25 September 2013

Parts VII-IX

Thinking With the Church

I ask Pope Francis what it means exactly for him to “think with the church,” a notion St. Ignatius writes about in the Spiritual Exercises. He replies using an image.
“The image of the church I like is that of the holy, faithful people of God. This is the definition I often use, and then there is that image from the Second Vatican Council’s ‘Dogmatic Constitution on the Church’ (No. 12). Belonging to a people has a strong theological value. In the history of salvation, God has saved a people. There is no full identity without belonging to a people. No one is saved alone, as an isolated individual, but God attracts us looking at the complex web of relationships that take place in the human community. God enters into this dynamic, this participation in the web of human relationships.
“The people itself constitutes a subject. And the church is the people of God on the journey through history, with joys and sorrows. Thinking with the church, therefore, is my way of being a part of this people. And all the faithful, considered as a whole, are infallible in matters of belief, and the people display this infallibilitas in credendo, this infallibility in believing, through a supernatural sense of the faith of all the people walking together. This is what I understand today as the ‘thinking with the church’ of which St. Ignatius speaks. When the dialogue among the people and the bishops and the pope goes down this road and is genuine, then it is assisted by the Holy Spirit. So this thinking with the church does not concern theologians only.
We should not even think, therefore, that ‘thinking with the church’ means only thinking with the hierarchy of the church.“This is how it is with Mary: If you want to know who she is, you ask theologians; if you want to know how to love her, you have to ask the people (How can one one know, if one isn't taught?). In turn, Mary loved Jesus with the heart of the people, as we read in the Magnificat. We should not even think, therefore, that ‘thinking with the church’ means only thinking with the hierarchy of the church.
After a brief pause, Pope Francis emphasizes the following point, in order to avoid misunderstandings: “And, of course, we must be very careful not to think that this infallibilitas of all the faithful I am talking about in the light of Vatican II is a form of populism (The Church is not a democracy). No; it is the experience of ‘holy mother the hierarchical church,’ as St. Ignatius called it, the church as the people of God, pastors and people together. The church is the totality of God’s people.
“I see the sanctity of God’s people, this daily sanctity,” the pope continues. “There is a ‘holy middle class,’ which we can all be part of, the holiness Malègue wrote about.” The pope is referring to Joseph Malègue, a French writer (1876–1940), particularly to the unfinished trilogy Black Stones: The Middle Classes of Salvation.
“I see the holiness,” the pope continues, “in the patience of the people of God: a woman who is raising children, a man who works to bring home the bread, the sick, the elderly priests who have so many wounds but have a smile on their faces because they served the Lord, the sisters who work hard and live a hidden sanctity. This is for me the common sanctity (We're all called to holiness regardless of our state in life). I often associate sanctity with patience: not only patience as hypomoné [the New Testament Greek word], taking charge of the events and circumstances of life, but also as a constancy in going forward, day by,  day. This is the sanctity of the militant church also mentioned by St. Ignatius. This was the sanctity of my parents: my dadmy mom, my grandmother Rosa who loved ​​me so much. In my breviary I have the last will of my grandmother Rosa, and I read it often. For me it is like a prayer. She is a saint who has suffered so much, also spiritually, and yet always went forward with courage.
“This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity (Well, we are sinners). And the church is Mother; the church is fruitful. It must be (she). e first thing that comes to mind is: ‘Here’s an unfruitful bachelor’ or ‘Here’s a spinster.’ They are neither for You see, when I perceive negative behavior in ministers of the church or in consecrated men or women, thathers nor mothers, in the sense that they have not been able to give spiritual life. Instead, for example, when I read the life of the Salesian missionaries who went to Patagonia, I read a story of the fullness of life, of fruitfulness.
“Another example from recent days that I saw got the attention of newspapers: the phone call I made to a young man who wrote me a letter. I called him because that letter was so beautiful, so simple. For me this was an act of generativity. I realized that he was a young man who is growing, that he saw in me a father, and that the letter tells something of his life to that father. The father cannot say, ‘I do not care.’ This type of fruitfulness is so good for me.” (I agree, but there are many that write, don't all deserve letters at this rate?)

