soulful conversation means that we must be willing to talk about the things we carry in our hearts. In other words we must be willing to talk about what is happening within us emotionally and even spiritually. There is actually a huge need in people to have this kind of conversation. But something prevents it from happening. Perhaps this is fear. We are frightened of revealing our true selves and we are frightened of feeling exposed and vulnerable. The truth is soulful conversation creates emotional and spiritual intimacy and emotional and spiritual intimacy is one of the most enriching and fulfilling experiences we can have.
No wonder the two companions walking to Emmaus found themselves saying, “Did not our hearts burn within us as we talked on the road.” The word companion comes from two Latin words ‘cum’ and `panis’ which literally mean ‘with bread.’ A companion is someone you sit at table with, you break bread with, you share food with. This is sometimes referred to as table fellowship. In the Jewish culture at the time of Jesus the table was a place of acceptance and an invitation to friendship.
For the Jews sitting down to a meal was much more than our need for food. It was about relationships; creating relationships and building relationships.
The Emmaus model of companionship is perhaps the ideal, but it is an ideal worth striving for. The pace of life today may not allow much time to create this type of companionship, neither may our preoccupation with the social media, yet deep down we know that it is something we long for. When we are honest with ourselves we admit that we have a desire for relationships that are deep and meaningful. The human heart is made for the kind of companionship the two people experienced on their journey to the village of Emmaus. Creating true companionship is an investment worth making. In fact it is not just a luxury; it is a necessity.
CARE FOR THE EARTH
With the publication of Laudato Si’ Pope Francis has brought spirituality down to earth! Even though not everyone in the Emerging Christianity movement would boast of a strong commitment to caring for the earth most would accept that the earth is God’s good creation and our common home and we have a responsibility to look after it. Care for the earth is both a political imperative and a personal one. We may not have much of a say in influencing political decisions but we can make personal decisions that will create a difference.
There is no doubting the fact that our consumerist lifestyle is having a huge impact on our environment and on climate change. Why do we need to consume so much? Why do we find it difficult to say, ‘I have enough?’ It is true that material possessions are a source of comfort and satisfaction. But there is a deeper reason why we consume. It has to do with a misguided search for happiness.
Consumerism has us look for happiness in the wrong place, in things outside us, in an external source of value. The love we long for can only be found within. There is wisdom in the old cliché, “happiness is an inside job.” Unless and until I am able to say, ‘I am enough’ it is unlikely that I will be able to say, ‘I have enough.’ Key to this process of course is the habit of contemplative practice I referred to earlier. In contemplative practice we look to God, who is relentless affection, to fill the hole we have inside.
Care for the earth also involves the choices we make around the use of energy.
Of course we need sources of energy in our homes, our places of work, our rural and urban environments and indeed for transportation. But do we need to be so wasteful with these sources of energy? Most of us would accept that we waste too much energy and that we settle for the easy options especially if we can afford them. Why drive half a mile to the local shop if we can walk? Why leave our computers on if we are not using them or our televisions beaming if we are not watching them? Why keep our central heating systems set high while we walk around our homes and offices in shirts or blouses?
These questions may sound a bit petty but they point to unnecessary waste. If we do not stop exploiting the resources of the earth we will leave little for future generations. Needless to say a decision to stop wasting requires personal discipline, something that doesn’t come easy to human nature.
Then there is our use of materials like plastic, paper and cardboard to mention a few. The production of these materials in such volumes is putting pressure on our natural resources and is polluting our waters and our countryside. We could be described as a disposable generation. But the convenience of disposables comes at a cost. Do we really want an earth whose beauty is contaminated and whose natural rhythms are quickly becoming imbalanced and out of tune? What would the Creator say about our treatment of his creation?
Of course caring for the earth is about caring for the poor of the earth. It always seems to be the poor who suffer most. They are certainly suffering from the consequences of a ‘western’ lifestyle that cannot get enough, that is consuming and wasting to an alarming degree. Climate change is affecting the poorer regions of the world much more than it is affecting the wealthier regions. Famines caused by droughts and homelessness caused by flooding are more common in Africa and in Asia. This is an undeniable fact. A capitalism and consumerism that seeks to put the interests of the so called ‘first world’ first creates a hostile environment for those who are struggling to make ends meet. Ultimately care for the earth is about the practice of justice and a pathway to peace.
Care for the earth in its many forms is in fact a great example of the thrust of Emerging Christianity which sees action flowing from contemplation. Changing our personal behaviour affects the lives of others. Moving from ‘worldly’ values of possessions, power and prestige to ‘kingdom’ values of simplicity, surrender and service makes a difference to our planet and all its peoples. When Jesus emphasised personal transformation he knew that this would find expression in political transformation, in the desire to create a world where justice and peace would ‘reign.’
Contemplative practice, compassion, companionship and care for the earth are a spiritual path that is inspired by the life and ministry of Jesus. The emergence of this path has the potential to renew and revitalise the lived experience of Christianity. It also has the capacity to make Christianity an attractive alternative to our capitalist consumerist culture and a powerful force for change in a world divided by greed, power and religion. To be part of the movement to rebuild Christianity from the ground up known as Emerging Christianity is an adventure worth investing in both for ourselves and for others.
- Brian McLaren, “Emerging Christianity: How We Get There Determines Where We Arrive,” Radical Grace, vol. 23, no. 1 (Centre for Action and Contemplation: 2010), 4-5.
Philip McParland lives in Preston in the north west of England where he provides a ministry called Soul Space. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
“The Emmaus model of companionship is perhaps the ideal, but it is an ideal worth striving for.”
Very true. Emmaus involved the Holy Mass. The two disciples were reflecting on events and more than likely their own doings (or non-doings). Christ took them through the scriptures, as He does at Holy Mass, celebrated the Eucharist as he does at every Holy Mass, gave them Holy Communion to prepare them for the coming period and then bid them adieu as he also does at Holy Mass.
Companionship is a nice word. Holy Mass is a huge source of it. Every Sunday there are people near me in the church disagree with me fundamentally on aspects of life and reality. I have experienced some rejection from them. We could be eating and drinking for ever and never agree. However at Holy Mass I can confess my sinfulness to them, pray for forgiveness of our sins, join in prayer with and for them (the “we”, “us”, “our” prayers), pray to God to deliver us (yes “us”) from every evil, grant us peace in our day, keep us free from sin, and protect us from distress.
All this prayer is part of the self-sacrifice of the laity that Christ associates with the perfectly pleasing sacrifice He offers to the Father at every Holy Mass. At Holy Communion God offers us the graces to make the effort to act in charity to all those we differ with, and everybody else as well, until the next Holy Mass where we confess again the failings due to our fallen nature.
All of this with a view to trying to live in the image and likeness of God. This latter is the main aim of compassion. True, compassion does include sympathy and empathy, but its proper objective is to enable people to live in accordance with their nature as adopted children of God, in His image and likeness, loving Him as he laid down by keeping His commandments.
