The Vision of RCIA

If we approach the RCIA as yet one more program to implement and we delegate the implementation of that program to a small group of leaders, then we will have failed even before we begin. … the adult catechumenate changes everything. It is a paradigm shift that flows from the radical insight recovered from Vatican II that baptism matters. If that’s true, then your baptism matters. It matters most of all to the people who are seeking what baptism gives you: an intimate relationship with the living Christ active in the world. Where we find that living Christ and that relationship is in the community of Christians.

Unfortunately, that community is messy. It is imperfect, made up of imperfect people. It would be much easier, cleaner, and quicker to just leave RCIA to a small group of highly qualified Christians who meet once a week to transmit the teaching of the church to a receptive, albeit passive, group of seekers. Or maybe we could ensure that the catechumens meet only the best of Catholics among us or attend only the best of our liturgies.

Yet the Body of Christ doesn’t work that way. Only through intimate relationship with the members of the Christ’s Body will one touch and hear and see Christ at work in the world. So if you want your seekers to learn how to be the Body of Christ, they must be trained by those who are the Body of Christ: the entire Christian community.

Diana Macalintal, Your Parish IS the Curriculum: RCIA in the Midst of the Community (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2018), p. 10. ISBN: 978-0-8146-4465-2.

Bless and Do Not Curse

If we, the People of God, wish to enter the kingdom of God, then we will eventually have to be purified of any hatred in our hearts. We must truly love all of our brothers and sisters, including terrorists, liberals, conservatives, child molesters, Republicans, Democrats, and the host of others on this planet with whom we might disagree or even loathe, notwithstanding any evil they might have committed. If we “curse” by simply wishing them ill, we have become no better than the evil we eschew.

Stephen J. Rosetti, The Priestly Blessing: Rediscovering the Gift (Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2018), pp. 32-33. ISBN: 978-1-59471-847-2.

Conviction and Dogmatism

Conviction and dogmatism are not the same. There is a difference between having seen some truth and claiming to speak in the name of all truth; between knowing what one believes and refusing to respect the beliefs and experiences of others. People of faith should speak with a humble authority combining real knowledge with an awareness of the limitations of that knowledge. Their authority, to coin a powerful image used by John Habgood a generation ago, is not that of the wise woman or man and the scholar, important though wisdom and scholarship are, but that of lovers who express their delight in what they love, even though they have scarcely begun to glimpse its full extent.

Rupert Shortt, Does Religion Do More Harm Than Good? (London, SPCK, 2019), pp. 75-76. ISBN: 978-0-281-07871-4.

Religion and the Ecology of Freedom

In describing religion, Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation of the Commonwealth and renown public intellectual, says religion is:

part of the ecology of freedom because it supports families, communities, charities, voluntary associations, active citizenship and concern for the common good. It is a key contributor to civil society, which is what holds us together without the coercive power of law. Without it we will depend entirely on the State, and when that happens we risk what J. L. Talmon called ‘totalitarian democracy’, which is what revolutionary France eventually became.

Jonathan Sacks, ‘The Pope is Right about the Threat to Freedom’, The Times, 3 February 2010, as quoted in Rupert Shortt, Does Religion Do More Harm Than Good? (London: SPCK, 2019), p. 37. ISBN: 978-0-281-07871-4.

The Liturgy Is Fully Embodied

In stark contrast [to the “Internet of Things”], the liturgy remains a firmly embodied experience. Worship engages all the senses of our body. The liturgy employes symbols of the body and of things to invite us more deeply into the divine mystery. There is no Church, no Eucharist, without the Body of Christ – a body that is broken yet whole; messy yet blessed. In our liturgical symbolism, we continue to tell the importance of the body in a culture that imagines what is beyond it through the help of technology. Intentional attentiveness to the body in the liturgy helps to shape our digital imaginations to better discern the way forward.

Daniella Zsuapn-Jerome, “Inter mirifica Decree on the Mass Media”, in A Liturgical Companion to the Documents of the Second Vatican Council, Danielle A. Noe, ed. (Chicago, IL: Liturgy Training Publications, 2016): p. 43. ISBN: 978-1-61671-314-0.

From Liturgy to Action in the World

Sacrosanctum Concilium‘s call for revisions in liturgical rites and texts made it easier for the Church to recognize and engage the public nature of liturgy. It also empowered the worshipping faithful to take part in efforts to reform social, economic, cultural, and political systems of society. The latter emphasis is what Gaudium et spes brought to our understanding of what being a community and being involved in public worship implies for our life and actions in the world.

Bernard Evans, “Gaudium et spes Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World”, in A Liturgical Companion to the Documents of the Second Vatican Council, Danielle A. Noe, ed. (Chicago, IL: Liturgy Training Publications, 2016), p. 27. ISBN:978-1-61671-314-0.

