Saturday, March 1, 2014

Cri de Coeur 2

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

Sunflowers maybe

In the past week I engaged in some online discussion about the Church and the Laity. At one blog I was asked to answer the following question: "If you were able to make a request of your pastor regarding what you would like to see happening at Church, what would you ask for?"

I responded:

"The Institutional Church might enable the laity to use its structure to do things that the Institutional Church doesn't initiate, or direct, or manage, or oversee. Take my Diocese of Charleston SC. About 200k Catholics. Let's assume at a 1% rate, there are 2,000 Intentional Disciples in the state. I know maybe 100 of them. Suppose there were a clearinghouse for all self-identified IDs? It'd be useful for the motivated layman to know who all the others are, and coordinate, and support each other in ways we can only guess at. There are great things only the laity can do. But until we know who is ready to act we can only act individually, and in isolation. We can coalesce imperfectly around existing structures such as prolife and RE, but I believe we'll thrive if the Church simply calls the scattered mustard seeds to know each other at the diocesan level on down. And leaves the rest to Holy Spirit.

Speaking on the lay side, the fact that I'm socially connected to like-minded, New E Catholics in my parish/ deanery/ diocese/ Anglosphere is a huge encouragement in what I do as an individual. And it also means we give and receive lots of feedback, coordinate and put people in touch with each other, have lunch, etc. It may sound facile, but that sense of family matters a lot. And it all happens without being the clergy's problem."

Also in the last week I proposed to a pastor this approach to jumpstarting the New Evangelization in his parish. Something like it would be read from the pulpit and included in the weekly bulletin:

"Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

You are probably familiar with the term New Evangelization, which was first used by Pope JP2 more than 30 years ago. I’ve spoken about it both from the pulpit and in my other communications to the parish. Pope Francis regularly encourages all Catholics to help with "the church's primary mission of evangelization in the modern world." So evangelizing is something that the Church has been emphasizing for a long time, although I expect we can all agree that there’s not yet much evangelizing going on.

So what can we do? I hesitate to create a new parish-wide initiative or program, because I don’t think that's what we need. Instead I’d like all of you to reflect for the next month on whether you as an individual Catholic are called by Jesus to participate in building up the Church, whether by evangelizing or something else. You may feel a bit isolated or frustrated that God wants you to do something, but you may not know what it is. Or maybe you do know, and don’t see a way to make it happen. Maybe some of you already evangelize in your daily lives, and no-one else in the parish knows. Whoever you are, I know you’re out there, because the God gave each of us something to do, and the Holy Spirit gave us the gifts to do it. But I don’t know who you all are, and you may not know each other, either. So here’s what I propose:

On xx/xx/xx at xx p.m the parish will host a one hour social with light hors d’oeuvres. If the Holy Spirit moves you to come, come. If the Spirit doesn’t move you, but you’re curious, you come too. If this isn't your regular parish, come anyway. There won’t be a program for the evening beyond me saying a few words of greeting. Most of the time would be spent meeting each other, and finding out how we all help, or would like to help, make the Church all Jesus wants her to be.

As I said, there’s no plan, no program, and no obligation; just conversation and nibbles. It’s ok to just show up, but it’d help to figure food and drinks if you email xxxx if you do plan to come. See the bulletin for the email address.

It's a great time to be Catholic."

Here's my point: there are too many lay Catholics with too many unique gifts waiting to be used in ways that only the Holy Spirit may be aware of, for the Church to motivate and direct them all from the top down. So the alternative is to let the purposeful faithful find their own ways forward. That's how things have developed in my part of Upstate S.C.: a self-maintained, growing informal network of Intentional Disciples. But it took 15 years to develop all by itself. What I'd like to see is that same lay network extended throughout the diocese in much less time. How? By having the Diocese use its statewide structure and authority to generate an ekklesia, a calling-out of the motivated faithful from random obscurity into the light, so they can all see each other, both physically and via the net. The shepherd would still care for the flock, and watch for wayward sheep; but wouldn't organize, direct, or program this informal association. That'd be left to the people and the Holy Spirit.

Like Mao said, "Let Flowers of Many Kinds Blossom."