Another way of putting Philip McParland’s excellent article on Emerging Christianity is to think of the distinction between religion, faith and Church.
“Faith is not primarily a call to doctrinal beliefs and religious practices but a personal response to God’s invitation to a deep, loving and faithful relationship with Him, expressing itself in praise and worship of God, a way of life and practical, loving outreach to all others.
Religion is the particular doctrinal beliefs, sacramental structures, religious services & practices and clerical organisation of the various Christian denominations and non-Christian religions. Religion at its best gives structure, continuity and expression to faith and helps form a religious community to support and sustain faith. At its worst, religion divides peoples into ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘we’ who have it all right and ‘them’ who have it all wrong. It can also breed a mentality of being saved by attendance at religious services without any influence flowing through to one’s way of life and treatment of others. Faithless religion was epitomised by the Anglican bishop who said he had lost his faith in God but continued as a bishop because of the social good he thought he could still do. Most religions concentrate power, wealth and decision-making over the lives of their adherents in the hands of their male clergy. They lack openess and accountability to the majority of their followers. Women are often treat unfairly and unjustly, being denied equality with men.
I grew up in a strongly ‘religious’ family and it meant a lot to me throughout much of my early life. It was Charismatic Renewal that first awakened me to the faith of a deeply personal and loving relationship with God who died to show how much He/She loved me. Charismatic Renewal gave me that deep experience of God’s unconditional, eternal and compassionate love for me and all humanity and nature. That experience also seems to have touched Pope Francis in his papal ministry.
Church is an ambiguous term; for some it can be merely a Church of religion in the restricted sense of that term as outlined above, or primarily a Church of faith. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI put it, a Church of faith rather than a Church of political cult.
Faith, religion and Church are dynamically intertwined. “You cannot have God for your Father without the Church for your mother.” (St. Augustine)
Faith is the end, religion and Church the means, albeit essential means. That is the Christianity emerging today.
You make excellent points, Aidan. I personally first heard Richard Rohr in 1998, at a weekend organised by members of the Cursillo community in Derry. There couldn’t be a more traditionally Catholic movement than Cursillo – but it was a bridge for me to ‘Emerging Christianity’ just when I needed it.
The church’s ordinary Sunday liturgy also allows us to hear ancient texts proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Where else would we go to hear those texts these days, if the church simply folded?
Is the church always the less-than-full glass that can give us nevertheless the essential bridge to the ‘Emerging Church’ – the glass-that-can-be-full if we all work at it?
By ‘all’ I mean also those in other churches who hear those texts and want more. And even those who have been so totally alienated that they call themselves ‘secular’ but are still drawn to the values of Jesus. Integrity can be found in the most surprising places these days – when so often it seems to be missing from the places we have been taught to expect to find it.
Well here in my corner, Church has taken to the streets. Priests, retired teachers, and the elderly mostly on fixed income are protesting in full force against systemic disparity and in support of self-sufficiency. They sound like they could be the subject of this wonderful article.
It is a renewal this place hasn’t seen in a long time. People actively fighting for their common man, woman, and child. It is perhaps non-denominational in its formation but the work being carried out is certainly prophetic.
They are dragging politicians kicking and screaming to their table for proper dialogue. This is care for the earth and poor personified. What is terrible is that people my age are reluctant to join in because of the controversy surrounding such group and how it could affect each one of us going forward (I can’t include myself in this mix based on my long-standing civil disobedience streak which is now over).
These people are going through a personal transformation that is affecting the political realm and at the same time are filling voids left in my generation from our current blind obedience requirement. I can’t explain the joy I feel when I see this commitment and contemplative effort. I could understand how the 13-17 year old generation were best equipped to initiate the movement but never expected such an active response from this demographic.
It’s a thing of beauty to see it in action, the Spirit that is.
Today we are not short on theories of Catholicism. Each new group,-a new theory.
Heretofore in Catholicism faith had a complex richness.
Hebrews 11 defines several of its aspects. It begins “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old received divine approval. (RSV)
Verse 3 adds that by faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear. Verse 4 posits “acceptable sacrifice at the core of faith. Verse 6 – “he that cometh to God must believe that he is”
St Paul views faith as a source of doctrine and knowledge. We surrender in thought and deed to what we have not created. We believe so as to understand.
In relation to church, Lumen Gentium asserts that the Catholic Church is an end in itself, as well as a means. LG2 refers to the Catholic Church among other things thus:
“The eternal Father… determined to call together in a holy Church those who should believe in Christ.” This “family of God” is gradually formed and takes shape during the stages of human history, in keeping with the Father’s plan. In fact, “already present in figure at the beginning of the world, this Church was prepared in marvellous fashion in the history of the people of Israel and the old Advance. Established in this last age of the world and made manifest in the outpouring of the Spirit, it will be brought to glorious completion at the end of time.”
LG 48 adds “The Church . . . will receive its perfection only in the glory of heaven,” when “all the just from the time of Adam, ‘from Abel, the just one, to the last of the elect,’ . . . be gathered together in the universal Church in the Father’s presence.” (LG2)
In 1 Cor 15:24 “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom [church] to God the Father.”
Vatican II regards the Church as a goal in itself.
Lumen Gentium 1: “Christ is the light of humanity; and it is, accordingly, the heart-felt desire of this sacred Council, being gathered together in the Holy Spirit, that, by proclaiming his Gospel to every creature (cf. Mk. 16:15), it may bring to all men that light of Christ which shines out visibly from the Church. Since the Church, in Christ, is in the nature of sacrament-a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men – she here proposes, for the benefit of the faithful and of the whole world, to set forth, as clearly as possible, and in the tradition laid down by earlier Councils, her own nature and universal mission.”
Since, right from the start, Lumen Gentium declares the church to be in service to the purpose of bringing all to Christ I am bewildered by Con’s insistence that it declares the church to be a ‘goal in itself’. None of the passages he quotes makes this claim and all can be interpreted as in no way contradictory of the very first article of the document.
For example, if the church will achieve its full perfection only in the glory of heaven (LG48) it follows clearly that it is imperfect now, and therefore cannot be considered as a substitute for God in this life, an object of worship in itself.
Had Lumen Gentium 37 especially been taken seriously by the leaders of the Irish Church every parish in Ireland would soon have had a structure through which lay people could “disclose [to their pastors] their needs and desires with that liberty and confidence which befits children of God and brothers of Christ.” It was centrally the absence of those structures that guaranteed the catastrophic revelations of the clerical church’s administrative weakness – making it not a light that led to Christ but a quite contradictory sign of the huge danger of making that clerical church an end in itself. What catastrophic consequences have followed from the ignoring of Acton’s warning of the ‘heresy’ of believing that an ecclesiastical office confers holiness on those who hold it!
It was surely the hangover of the 16th C. Bellarmine idealisation of the church as a ‘perfect society’ that has brought us to where we are, not Lumen Gentium. Centrally the latter emphasised the presence of the Holy Spirit in the whole people of God, including the laity. It was the failures of subsequent papal administrations to take that seriously that have led to the current situation.