The Liturgy in the Life of the Church

Whether the Council Fathers could foresee the impact of the reform of the liturgy on the life of the Church is impossible to know for certain. The liturgy is “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the fount from which all the Church’s power flows” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10). The Church’s effectiveness in teaching, evangelization, and charitable work finds its origin in the liturgy. Sacrosanctum Concilium goes on to explain that it is the liturgy that inspires, nourishes, and configures the faithful to go forth as witnesses in the world. The faithful depend on the liturgy for sustenance for their work in the world.. This is an important dimension of the Church’s relationship with the world explained more deeply in Gaudium et Spes. The Church brings to the world through her individual members an example and an instrument of healing and mercy, and those gifts are given to the faithful in part through the Sacred Liturgy.

The liturgy also expresses the nature of the Church with its structure, ministries, and parts. Through the encounter with Christ in the liturgy, the Church is built up to be what she is called to be. The nature of the Church is not only expressed – she also grows by her celebration of the sacraments. The liturgy, therefore, articulates and manifests what is expressed in Lumen Gentium.

Richard B. Hilgartner, “Sacrosanctum Concilium Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy”, in A Liturgical Companion to the Documents of the Second Vatican Council, Danielle A. Noe, ed. (Chicago, IL: Liturgy Training Publications, 2016), p. 6. ISBN: 978-1-61671-314-0.

The Reception of Vatican II

Fifty years after the event of Vatican II, we find ourselves in that crucial moment of passage between the short run and the long run: the “clash of narratives” about Vatican II encounters here the perennial law of the reception of the Councils of the Church. Giuseppe Alberigo, recalling the worrisome memorandum sent between 1600 and 1612 by Robert Bellarmine to Pope Clement VIII on the progress of the reforms decided by the Council of Trent (1545-63), had estimated that it took at least fifty years for the beginning of the reception of Trent.

It is part of the challenge of ministering in today’s Catholic Church, showing that the Church is in an ongoing path of conversion to the Gospel. It is a spiritual, theological, and institutional process. Vatican II is the most important moment in that process of conversion for a Church in the modern secular world. Making sense of the place and the role of the Church in today’s world requires an awareness of that particular moment in the history of the Catholic tradition.

Massimo Faggioli, “Introduction”, in A Liturgical Companion to the Documents of the Second Vatican Council, Danielle A. Noe, editor, (Chicago, IL: Liturgy Training Publications, 2016), p. xx. ISBN: 978-1-61671-314-0.

A Library of Stories

I’m reading a book entitled In the Beginning There Were Stories by William Bausch. The subtitle of the book is “Thoughts about the Oral Tradition of the Bible”, and Bausch is making a case that to adequately understand the Scriptures they need to be seen as the written form of what were initially oral stories.

One of the early chapters, on the nature of the Bible as a book, carries the same title as this post and features the following wonderful quote about approaching the Bible:

It’s like going to the library. Yes, it’s one building, but it has a history section, a literature section, a science section, a poetry section, a mystery section, a fiction section, a biography section, and so on. When we go to a library, you and I adjust our minds and expectations to the shelf and section we choose. In other words, we don’t expect objective statements from poetry or history from science fiction. If I’m reading an Agatha Christie murder mystery with Hercule Poirot, I’m not reading it the same way or with the same assumptions as I would were I reading Grandpa’s last will and testament. So, why should all seventy-two books of the Bible say the same thing in the same way? Yet that’s what people expect.

William J. Bausch, In the Beginning There Were Stories: Thoughts about the Oral Tradition of the Bible (Mulgrave, Vic.: John Garratt Publishing, 2004), pp 26-27. ISBN: 1-920721-16-9.

Liturgy, Leadership, and Governance in the Church

…the church as sacrament is inseparable from its baptismal and Eucharistic practices, for the unity of the church is sacramentally realized in its communion with its Lord (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). Therefore the principles of good worship are also the principles of life in the church more generally, since the nature of the church is manifested through the liturgy. Specifically this means that insofar as the nature of the liturgy requires the ‘full, conscious, and active participation’ of the faithful in liturgical celebrations, so also must the faithful participate in the church fully, consciously, and actively. This does not mean turning the church into a political democracy, however, although it does mean incorporating liturgical principles into the governance of the church.

…the sacramentality of the church requires that pastoral leadership and liturgical presidency be united in the normal practice of the church. The minister who presides over the unity of the community generally should preside over the sacrament of unity, the Eucharist. Presidency refers to the ecclesial life of the community before it refers to a liturgical function. The practice emphasizes the intrinsic connection between the nature of the church and its liturgical worship, as well as the relationship between a pastoral liturgical minister and the church.

Susan K. Wood, “Continuity and Development in Roman Catholic Ecclesiology”, Ecclesiology, Vol. 7, No. 2 (May 2011), p. 160.