Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit
September 16, 2007
The whole Night Prayer Fiasco in the Parish is just another example of how divisiveness has been created and exacerbated by those in authority. What has happened is a display of pettiness and vindictiveness. What a shame and a diminishment of rich parish life—just for an exercise of power for its own sake.
People of God
I recently heard a presentation given by a theologian on our perspectives as a Church and how this shapes us. His remarks focused on how our church embraced itself as a “People of God” through the prayers, discussion and outcome of the Second Vatican Council.
This was really a remarkable shift from our pre-council notions grounded in the idea of our human condition—a view that leaves us somewhat separated from God and seems to spend more energy on how “un-godlike” we are and creating methods like indulgences to make up for our failings, always striving to define our relationship with our God in concrete terms and steps.
With the Second Vatican Council, we as a church embraced more fully the mystery of faith. We embraced the idea that a people of God means that God is with us and working through us. So far so good—the hard part is how that fundamental understanding re-shapes everything we do as church. We, as a church, should be much more like the church described in Corinthians—a church of many parts each valued and celebrated for its own gifts.
As a church we have declared that “brothers and sisters in Christ” is not a sound bite but a reality, we just haven’t backed up that reality with our lives or how our church functions. I find it funny that we have heard the phrase “a Post-Vatican II Church” when we are still just beginning to wrestle with being a “People of God.” Somehow, we still want to cling to the small certainty of our human condition instead of trusting in the great mystery of God in us. As a church, we are hesitant to make that leap of faith and let God mold us into a new creation. from fellow parishioner, Michelle Peña
Advice to New Pastors
- “[An important skill] is the capacity to actively listen. Listening means inviting individuals and groups to express themselves about parish life with open-ended questions. What do you like about this parish? What programs are sources of life for you and others? What turns you on to this community?
- “Listen! – Make sure that you have heard what parishioners are saying; make sure they know you have listened.
- “Solicit a broad base of input from the community – across age lines, demographic lines, etc.
- “Be able to leave the parish at any time in better administrative and financial condition than you found it when you arrived.
- “Try to make individual appointments with staff members and listen to any hurts and concerns they may have.
- “Make an honest attempt to spend time to know your staff well especially the first two months.
- “Return your phone calls.
- “Have a series of neighborhood meetings in the first few months to get to know the people.
- “Be humble and ready to learn from your new parishioners.
- “[have] Concern for the Body of Christ, broken and wounded. The administrative leader must be attentive to the community as a whole, not just a part of it or certain individual members in it.
- “Reverence the traditions and customs of the community.
- “Don’t use your power to control others in order to make your own life comfortable”.
Excerpted from Book IV, Chapter 5, of the Brownsville Diocesan Manual—Parish Edition (6/4/07)
These quotations serve as an interesting complement to the Bishop’s exhortation to new parishioners that appeared in the Monitor a little over a week ago. Even though the Manual’s advice (at least what is quoted above) seems on target and many of us wish it had been followed at Holy Spirit, there is an undertone of paternalism that is consistent with the Bishop’s remarks in the newspaper.
The words to both the parishioners and the pastors treat the parish and its parishioners as subjects to be manipulated and handled, rather than part of the People of God, whom the pastor is supposed to serve. Telling is another quote from the Manual: “Know you have power—use it. Power is the ability to affect [sic] change.” There is no power in the Church, power to be wielded over others, but only authority to be exercised for the good of the ekklesia (the assembly).
View from the Road
In the spirit of realizing that we can all learn from each other, we wanted to share our observations from attending mass recently at the parish of St. Francis of Assisi in San Antonio, Texas. What we noticed immediately was the sense of community.
The pastor and deacon plus a full group of ushers and greeters were engaged in welcoming everyone into the rapidly filling church. The whole liturgy had the feel of a large family gathering—nothing forced, just a natural flow of music, words, rites and breaking of bread together. The number of people participating in ministries was very large and diverse—as an example, we counted 22 members in the choir plus 7 instrumentalists.
Moments that touched us included a child leading the congregation in song as the rest of the children moved to another area of the church for children’s liturgy, a father and daughter preparing the table, and handmade bread. The pastor was a dynamic speaker unafraid to speak about peace and justice; he gave a very real and challenging homily. We also enjoyed using community postures throughout the rites—lots of standing and only kneeling for part of the Eucharistic Prayer. Even the celebration of an infant’s baptism was woven into the liturgy in a way that included everyone. It was a real blessing to be inspired by the words shared and to be at a mass where the Eucharist was the center—no dramatic effects to distract—and where the table and ministry seemed very open to all.
If you are in San Antonio, we would encourage you to visit St. Francis of Assisi. from parishioners, Mark and Michelle Peña
Total below budget: $71,165.72 (last year same date: $70,877.80)
Total shortfall (including expenditures over budget): $164,394.10
Projected yearly shortfall: $178,093.61
Request for Ideas
Two phrases are repeated frequently from the pulpit in our parish: “the true meaning of peace,” and “the Eucharist is the center of our lives.” Neither is ever explained (maybe there is a presumption that we surely already know the meanings). I am curious what others take those phrases to mean. So, in twenty-five words or less, let’s hear from you (Blog or e-mail). Here is part of my take on these: “peace is the fruit of a just society” (stolen from Thomas Aquinas) and “the Eucharist is a celebratory, ritual meal the sharing of which unites us to Christ’s life, death, and resurrection and unites us, the community, to each other—the Eucharist is an action, not an object.”
Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier. Copy this, and pass it on to fellow parishioners, either by e-mail or paper. If you want an opportunity for prayerful discussion of these and other issues about the parish or have any other comments, please contact us at http://firstname.lastname@example.org.