As I wrote earlier the onlookers do not lack for choice or variety in concepts of the Catholic Church.
LG 3: “The Church, or, in other words, the kingdom of Christ now present in mystery, grows visibly through the power of God in the world.”
The Third Luminous Mystery of the Rosary records Christ setting up this Kingdom to be presented to Father at the Second Coming. “Everyone is called to enter the Kingdom.” (The Church) (CCC, 543). The petition in the Lord’s Prayer “Thy kingdom come” is a call to pray for the growth of this Kingdom (the Church) “through the power of God.” The Church was already a goal for God in the OT. Now Christ enjoins on Christians to adopt it as a goal for themselves.
One of the links in this web site is that to “We are Church Ireland.” I assume this to mean we are “something in our own right where the Kingdom will be realised.” Do they identify with the bit from Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth (1) page 147? He writes:
“To pray for the Kingdom of God is to say to Jesus: let us be yours, Lord. Pervade us, live in us; gather scattered humanity in your body, so that in you everything may be subordinated to God and you can then hand over the universe to the Father, in order that ‘God may be all in all.’”
Can one assume that setting themselves up was in itself a goal for “We are Church Ireland” to provide a means of pursuing the purposes above? The ACI speaks of “rebuilding a Church” as a goal.
The question also arises as to whether the Bridegroom (Christ) would regard the Bride (The Church) as merely a means or mechanism. The bride tends to be a goal in her own right.
The reality of goal does not rule out the notion of means.
Today before the referendum one recalls one-time workers in the abortion industry or survivors of abortion, who became pro-life. The next step for many was seeking to be part of the Catholic Church, a goal for an experience desirable in itself. The same goal applies to many converts and reverts.
My apologies, Con. I had taken your use of ‘goal’to mean ultimate destination rather than intermediate ‘way-point’.
But that being so, I find I cannot quite grasp the point you are making about ‘variety in concepts of the church’. Are you complaining about that or celebrating it? Surely, given the church’s long history, different people will necessarily have different ‘notions’ of the church, and any individual is likely to pass through different notions of church throughout his / her lifetime? There will be geographical / cultural variations also.
And are you taking issue with Lumen Gentium or accepting it? Do you agree that the ‘perfect society’ notion of the church, and the clericalism so often associated with it, were dangerous – tending towards an idealisation of a particular historical ‘form’ of church as necessarily fixed forever by divine ordinance?
I tend to see Christ’s church as an imperfect society that strives towards but never completely realises the kingdom of God. It has to be ‘for’ something other than itself, in LG terms, and ‘semper reformanda’ to forward that purpose. It also has to recognise the Holy Spirit at work outside itself, and to be ready to rejoice in that.
I tend to interpret you as idealising some past ‘model’ of church, and as lamentinging what you see as current confusion – but is this interpretation fair and accurate?
“I grew up in a strongly ‘religious’ family”
Thank you Aidan in sharing some of your life experiences with us it was refreshing in perceiving the reality of your on-going Christian faith from early childhood
“If we could plumb the depths of meaning in our own personal life histories we might be able to forge more effective link with others’. This poem should give you some insight into my own life experiences.
Fourteen years old.
Jumble sale to make a gain, a treasure trove, myself I goad
Church hall door I have queued before
First in the queue, pay at the door, others stall,
Brick-a-brac stall, ahead of the storm
Rolls Royce choice, behind complaining voice
“First in the queue” Old croaky, her envy I knew
To me it was just fun, she could have been anyone
Next jumble sale
St Chad’s Hall, standing tall
First in the queue, nothing new
Behind gentle voice, words of choice
‘Sweet dear’, I could hardly hear
I ‘am getting old’, gentle her tale she told
Spinning tale, been old, it’s not the same
No longer can I play the game
Without goods for my market stall the bailiffs will call
I need help, will a shilling an item tempt
Ladies silk is all I ask; leave me to the brick -a- brac
Old croaky having fun
I was innocent and young
Silk mark in each undergarment you will find, ‘bear this in mind’
First in, ladies undergarments, win, win, win
But seen as sin, sin, sin
Holding high the silk mark I did spy
The Bishops wife, possibly beholding such a sight
Tut and stare, totally unaware
Full load, smiling old toad
White hair, cold blue eyed stare
Now, ‘let me see’ giving a few bob, with glee
Then! To seal her fun, pocket found, crystal orb
To one eye to absorb, taking down, she gave me a frown
Never to see her again but her Sisters continue the game,
Setting every frame, while encouraging shame
My own load, is more than enough, to make one blush
Splinter to a plank, this is far more than a prank
End game, blood and shame
kevin your brother
If so Sean, not fair and not accurate. I can’t describe Church these days in terms of either Jesus or God, because when we look at parishioners as a whole, they are completely disconnected from both and pray to a societal map. This map becomes the foundation of our existence. Pages of the Bible are simply rotting over the top of it.
Now one might think “All is lost.” That’s not how networking plays out. The story of Catholicism describes a “network” if we can use a present day allegory. That network becomes the most important thing when people fear that all is lost. That network becomes an emergency system that reacts to the disaster, if properly engaged. Could you say that Pope Francis is trying to engage this emergency response? I have never questioned it as far back as Benedict.
How has Pope Francis positioned Catholicism as of late? I grew up in a strongly religious family too. Catholic Women’s League, Knights of Columbus, Eucharistic minister, part-time glebe worker – it’s been a tough act to follow. But the true religious exercise only sprung into action outside of the walls of the Church where my parents tried their best to live off the land and relied on their own upbringing’s education to seek a balance with society through self-sufficiency.
We had our own animals outdoors and although perhaps from the outside looking in were thought of as “needy”, we were to share our bounty with all who presented themselves. That balance, for me personally, was Church personified. It shredded that societal map that looked to commodify individuals. Sadly, it could not persist in this culture. Mimetic desire ruled in favour of joining the sweeping tide.
The good news is that many innovations now exist that seek to destroy the commidification of humanity but only if that network is used to its best purpose. We could thank Christianity for allowing such a revolution to be even hinted at.
Without, all would be lost.
Loved that poem Kevin.
1 of 3
Hi! Aidan,continuing on the same theme from my post above
“If we could plumb the depths of meaning in our own personal life histories we might be able to forge more effective link with others’
As previously stated via my post in the link, to deliberately separate the intellect from the heart, will lead one to hell; http://www.catholicethos.net/god-old-testament-hateful-wrathful/#comment-205
It is generally accepted that there are many causes attributed to early childhood bonding experiences that can result in lack of emotional empathy, and in extreme cases result in serious psychological behaviour.
It could be said that for true emotional inter-dependence to come about with others, we need to show /tell our vulnerability, for when we do so, it confers authenticity, a place from where we can truly share the communal meal and our life with others.