Young Churches and Ancient Churches

Remaining with the subject of the church, I ask the pope a question in light of the recent World Youth Day. This great event has turned the spotlight on young people, but also on those “spiritual lungs” that are the Catholic churches founded in historically recent times. “What,” I ask, “are your hopes for the universal church that come from these churches?”
The pope replies: “The young Catholic churches, as they grow, develop a synthesis of faith, culture and life, and so it is a synthesis different from the one developed by the ancient churches. For me, the relationship between the ancient Catholic churches and the young ones is similar to the relationship between young and elderly people in a society. They build the future, the young ones with their strength and the others with their wisdom. You always run some risks, of course. The younger churches are likely to feel self-sufficient; the ancient ones are likely to want to impose on the younger churches their cultural models. But we build the future together.” (What?)

The Church as Field Hospital

Pope Benedict XVI, in announcing his resignation, said that the contemporary world is subject to rapid change and is grappling with issues of great importance for the life of faith. Dealing with these issues requires strength of body and soul, Pope Benedict said. I ask Pope Francis: “What does the church need most at this historic moment? Do we need reforms? What are your wishes for the church in the coming years? What kind of church do you dream of?”
Pope Francis begins by showing great affection and immense respect for his predecessor: “Pope Benedict has done an act of holiness, greatness, humility. He is a man of God. (Indeed, may our dear Pope Emeritus enjoy retirement)
the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity (I disagree, but let us continue). I see the church as a field hospital after battle.“I see clearly,” the pope continues, “that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! (slight problem in this analogy...it's important to know about health history and any allergic reactions before giving someone medicine...so actually it just might be useful...mom was in medical field, you don't learn these things overnight) You have to heal his wounds (I agree that wounds must be healed, but wounds must be healed properly otherwise an infection would take place). Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.... And you have to start from the ground up.
“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules (but without the little pieces, you don't have a big picture, do you not? A puzzle isn't magically formed without all the pieces working together in a coesive whole). The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you (Agreed, but might be better to used "redeemed" vs. saved...salvation is a final act, whether we end up in heaven or hell...redemption allows us access, provided we cooperate with the Grace of God). And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all (Again, this places a false dichotomy between mercy and law, both are necessary). The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax (of course). Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person (well, I wouldn't say that being rigorous or enforcing the laws of the Church fails to take responsibility for the person....). The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds (I'd agree, wounds need to be healed, but truth need not be compromised in the process...perhaps there are ways to say things better, this is of course can always be up for debate, but the truth of Christ can't be compromised).
“How are we treating the people of God (We can most certainly say that the people of God have been mistreated in various fashions, whether it's abuse of person, or abuses in the Liturgy or various other things)? I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherdess (She is this way in spite of her clergy, the human element, makes not the Church, the Church is both human and divine). The church’s ministers must be merciful (Mercy and enforcement of law are not opposed to each other), take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor. This is pure Gospel. God is greater than sin (Most definitely). The structural and organizational reforms are secondary—that is, they come afterward (I disagree, i think the opposite, but of course, since when does my opinion matter). The first reform must be the attitude (well, interior attitude is important, this is most importantly acheived through the Liturgy). The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people (subjective feelings are not that important, people will be offended regardless of what happens...certainly we should always try to convey the Truth in charity and with consideration for the person, but that said, if we base things upon subjectivity we run into huge huge huge problems, which we have seen over the past 50+ years. ), who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost. The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials (Amen, Pope Francis, on this I agree, but first things first Holy Father, call everyone to obedience to the Truth). The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind (so that they may all be one, definitely a good thing, but if people reject the Truth, that's on them). But they must also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.
“Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass (Again, I agree, but we need to get to the root of the problem, why are they not attneding Mass? why have they become indifferent?...We should certainly reach to them, but it's a lot easier to understand when you have an understanding of the problem versus something different), to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage.”
I mention to Pope Francis that there are Christians who live in situations that are irregular for the church or in complex situations that represent open wounds. I mention the divorced and remarried, same-sex couples and other difficult situations. What kind of pastoral work can we do in these cases? What kinds of tools can we use?
