Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—March 2, 2008
Forty years is a long time. The Exodus must have seemed interminable to the Israelites. How could they have survived that long, long stretch of time? Who knows for sure how much time it really took to travel from Egypt to Canaan—the point of the story is that none of the generation that led the flight from Egypt survived to reach the Promised Land—that’s how long it took.
Forty years ago was 1968. In late winter, Gene McCarthy almost won the Wisconsin primary by running an anti-war campaign and in doing that effectively drove LBJ from office. In the spring of that year, in Memphis, Martin Luther King was murdered. In June, in Los Angeles, after winning the California primary, Bobby Kennedy said, “It’s on to the convention,” and was dead within twenty minutes. That summer, in a lot of cities, there were riots and fires and martial law. A lot seemed to be unraveling and the country eventually turned to Nixon to make things right again and, in the course of that, seemed to back away from the great causes of civil rights and peace.
It was about forty years ago that the Second Vatican Council finished its work and the implementation of its reforms began. We seem to still be in the desert in many ways, with the institutional Church hankering for the good old days in Egypt and looking for Nixon-like leaders to “make things right again.” Maybe the generation of the transition has to pass away before the reforms can really take root and fundamentally transform the Church—it’s a biblical forty years, just scripture talk for a long time.
Examine The Catholic Exodus
Now for a reflection on a different sort of Exodus.
“Among the many fascinating findings of the recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showing the porous borders of the country’s religious denominations and the diversity of religious expression in this country, is the sobering note that the Catholic church has been hemorrhaging membership in recent years.
“The survey found that while 31 percent of Americans were raised Catholic, only 24 percent still identify as Catholic. While the retention rate among Catholics remains one of the highest among world religions, the fact is that millions have left.
“We have been able to ignore that sad reality year after year by boasting of the significant numbers of new Catholics signing up, most of them immigrants from Mexico and other areas of Latin America. While their numbers and vibrancy bring new life and perspectives to a church that is otherwise losing members at a record rate, it would be foolish to keep ignoring those who feel compelled to find religious homes elsewhere.
“Undoubtedly, some of the more self-righteous among us will say good riddance to those who decide to leave, disdainful of such infidelity.
“It would be of far greater value to the community, however, to seek to understand why so many feel so at odds with the tradition, its teachings and its leaders or so rejected by the community that their only option, as they see it, is to leave.
“Sociologists such as William D’Antonio, Dean Hoge, Fr. Andrew Greeley and others have accumulated years of research detailing the attitudes and shifting loyalties of U.S. Catholics. Some of it makes for discomfiting reading, raising challenging questions about church structures, authority and the role of the laity.
“Speculation about why the numbers have dropped began immediately after the report was released: secularism; assimilation of former immigrants who no longer feel an attachment to the church; poor efforts at evangelizing; not enough priests and nuns to go around. All of that may be true. We’d add a few of our own: the sex abuse crisis, particularly the cover-up by bishops; rules prohibiting birth control; rules forbidding Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics; lack of accountability on financial matters; the second-class status of women in the church; rejection of gays and lesbians.
“We don’t need any more speculation. What we need is a church wide discussion of what we know and don’t know about those who leave. The alternative, of course, is to continue on in blissful ignorance, bidding good riddance to the critics, and pretending smugly that all is well.” National Catholic Reporter, March 7, 2008
Wood and War
Very soon, we will not only celebrate Holy Week but a very somber anniversary. March 19th will mark the 5th anniversary of the war in Iraq. How ironic that the traditional gift for 5th anniversaries is wood as we prepare to gather around the wood of the cross. The wood of the cross brought resurrection, perhaps our shared prayer and conversion to the nonviolent way of Jesus can resurrect peace.
Excerpts from “A Service of Repentance on the 5th Anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq”, Pax Christi USA:
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons and daughters of God …You have learned how it was said, “You must love your neighbors and hate your enemy,” but I say to you, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” In this way you will be daughters and sons of your Creator in heaven.
We ask for forgiveness for our complicity in the violence now unleashed in our world and we repent of the violence in our own hearts.
For initiating war ……..forgive us, we pray.
For turning from truth
For raining down death
For resorting to torture
For shattering innocence
For trusting in weapons
For needing to dominate
For failing to love
For failing to negotiate
For our pride
That we learn compassion ……change our hearts.
That we practice mercy
That we embrace nonviolence
That we act in justice
That we live in hope
That we love tenderly
That we do Your will
That we will be peace.
God, hope and joy of all creation, grant us we pray the grace to hear deep in our hearts our Muslim brothers’ and sisters’ daily call to prayer: “O God you are peace. From you is peace and unto you is peace. Let us live our lives in peace. Bring us into your peace. Unto you be honor and glory. We hear and obey. Grant us your forgiveness God, and unto you be our becoming.”
Amen. from Michelle Pena
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.