As an analogy we/mankind could describe some Christians as un-bonded or counterfeit goods, on display in a supermarket. But we are not in the comfort of a supermarket with it ‘rows’ of neatly stacked shelves, rather we are in an open market, where all types of products (People) are to be found. The reality is, that many products do not live up to expectation, the branded (Christian) image of a perfect pizza on display, is rarely matched by what is found within the box, so we are confronted with a subtle deception, we accept this lie because our expectations have gradually been eroded to accept Seconds and we collude with this deception, as it could be said that the Image
supersedes the reality of our inability to confront the “Truth” of this on-going situation. This could describe the reality of the Church today.
Seconds are usually marked as ‘seconds’ and sold off cheaply, often in open markets, they could be described as faulty goods, these faulty goods cover a wide spectrum of deficiencies, form slightly imperfect to badly damaged, nevertheless they all retain value, no one is deceived,… Continue
2 of 3 as the reality is seen in the stated Truth (humility/vulnerability) of each individual item (Situation), in that you get what you see on the box, they are not perceived as counterfeit goods.
Then we have another category of goods on display, on the broken goods stall or in the junkyard, irreplaceable parts are often missing, these parts could be described as essentials as the product will never function as it was meant to do.
In the link below there is an article written by an anonymous contributor and should be read to ‘fully’ comprehend, my continuing post; from the article
“I am a middle-aged woman with an attachment disorder.* Due to the death of my mother shortly after my birth and a series of misguided actions on the part of well-meaning relatives, I have found it extremely hard to bond with people. In particular, I have little innate sense of what fatherhood and motherhood entail. Even today, “family” is a combination of challenging ties that often suffocate more than console. And yet, broken as I am God loves me. Given my rough beginning, my life entailed a series of choices based on imitation rather than authenticity” https://onepeterfive.com/sin-choose-reflection-disorder/
“The gift of our humanity, savoured and appreciated, can become a mirror and window to the mystery of God for ourselves”
Yes! I agree, as I can identify with the woman in the article, as I do with the true Divine Mercy Image an “Image of Broken Man”
Because I have now been able to pinpoint my original moment of brokenness, as in, been damaged in a connived traumatic incident of rejection, when I was about two years old’ that left me emotionally isolated, as my hearts natural emotional bonding had been separated/damaged, in relation to my intellect. Now looking back everything falls into place, such as when two cousins came over from Ireland who were staying with relatives, who had been told to go/come down, to my house, to see (Look at) me, … Continue
3 of 3… and looking at me, commented “He never speaks” and other comments throughout my childhood, such as “He is so very, very, quiet “ etc. It is only now much later in life that I realize that I hardly ever spoke, but in my quietness I observed others impartially, as I was fundamentally honest also I now attribute my dyslexia to this lack of verbal communication, emanating from an emotionally stifled heart.
We are ‘all’ vulnerable before the yoke of our Fathers inviolate Word (Will) and when embraced honestly, it will induce humility (St Bernard Humility a virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is, abases himself), as we direct the open recognition of our state of being before Him, otherwise you run the risk of becoming self-righteous, the blinding of oneself, to the reality of your own stifled heart/soul. We are all born with original sin, we are not perfect, we are all seconds, in relation to the genuine article
“If we could plumb the depths of meaning in our own personal life histories we might be able to forge a more effective link with others”
Conclusion The true Divine Mercy Image one of Broken Man offers the church the means to confer authenticity on damaged/broken goods (Those who cannot receive the sacrament of reconciliation), as many have genuine parts, given by our Maker, that can contribute and be used to make seconds and faulty goods, work as they were meant to.
But there is no hope for counterfeit goods as they will be rejected and left alone on/in the shelf/desert.
The opposite of pride is humility, Pope Paul VI referred to the “smoke (Pride/Arrogance) of Satan” having entered the temple of God, and now can be clearly seen; via this link.
kevin your brother
There are no reasons to apologise Sean.
My notion of goal is tied in with a theology of the Church which I haven’t the energy to go into this minute.
My response (suggestions) to your queries are as follows:
Lumen Gentium is 100% OK.
For every Catholic there is a different notion of Church, as you imply. But beyond the individual level the links contained on this web site together with this website itself are illustrative of the variety of more formal concepts of Church at group level. They are significant in that they differ from the traditional model in terms of authoritative structure and teachings on conscience, theology and worship.
I don’t think there are “ideals” in the Church. There are commandments and expectations on the part of Christ that one seek to be faithful in pursuit of perfection, a perfection however that is not a defined state. It seems to me to be a recurrent pursuit of growth in conscience, virtue and character. Roughly speaking the pursuit requires worship, comprised of two things – 1) prayer (including mandatory acceptable sacrifice – liturgy – Holy Mass) and 2) observance and good works including mandatory service of the poor.
Philip McParland’s idea of “the awareness of our belovedness” is a necessary pursuit but is less introspection-based and more reliant on surrender to God than he implies. It involves “the cross.”(Think of the thousands of hours of prayer offered globally for the retention of the Eighth Amendment.) McParland omits this central nature of contrasting interludes of “the cross” and exhilaration.
There is a “semper reformanda,” primarily in the context of worship.
Confusion is not an eighth gift of the Holy Spirit, and the current confusion stemming from the Papacy is not conducive to having “the blind see.”
In a Catholic context McParland’s omission of Holy Mass deprives his hypothesis of any great value.
To what then do you attribute the ‘pro forma’ conducting of the Mass so often in Ireland, Con? Is ‘real presence’ truly celebrated in your experience, or is there a ‘here we go again’ routinisation of everything instead?
I would argue that it is the absence of reflection on the meaning of what we are doing that lies at the root of the emptying of parish congregations in Ireland. Richard Rohr especially calls everyone into reflection on ‘real presence’ – at Mass and at all other times as well.
The call to authenticity, to an abandonment of merely automatic behaviour, to be our ‘true selves’ at all times – is for me crucial to a restoration of the sanctity of the Mass. That Mass attendance might simply be an indulgence of the false self – the self that wants to be noticed – needs to be accepted and countered.
This means that the spiritual journey so well described by e.g. Thomas Merton cannot be ignored if the church is to be restored, and mere automatic public behaviour deprecated.
The Mass has suffered dreadfully from an absence of reflection in our behaviour, in Ireland especially. It is decades since I have heard an Irish priest calling his congregation to deep pondering on the meaning of what we are doing – and churches are emptying as a consequence.
I have been intermittently writing a book to myself on the Holy Mass over the past few months. I reveal this in order to support your contention regarding the need for reflection.
What you say Sean reflects my understanding, to a great degree.
I don’t grasp the meaning of the “pro forma” question. Regarding Real Presence I have often contrasted my sense of the presence of the person near me in the church with that of Christ in the tabernacle or on the altar. I think that the nature of the Real Presence requires acts of faith and will, to underpin an assumption and/or sense of presence.
I can’t recall when I last heard a homily on the liturgy.