“We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner,” (I agree, the Truth of Christ needs to be taught everywhere and in every place) the pope says, “preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound (We teach the Truth, and bring them to why this is so...May our beloved Benedict XVI enjoy his retirement). In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them (the Church does not condemn anyone!...glad to see that in the next sentence). But the church does not want to do this. During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge (Well, he's not God, and in this sense he's right...but again, this is only one half of it...). By saying this (Explaining his comments from earlier), I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person (Well, that depends on what we mean by interfering...an individual's devotional life, their prayers, their attempt at sanctity we definitintely have no right to interfere with...but if that person is in sin, or is doing something that is leading them away from God...it is our duty to point them to right right direction).
A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. (Total reverse psychology here..._A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’(Well, God wants to perfect us in Him...) We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation (God is always present in everyone's life, certainly this is true, however it is another thing entirely to cooperate with His Grace, He does not force us to obey him, it is in total freedom that we do). It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.
“This is also the great benefit of confession as a sacrament: evaluating case by case and discerning what is the best thing to do for a person who seeks God and grace (Go to zee box). The confessional is not a torture chamber (When I was a little kid, I kind of thought this, LOL!), but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better (Yep, it's an uphill battle alright). I also consider the situation of a woman with a failed marriage in her past and who also had an abortion. Then this woman remarries, and she is now happy and has five children. That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life. What is the confessor to do? (Well, going to Confession is the first step...and making sure the other marriage is annulled so that the person is not living in sin, definitely a good step)
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. (But these are the issues of the day that are being attacked in much of the Church Universal...perhaps it is not that way in the Spanish speaking world so much...but these are issues being addressed, and something needs to be done about it...while certainly not everyday things need to be said) This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that (Well, we all know what they say about silence for an extroverted person ;)...These issues are huge, and it's nice to have support from the top in the daily grind of life...). But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time (On one respect, I agree, while every sermon, and all messages don't need to be about these issues, if there's something where this issue being attacked in the public square, all the ammo and support is necessary....Perhaps this is the case in your place, but in the Church Universal, rarely do you hear these things talked about...Most of the time sermons are about God's mercy and love, ignoring the half of justice and cooperating in God's grace).
The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent (Nor should anyone expect them to be). The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently (seems to be the complete opposite of what was protrayed in the media, I don't really think abortion, was specifically being mentioned in this part of the address). Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials (but that leads to a question, how do we define what is essential? Is something less essential just because Jesus himself didn't mention it? But we are not a Church of the Bible alone, but of the Logos, Christ Himself, a person, who reveals himself in His Word, both oral and written), on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn (but wasn't that tried before in the 70's? How did that work? Not so well...look at the average parish...perhaps we shouldn't worry about trying to "attract" them, as letting the Person of Christ doing the attracting...as our dear Emeritus has said, the Truth in of itself is attractive, a Church that tries to sell itself is a disaster), as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance (again, the opposition of law and mercy are not necessary); otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards (the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church...the Truth will always work, always preached in charity of course), losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow (Maybe it's me, but for me, that doesn't work...I believe that if one teaches the Truth of Christ, all will eventually come, some will scatter away, but you can't force that).
“I say this also thinking about the preaching and content of our preaching. A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. (Or the sign of the Cross) There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation. Then you have to do catechesis (orthodox catechesis). Then you can draw even a moral consequence (step 3). But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives (I think the former has been emphasized a bit too much...it is of course a balance, but that said, I think one needs to know what one is jumping into before jumping ;)). Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing (LOL, try going to the average parish on a ninja unannoucned visit). The homily is the touchstone to measure the pastor’s proximity and ability to meet his people (it's not about the homily, it's about Christ in the Eucharist, the homily can be horrible, but Christ is always there in Holy Communion), because those who preach must recognize the heart of their community and must be able to see where the desire for God is lively and ardent (Eh, teach the Truth, and don't worry). The message of the Gospel, therefore, is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant, on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ.”

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