Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Catholics of the Rio Grande Valley
June 1, 2008
A Celebration of Pentecost
The newsletter returns—much to the irritation of some, the muted delight of others, and, I am sure, the yawning indifference of the vast majority of people.
I have been gone from the Valley for over a month because of some important family responsibilities in Seattle. While in the Northwest, I celebrated the Eucharist with the community of St. Patrick’s on the north end of Capitol Hill. The parish is small, in an older neighborhood, but its joyous and moving Eucharistic celebrations, the vibrant and open community atmosphere, and the parish’s deep commitment to peace and social justice draw parishioners from the entire Seattle metropolitan area, some coming thirty or forty miles each Sunday.
The Pentecost Sunday celebration was particularly powerful and, for me, poignant because the feast of the Holy Spirit, since 2003, is always a day to reflect on the community that was so special for us in McAllen. At St. Pat’s the celebration was filled with music and dance and joy and prayerfulness that stirred everyone, from the opening procession to the brass band-led recessional.
Strong, vibrant parishes do still exist out there and can be created anywhere that the Spirit is allowed to break through.
If You Don’t Like It, …
You are a hard road, I am a seeker.
How long, old friend, can you hold out?
I can make it to the end.
from “Hard Road,” by Vince Bell, Texas singer-songwriter
In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet on the road to peace.
from “Zechariah’s Canticle,” said each day at morning prayer
When examples of parish life from other places are pointed out, a common response is, “well, if you don’t like it here, why don’t you just go to [wherever]?” That response sort of misses the point—the point being that there are parish communities that show us ideals (at least in some aspects) to strive for. It is possible to have prayerful, moving liturgies with professionally directed music and artistic expression; it is possible to have effective and competently run religious education programs for adults, youth and children; it is possible to have a transparently run parish administration with the involvement of the parishioners that church law calls for; it is possible to have real parish life that expands beyond pious practices.
These are ideals to work for and it is reassuring to see them achieved, at least somewhat, in other communities.
From Stuck Debate to New Conversation
“On a subject that has been hotly polarized for a long time, the dominant discourse often delineates the issue in a win-lose bi-polar way; it draws a line between two simple answers to a complex dilemma and induces people to take a stand on one side of that line or the other…Most people who care deeply about the issue yield to this induction.
“Being aligned with one group offers benefits. It gives one a socially validated place to stand while speaking and it offers the unswerving support of like-minded people. It also exacts costs. It portrays opponents as a single-minded and malevolent gang. In the face of such frightening and unified adversaries, one’s own group must be unified, strong, and certain. To be loyal to that group, one must suppress many uncertainties, morally complicated personal experiences, inner value conflicts, and differences between oneself and one’s allies. Complexity and authenticity are sacrificed to the demands of presenting a unified front to the opponent. A dominant discourse of antagonism is self-perpetuating. Win-lose exchanges create losers who feel they must retaliate to regain lost respect, integrity, and security, and winners who fear to lose disputed territory won at great cost.”
from Stuck Debate to New Conversation on Controversial Issues: A Report from the Public Conversations Project. Carol Becker et al.
Anybody out there ready to get unstuck?
“Everyone speaks of the loss of trust that this [clergy sex abuse] scandal has caused. But what about the loss of trust that preceded it—a loss expressed by both liberals and conservatives, across the spectrum of Catholic views. Why, in other words, had the reservoir of trust run so low?
The causes are many. Secrecy is one. Careerism another. Silent and passive acquiescence in Vatican edicts and understandings that you know to be contrary to your own pastoral experience. Another is a widespread sense of double standards. One standard for what is said publicly and officially, another standard for what is held and said privately. One standard for the baptized, another for the ordained. One standard for priests, another for bishops. One standard for men, another standard for women. One standard the ordination of heterosexuals and what now threatens to become another standard for homosexuals. One standard for justice and dialogue outside the church, another for justice and dialogue within.”
Margaret O'Brien Steinfels in a speech at the USCCB meeting in Dallas, June 13, 2002 ]
What Peggy Steinfels pointed out to the Bishops nearly six years ago remains true today, and some would say even more so. In many places in the Church there has been a retrenchment, a circling of the wagons, that instead of facing the root causes of the disaffection within the Church, has actually exacerbated the situation.
Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, retired Archbishop of Milan, in his just published nocturnal colloquies in Jerusalem, has said that he has “lost his dreams for the Church and can now only pray for it.”
“A Church which fails to provide a forum for communal discernment, open discussion, of moral issues, but reduces the informed conscience to a lonely dialectic between official church teachings and the individual in her own private forum is failing to make Christian life an experience of growing in the art of conscience. We badly need a new Catholic culture where we are enabled to have adult consciences and not to remain forever oscillating between conformism and indifferentism. Also we need practice of conscience on a wide range of issues, not only pelvic ones, and a wide range of political issues, not only abortion. But we cannot expect such a culture from a Church that banished Charles Curran and a host of other competent and Catholic moral theologians to the wilderness. This is part of what Cardinal Martini refers to when he says he has lost his dreams for the Church and can now only pray for it.”
Father Joseph O’Leary in dotCommonweal, May, 2008.
Holy Spirit Parish, June 2003-June 2008
“Solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.”
[They make a desert and call it peace]
Tacitus, Roman Senator and historian, ca. 100 C.E.
Prepared for all Valley Catholics and edited by Jerry Brazier. Copy this, and pass it on, either by e-mail or paper. If you want an opportunity for prayerful discussion of these and other issues in the Church or have any other comments, please contact at: firstname.lastname@example.org