I think you reflect what I might call the integrated recurrent nature of worship – liturgy followed by attempts of live in accordance with the Eucharist followed by the next Holy Mass and so on. Each stage anticipates and feeds into the next within the circumstances of fallen human nature and grace of God.
You seem to suggest that awareness of this integration is necessary and I think that also. I find it a demanding process. But fragile as it is, it becomes a source of insight and meaning and encouragement.
One could go on but I’ll end with a thought – the process is energised by the sacramental empowerment of the Holy Mass. How that arises of course is another question.
By the ‘pro forma’ Mass I mean the far too typical streamlined ‘let’s get this over with pronto’ liturgy, in which the attention of the celebrant is clearly focused mainly not upon the mystery he is ‘celebrating’ but upon whatever he has to do later that he is rushing to get to – much in the way one does the dishes as rapidly as possible so as not to miss the start of a movie.
It must be difficult for a priest to retain for a lifetime the sense of awe he must experience when celebrating his very first Mass – but must that go completely? Does routinisation happen simply because we in Ireland are ‘overmassed’?
The term “overmassed” reminds me of a phrase in my area about greyhounds – “over coursed and undertrained.” In the case of some priests it may be “overmassed” and under “prayed.”
Jock started life as Jock. At Ordination he became Fr Jock. From then on Jock has to cooperate with Fr Jock, especially at Holy Mass. I think, perhaps mistakenly, that at Holy Mass Fr Jock should concentrate solely on his own prayer as per the Missal. Apart from the homily he should leave us to take responsibility for our participation. Expressing the “I” of Christ at the Consecration is sufficient burden for him.
Clearly he too is subject to distraction, sometimes in the form of our indifference, or the mistaken impression that it is his show, or a fear of knowing that some in the pews want a “quicky.”
He will have his bad days but as your first paragraph implies his duty is to behave in obedience to the ministry to which he has been called. In my experience some priests (and perhaps many priests) benefit from encouragement from the laity to do the “right thing.”
I agree with you Sean about being ‘over massed’ and many Masses giving the impression of being a tired or hurried routine.
It seems as if the Pope or a cardinal or bishop cannot appear among us and speak to us face-to-face without having to do that during a Mass.
The papal pop-concert type of Mass, with large crowds stretching at times for miles, as in South America two years ago, with people chatting away with each other as they can’t see what is going on at the altar, with Communion being distributed at times over the shoulders of other people, does not emphasise the sacredness and mystery of Eucharist.
The over-emphasis on Mass has effectively reduced Catholic liturgy to only Mass, with services of the Word, in which God also resides, being almost totally neglected. As with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the over-frequency of Mass diminishes the daily acknowledgement of the primary presence of God within each of us, and within those we encounter during the day, from the day we were conceived and later strengthened at Baptism by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Of course, we have to “Do this in memory of me” as Jesus the Christ requested, but not necessarily daily or so frequently as to lessen its impact on transforming lives and in so stylised a manner as to distance itself from the everyday lives of people and the attention span of the young, thus appearing, unfortunately, as irrelevant to the lives of a rapidly growing number of non-attending Catholics.
We have also over-clericalised the Mass. Watch what will happen in Dublin when the Pope arrives to celebrate the importance of family in Catholic life. No families or lay people will be present on the stage and around the altar with Pope Francis and no lay person will be invited to speak about the family. Pope Francis will be totally surrounded by vested clerics and only celibate clerics of a high order will be allowed speak at all the public events leading up to the Papal Mass. Could you imagine a large conference for clergy where all the speakers were lay people!
“Loved that poem Kevin.”
Thank you for your kind comment Lloyd
kevin your brother
Aidan Hart 31/05/2018
I share the point about the large-crowd Holy Masses and wouldn’t attend for the reasons you give.
“As with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the over-frequency of Mass diminishes the daily acknowledgement of the primary presence of God within each of us, and within those we encounter during the day,”
I’m afraid historical evidence and even my own unexceptional experience exposes this statement to challenge.
The effectiveness of any Holy Mass depends in part on one’s disposition, one’s surrender to what is on offer during it. Far from demoting the Scriptures, the New testament itself is the product of the Eucharistic process. Its composition was largely determined on the basis of judgement as to the appropriateness of each “book” to Eucharistic celebration.
Holy Mass is a Divine designed event uniting Heaven and earth. It is a special context for hearing the word of God, not in a mode of study but of surrendering oneself (or of trying to) to the presence of its Author as it is proclaimed, and in its unity with the Eucharistic prayer (when one finds such).
I don’t receive messages from God but I have found that reading the scriptures during Eucharistic Adoration can be – well, challenging in terms of the responsibilities I get reminded of and of unexpected insights.
In the Vatican 2 brand of Catholicism all other devotions do play second fiddle to Holy Mass but the latter energises other devotions, and especially Scripture based stuff.
John 6 perhaps demonstrates dispositions leading to some people being “overmassed” but that was their fault.
For me it is the clerical fear of encounter with ‘the people’, combined with the routinisation that overmassing inevitably leads to, that deprives the Mass of the experiential power that the readings cry out for. If the priest has effectively no encounter with his people – as a community – outside Mass, how can he provide a homily worthy of the occasion itself, and how can he prevent each of us from being simply solitary AT Mass even when we are physically in the same space?
Surely the purpose of the occasion should also be ‘to bind’ – not to provide each of us separately with his / her own stairway to Heaven? If we leave the chapel in as solitary a mindset as we arrived, nothing significant has happened. ‘Go and proclaim the Gospel of the Lord’ has an entirely bogus and empty ring to it if the congregation never gets to discuss how to do that, with one another and with the homilist.
Pope Francis is entirely correct to stress the importance of companioning. Are our priests, in persona Christi, travelling WITH their people on our current journey away from Jerusalem? In my experience, NO – they are travelling alone or with one another, on a separate road. The cursory Mass is being used as a substitute for a genuine meeting of minds and concerns, and, all too often, the priest has left the sacristy and the chapel before the chapel has fully disgorged the congregation.
I fear that this won’t change until the churches empty altogether. By their absence younger generations are asking exactly the right question: what is the point of all this? Our failure to address that question – together – speaks more of catatonia than wakefulness.
Another issue which is connected with the over-frequency of Masses is the abhorrent and corrupting influence of Mass stipends, which still persist in Ireland and many other countries even when clergy are being paid a living wage either by the government or by the people of their parish and diocese. To me it smacks of what corrupted the Church in pre-Reformation times. At that time it certainly led to the abuse of priests saying as many Masses as possible, the rich building a chapel on their private estate and employing a Mass-priest to say several Masses a day for the rich family and their deceased members.
Money should never be connected with the delivery of any sacrament, particularly with the celebration of Mass. When I was working in Africa some years ago the PP with whom I was staying expressed his anger at a local African priest approaching him for more Mass stipends from Europe to pay for the insurance on his new, large and top of the range SUV. The PP claimed he couldn’t have celebrated all the Masses for the stipends he had previously given him. Priests in genuine need around the world should be adequately supported by the annual collection for the Vatican and by the twinning of third world parishes with those in the developed world.
