Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Good Event, Bad Event

Sister Joan Chittester excerpted her talk to the American Catholic Council in Detroit in June

Boethius, a philosopher of fifth-century Rome, taught the world of his time something important for ours. “Every age that is dying,” Boethius taught in the midst of a declining Roman Empire, “is simply another age coming to life.”
New life, in other words, is not death unless we reject it. New life is growth, not decline unless we refuse it. New life is evolutionary, not revolutionary unless we make it so.
A Zen master wrote in a similar period of history, “No seed ever sees the flower.” We are all meant to begin things that will only come to fullness of fruit after us.
With those insights in mind, we have to ask how it is that two groups of people, bred from the same tradition, cut from the same social cloth, can possibly see the same agenda -- the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council by bringing all facets of the church to recommit itself to the fulfillment of that council -- so differently: one ripe with hope, the other thick with despair.

he decision to take the church out of the 16th century -- out of the character and quality of Trent -- into the vision and character of Vatican II was good. At the council of Trent in the 16th century, the church’s response to calls for reform was to lay new laws and new regimentation on the backs of the people rather than bring reform to the policies at the center of the system itself.
The brave decision of the bishops of the world in our time to bring the church into the 20th century in Vatican II -- 400 years after the fact and more necessary than ever -- was good. But the response this time, too, is being delayed by a few.
It is being denied by those in the system who fear loss of privilege and power for themselves more than they value spiritual gain for the many. In the name of reforming the reforms there is a move abroad now to define who are the ins -- the clerical, the hierarchical, the male -- and who are the outs again -- the laity, the women, the gays.
Yet the fact is that great good has happened in our time. In our time we learned that the church is the people of God -- not simply a gathering of hierarchs around an even higher hierarch. Instead, we learned from a church alive with Vatican II that the church is indeed the people of God and we are it!
If I were a Roman Catholic bishop I would not be disturbed that Catholic women were throwing themselves on the steps of the cathedral wanting to minister in the church, begging to minister in the church. I would be disturbed that they had to go to Protestant seminaries for the theological and pastoral preparation to do it.
Let faith impel you. Let love direct you. Let hope be the glue that binds you and courage your eternally enduring Pentecostal flame. You are the good event of the church in what has too often become a bad event time.
In the Native American tradition at the time of initiation the elders tell the younger, “As you go the way of life you will see a great chasm -- jump.”
When the retreat to yesterday threatens the movement of the Holy Spirit within us all today, this is no time for despair. This is no time to stop. This is the time to jump, move on, begin again.

See NCR for the entire article.

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