I find it isolating at Sunday Mass when the priest, on arriving at the altar, frequently announces that he is offering this Mass for Mr or Mrs x, repeats their name at the conclusion of the Prayers of the Faithful and again during the Canon of the Mass. Why does the priest’s private intention have to be announced to the congregation, apart from encouraging others to pay a Mass stipend for a special and repeated mention on Sunday morning of the anniversary of the death of their departed loved ones? That is the purpose of the Prayers of the Faithful.
I suspect that if we stopped the stipends we would help decrease the number of Masses, which, in turn, could help make Sunday Eucharist a well prepared experience of God’s loving, redeeming and transforming presence in Eucharist, within the priest, each person in the congregation and in the Word proclaimed.
I am one of those who count the money in my parish. I have done a rough tot for the income for the Diocese as a whole from the “Priests’ Collection.” Even if none were to go on administration the priests would not be comfortable financially. They are entitled to dignified living as is everybody else and reducing them closer to penury is not progress.
In my area people send notices to priests for the purpose of having anniversaries announced in Church. One presumes that the purpose is that the congregations pray for the repose of the respective souls. Irrespective of the numbers of Holy Masses the requests for mention would continue and be granted as happens in large city churches at present.
I lived in Zambia for three years where in rural districts at least there were no stipends. This did not reduce number of Holy Masses. I don’t remember its effect on the mention of anniversaries or months minds.
Should it be enjoined on Holy Mass attenders in normal circumstances to have to ask themselves each time they approach the church entrance “Is this one Holy Mass too many?” What would be the list of criteria?
Surely it’s not the same as one spud too many for lunch. We don’t stuff ourselves with anything at Holy Mass. One of the principal intentions of the institution of the Eucharist is that we grow in “one body, one spirit in Christ.” Is there a desired upper limit here?
Priests face challenging decisions here. unnecessary hoarding is not a virtue, a corporal or spiritual work of mercy and any priest who is known to have attachments to wealth dilutes the effects of the graces of his ministry.
Further to my comments above, I have just come from a parish First Holy Communion Mass. It was a most moving experience of a very well prepared liturgy by PP, teachers, pupils, parents and lay chaplain– fantastic involvement by the new communicants in the singing, Holy Scripture readings which had been translated into their language, Prayers of the Faithful, Final Prayers before the final Blessing and a very relevant and well delivered sermon by the PP. Afterwards refreshments were provided for all in the parish community centre, prepared and served by the PTA and a credit to them. If that level of community preparation, involvement and participation were the experience of congregations every Sunday the current exodus from Sunday Mass attendance might be lessened or halted.
Our ideas relating to attendance/participation at Mass vary, as they most probably relate to our personal life experiences. But for all of us, it is an encounter with the Lord and each other, no matter how broken that encounter may be.
The purpose of the occasion should be to give glory to Our Father in Heaven while encountering the Word made flesh in the shared sacrificial image/food /Way of Jesus Christ, this encounter is individual as the ‘Church’ does not pass judgment on the internal forum of men’ but it’s fruit should be communal as in binding us together in humility/Truth/Love
James 5:16 confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. ‘The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results’
For me the Pastor does not need to give a homily worthy of the occasion, rather he should be worthy of the occasion, in acknowledge his failings openly, as Truth is the mortar that holds the house/flock together. As it could be said, that for true emotional inter-dependence to come about with others, we need to show/tell our vulnerability, for when we do so, it confers authenticity, a place from where we can truly share the communal meal and our life with others.
The true divine Mercy Image one of broken man given by our Lord Himself to His Church has the potential within it “Not in the beauty of the colour nor, in the brush lies the greatness of this image, but in my grace;” to enable all Catholics who for whatever reason apart from the sin against the Holy Spirit, who presently cannot receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to partake of the Lords table, dressed in the Wedding Garment of humility (Honesty), before our Father in Heaven.
Please consider continuing via the link; a way forward for those who presently cannot receive the sacrament of reconciliation.
kevin your brother
Your tract “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” is one basis of community at Holy Mass. Community begins with this act of will and charity (concern for the wellbeing of neighbour). They are expressed in the Holy Mass prayer: “deliver us O Lord from every evil, grant us peace in our day, with the help of your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all distress.” The “us” means “me” + “them.”
This prayer for peace precedes a prayer to Jesus on the altar for Church unity, implicitly embracing the necessity for truth. Then another prayer for peace.
(Peace is both gift and chore – peace depends on the exercise of virtue. The sign of peace is an expression of bonhomie to the other person and also a prayer for grace for him/her to seek a life of virtue generative of the peace we wish them.)
At the Agnus Dei we make pleas to Jesus on the altar for communal mercy and again for peace.
This string of petitions precede Holy Communion. They apply beyond the current moment to life between the current and next Holy Mass. Reception of Holy Communion energises the pursuit of virtue and concern for the common good in the coming days to correspond with the grace of divine mercy. It is linked to the Orate Fratres petition that the priest’s sacrifice and ours (as different from but united to that of Christ) expressed in our lives in the coming days be acceptable to God the Father.
Humility is at the core of this pattern of events. Each person expresses personal unworthiness. But humility is not confined to expressions of brokenness. The personal acts of faith in the Creed, Real Presence, the cleansing from sin at the Confiteor, the personal unworthiness regarding “the roof”, the sacrificial nature of Holy Mass – all are acts of humility. The hope for peace in Holy Mass by virtuous living suggests Christ does not want a perpetual “mea culpa.” Periods of “lift up your hearts” are provided for.
Thank you Con for that informative comment and of course what you say is true, in that the structured pray rituals within the Mass relate to humility, and yes there are ample (Strings) of prays for repentance and they will be said with varying degrees of sincerity. But that is not the same as “confess your sins to each other” Confess; definition to acknowledge or avow (a fault, crime, misdeed, weakness, etc.) by way of revelation. As open acknowledgement in sharing (Telling/owning) with each other the difficulties and failings of life, will induce humility and in doing so create a humble community.
What is needed is a radical change of culture as the Confessional Box has virtually been abandoned. And because of this it could be said that we (I speak generally) have become blasé (Lukewarm) with this repetition (Pray ritual). As it does not confront the reality of each individual human heart, as there is a great deal of difference between acknowledging, as in “I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof” than what should be the accepted reality of this statement “a broken a contrite (crushed) heart. … O God, You will not despise” Yes “Christ does not want a perpetual “mea culpa” but true humility is to possess a perpetual contrite heart, one that dwells in spiritually ‘uplifting’ meekness, while constantly receiving His redeeming grace.
kevin your brother
‘Confession’ is certainly a problem. Richard Rohr remarks that the 12-step regimen used by addicts of various kinds serves this need best for lots of people today – but this requires trust in the confidentiality of the 12-step group (which seems to have originated in the Baptist tradition).
And close trust in neighbours is exactly what does not and cannot develop within the usual time-frame of the Mass, given that our ‘neighbours’ on these occasions will vary from week-to-week.
We are locked as a church into the time constraints of the cleric, and I am beginning to wonder if God has it in mind to dispense altogether with a ‘professional’ clergy – given, for example, the lottery that the sacrament of reconciliation has become. That was precisely the description given to the sacrament by Thomas Reese SJ, on foot of a dreadful experience on the part of one of his relatives. (An angry diatribe from the confessor when the young lady confessed that she had not been to confession in years.)
St Paul was insistent on the merits of retaining his own profession as a tent-maker while following an apostolic calling. That the church chose a ‘professional’ model of ministry when circumstances changed suggests the possibility of reverting to the Pauline model now, post Christendom.
I’d go along with revisiting the Pauline, and the whole of the New Testament, model of ministry, particularly priestly ministry; full time alongside part-time and celibate (although not in Paul’s time and for a good few centuries later) alongside married priests. It has to come so why are the hierarchy not even discussing it with the laity in the present, and growing, crisis. Is it a case of ‘better no priest and therefore no Eucharist than a married priest or non-stipendiary priest. What does that say about the hierarchy’s view of Baptism, the sacred vocation of marriage, the dignity of honest work and their oft stated centrality of Eucharist in the spiritual life and spiritual growth of Catholics!! Do they not agree with Paul’s description of all baptised members of the Church; “Do you not realise that you are a temple of God, with the Spirit of God living in you?…..you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God.” (1Cor 3: 16 & 23)
I stress that my contribution on 4/6/ was a proposal, an exploration, not a decree.
Re your post of 5/6/18 (apart from the item inquired of below) – comment would be superfluous. It is true to life.
I am not clear on “As open acknowledgement in sharing (Telling/owning) with each other the difficulties and failings of life.” What does it look like in operation?
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Thank you Con for comment and clarification.
I am not clear on “As open acknowledgement in sharing (Telling/owning) with each other the difficulties and failings of life.” What does it look like in operation?
I am sure that you realise by now, given that I have posted on this site, the ACP site and others, numerous times, that my theme relates to the true image of Divine Mercy an image of Broken Man. I do not know if you have read any of them in the past as I have not receiving any encouragement to discuss the true DM Image and its implications with regards to the above, as in ,‘tell you sins to one and other’.
I am not proposing a ‘full’ Public Confession by all the laity before or during Mass but rather a coming together in humility, before each other and our Father in heaven, leading to the full Sacrament of Reconciliation for those who presently cannot receive the said Sacrament, as they are ‘entangled in on-going sinful situations’ these situation cover a wide range of circumstances, from known priests who are cohabitating, other unknown individuals who have been compromised, the divorced and same sex individuals who have taken civil partners, and all those couples that have committed themselves to the use of artificial contraception and presently should not receive the Bread of Life.
The image of Broken Man given by Our Lord Himself to the Church I believe has the potential within it, to permit all those who cannot receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, (apart from those who sin against the Holy Spirit) to partake of the Lords table (Food for the soul) dressed in humility and grow spiritually. I envisage something along the lines of a Public Confession (Tell your sins to one another) by those in these situations who are in the need for God’s mercy by permitting the intended recipient of the Bread of Life to look upon the ‘Broken Image’, a confrontational reflection of themselves, just prior to receiving…Continue
2 of 2… Jesus Christ within the Eucharist, and saying publicly form the heart ‘Jesus I Trust in thee’ Then the Priest says words to the effect of, “Welcome to the Path-way of reconciliation, receive the Body of Christ”
The full Sacrament of Reconciliation has not been given but a visible sign of intent, as in Repent (Change Direct) is manifest through the grace of His Divine Mercy, there is no scandal, as no one is deceived, the Church does not pass judgment on the internal forum of men, in the finale annalist God cannot be deceived. The recipient dwells in God’s Divine Mercy as ‘A broken and contrite Heart God will not despise’
Yes, they return to entangled sinful situations but Hope of a full reconciliation leis ahead of them, as it is sincerity of heart that sits at the base of Christs teachings, and this state (Sincerity) I believe can be ‘on-going’ even in a soul entangled in a sinful situation (Who cannot receive the full Sacrament of Reconciliation) because it is on the spiritual plane that we encounter God from moment to moment 70×7.
We are not here to judge, rather to encourage, as God’s mercy is greater than any sin.
So for this reason I believe the true Divine Mercy Image an image one of man’s brokenness, given by our Lord Himself to the Church, gives the Church the means to embrace “situations in which the damage cannot be repaired” through normal channels, (The Sacrament of Reconciliation) the means to do so, and lead our brothers and sisters through an open door, so to say, to His table, and receive in humility, spiritual nourishment, and eventually lead them to the full Sacrament of Reconciliation.
For many this would not be a very comfortable place to be, but it would be an honest one, in manifesting our vulnerability in humility, before God and mankind, in telling our sins to one and other we become a Church open to spiritual growth.
kevin your brother
I cannot find here, Kevin, in either of these two comments, a URL (i.e. a ‘http://etc’ link) to this ‘true divine image of broken man’.
Also, how can you claim divine authority for what is clearly a private revelation, when the church does not authenticate any such image other than the crucifix that already dominates every Catholic church. Why is that image insufficient?
Private revelations never become part of the ‘deposit of faith’ – i.e. of what the church asks us to believe. It seems to me that you are requiring something more of us, without due authority. Can you understand my extreme reluctance to agree?
Thank you Sean for your comment
“I cannot find a URL to this true divine image of broken man”
No you will not as there isn’t one available to the laity
Sister Faustina was very innocent and trusting we can deduce this because after her first vision she immediately acted with singular pure intent to paint Our Lord.
Information given to the laity in the late nineties
“Paint a picture according to the vision you see and with the inscription: “Jesus, I Trust in Thee.”
“At first she tried to paint/sketch it herself, she was no artist and failed after man trials (Attempts), someone was found who could and did paint it”
As with all insightful information of this nature relating to such occurrences, it is fair to assume that these ‘attempts’ with many of her personal possessions would be kept by her religious order.
Private Revelations never become part of the ‘deposit of faith’
Yes, the church teaches that divine revelation ended with the apostles.
The visual and verbal request given by God to Sr. Faustina may not be an additional revelation but it is a communiqué endorsed by the Church that incorporates the direct Word (Will) of God and for that reason it is binding on the Church.
Also, how can you claim divine authority for what is clearly a private revelation
I have placed this question before many accredited theologians
Is God’s Word (Will) endorsed by the Church Inviolate?
No one responds directly to the question, rather it inflames animosity, although one highly respected Priest (known for his integrity) has concurred with what I am saying as been true.
There can be only be one picture in God’s house on earth, given by our Lord Himself (Divine authority) for us to venerate, a self-reflected image of sister Faustina and all of us, an image of our brokenness as seen though the eyes of our Lord, accompanied by these words to be said from the heart,
‘Jesus I Trust in Thee”
kevin your brother
If I understand you, Kevin, not even you yourself have seen this ‘true image of broken man’? We must simply accept your authority for the divine origins of this proposal and join with you in calling for the publication of the image or images you cite – the images attempted by Sr Faustina?
Have I understood you correctly?
Thank you Sean for your comment
You are correct in that I have not seen the original attempts made by Sr Faustina, how could I as they have not be made available to the laity; did you not already know this?
”We must simply accept your authority for the divine origins of this proposal’ ” Not my authority, as I have none, but my witness to the Truth, as ‘the divine origins of this proposal’ comes from God, and the Church has endorsed that this is so, those who are of the Truth hear (Witness) ‘His voice’
So yes, those who hear His voice should ‘join with me in calling for’ the removal of the present image, because if it were to be removed in humility, it would create a catalyst for change, based on the Truth, as in, compliance to the living Word (Will) of God, then new inclusive structures would be formed, giving the Church the means to correct past wrongs, while the true DM Image one of Broken Man would find its place within them.
Ultimately Sean, this is the question that needs to be answered
Is God’s Word (Will) endorsed by the Church Inviolate?
As this question calls us to the sacrificial sacrifice (Witness) of the Cross, as it incorporates our most fundamental belief, that is, that God’s Word (Will) is Inviolate, and sits at the base of all the Sacraments. To remain silent to this question is not an option for those who claim obedience to the serving of the Truth, for to do so, would be equivalent to bending your knee before a worldly Image, more in keeping with of the Prince of this world, the father of lies and deceptions. So if the answer is Yes, only the picture Sr. Faustina painted/drew can be venerated, as no one else can ‘see’ that she saw.
“Paint a picture according to the vision ‘you see’ and with the inscription: “Jesus, I Trust in Thee.” “I desire that this picture be venerated first in your chapel and then throughout the whole world”
kevin your brother
Sorry, Kevin. It takes a truly skilled and practised artist to paint exactly what that person sees. Such a request was never made of any of those who had seen Jesus during his ministry, so why would it be made of someone who had never done that, and who, according to yourself, wasn’t an artist either?
That difficulty of ‘painting what you see’ will be multiplied in the case of a deep spiritual experience. The ‘instruction’ you quote at the end of your comment is therefore fundamentally implausible and unlikely, and is far more likely to be simply a subjective rendering of a confused experience.
In light of the church’s long tradition of belief in the mercy of God BEFORE the Faustina devotion, it is also unconvincing to proclaim the NECESSITY of this devotion at this late stage. This is not to deny its value for those who value and practice it, but the sufficiency of the image of ‘broken man’ we already have – the image of the cross – is attested to by history itself, as well as by all who pray the Rosary. It is also sufficient for me.
Finally, please do not try to claim ‘inviolability’ for a claimed word of God that has not been verified dogmatically as such by the Church. Until a council of the Church declares that the instruction you quote has the authority of the Gospel it cannot plausibly be claimed to be the ‘inviolate’ word of God’. It remains a private revelation, with all of the limitations of all such events.
From my Post above 2/06/18.
For me the Pastor/Priest does not need to give a homily worthy of the occasion, rather he should be worthy of the occasion, in acknowledge his failings openly, as Truth is the mortar that holds the house/flock together. As it could be said, that for true emotional inter-dependence to come about with others, we need to show/tell our vulnerability, for when we do so, it confers authenticity,…
Extract from an article see the link below.
Kim Walker-Smith, the longtime Jesus Culture frontwoman, says Christians leaders must be more transparent from the pulpit because members, especially millennials and Gen Z, don’t want to be preached to by a minister who’s covering up a sin that later becomes public.
“One of the most powerful things we can do is continue to live a life of transparency, because I think that millennials and the younger generation are pretty tired of being preached at from a pulpit and then suddenly it’s all out on the news that someone had some sort of dark sin in their closet or something comes out and you find out that it wasn’t real,” Walker-Smith told CP in a recent interview.
The mother of three made a similar comment about the #MeToo movement and Hollywood, saying that people are no longer tolerating those in power hiding their evil deeds.
“When you’re able to hide behind a platform, you think that you’re untouchable and that you can hide your mess,” Walker-Smith said. “I just think that’s not what they need or they want.”
The psalmist, who’s a millennial herself, went on to share what she thinks leaders in ministry can do to keep young people from leaving the church and their faith.
“They need to be able to see that transparency of a life that is redeemed by Jesus. They need to see the redemption story, not just ‘Here I am in my mess or the mistakes I have made.’ But also, ‘Here is the redeeming, transforming power of Jesus in my life,'” she explained.
kevin your brother
Can you truly envisage our Irish Catholic clergy ‘acknowledging their failings openly’, Kevin – or telling their own personal redemption stories – in church?
Quite contrarily, it seems to be part of Irish clerical formation NOT to personalise the Gospel – and to remain personally guarded. Frankly, in my 75 years I have NEVER heard a diocesan priest speak with real fervour about what ‘evangelisation’ means – with the conviction that comes from personal experience of that.
Furthermore, our clergy are apparently instructed NOT to encourage lay people to speak of such experiences to one another. Otherwise would they not be in search of such witness, and scheduling opportunities for listening to it?
Almost everything about our routine parish culture at present is counter-evangelical. ‘Mission, not maintenance’ is the call from some bishops, but ‘Give us a break!’ is the effective response that I am picking up from the resigned ‘treadmill’ despondency of the typical parish cleric.
Thank you Sean for your comment “Can you truly envisage our Irish Catholic clergy ‘acknowledging their failings openly’, Kevin – or telling their own personal redemption stories – in church?
Yes! I can, by those shepherds who are prepared to serve the Truth in humility which is the essence of love.
It is said you cannot be what you do not see/envisage, so we need to see our Shepherds holding the bright lamp of Truth high above their own vulnerabilities, teachings us by example, in humility, how we are also to be made holy (Sanctified) as in
“Sanctify them in the Truth; thy Word is Truth as thou didst send me into the world so I have sent them into the world and for their sake I consecrate myself that they also may be consecrated in truth”
So, in our present shameful situation, is God Via the true DM Image preparing the birth (Building up) of a Church that will be truthful with herself. A Church that proceeds and leads in humility, ‘openly’ acknowledging her failings before God and all of her children.
As a humble heart (Church) will never cover its tracks or hide its shortcomings, and in doing so confers authenticity, as it walks in its own vulnerability /weakness/brokenness in trust/faith before God and mankind. It is a heart (Church) to be trusted, as it ‘dispels’ darkness within its own ego/self, in serving God (Truth) first, before any other.
It could be said, that for true emotional inter-dependence to come about with others, we need to show/tell our vulnerability in humility, for when we do so, it confers authenticity, a place from where we can truly share the communal meal and our life with others.
kevin your brother