The Church We Seek: An Open Letter to the Pope and the Bishops of Chile. As stated, “a letter born of desolation” calling for massive reforms because “Christ and his gospels are not getting through and calling the new generations.”
How this topic has opened the door to responders focusing on Pope Francis’ encouragement of patience in married life (as the “true problem” we’re facing?!), ordination eligibility, arguments regarding a married priesthood (and imaginary wives filling yet-wed husbands’ ears with “blistering” comments), even, the quasi-eremitic life of many parish priests, makes me wonder how so many “Alices” fell down a hole or found themselves on the other side of the looking glass!?
“The time has come,” the walrus said, “to talk of many things: Of shoes and ships – and sealing wax – of cabbages and kings.” Hmmm… “Curiouser and curioser.” Lewis Carroll
Examples, distractions and metaphors aside, the heart of the Chilean letter is written in love by those seeking to know Christ and his message:
• to be infused with high ideals, centered on love;
• to awakening a concern for the sacred and the transcendent;
• to inculcate in us that we are part of a community, for each other;
• to encourage us to build the Kingdom, which gives meaning to our life.
To that end, they want a church:
1. centered on Jesus and his life project;
2. which lives and symbolizes what it preaches;
3. which is evangelical and missionary;
4. whose magisterium is focused on the essentials;
5. which distinguish between ideals and basic moral norms, and
6. whose institutional form is consistent with Jesus’s message.
Noting in his blog that some (“scribal critics” my term) may tend to dismiss the whole letter, Fr. Anthony Ruff points to the positive upon which we can build: “An important factor in all this is Pope Francis, who has strongly called for church reform, questioning of tradition, reaffirmation of the Second Vatican Council, criticism of clericalism, and enhancement of the role of the laity.”
This week, I participated in the annual AUSCP (American United States Catholic Priests) Convention which, while calling for church reform and AFFIRMING the tradition (which Richard Rohr wisely pointed out is much broader and significant than what many consider the tradition, i.e., the last 400 years), also seriously addressed the latter three topics listed above in the quote by Fr. Ruff.
It was a great conference, a gathering of those who love the church and have committed their lives to following the Way of the Lord. However, like many (all?) of us, we have been so formed by the church that, we are also so “Alice”–unable or unwilling to think or see outside the constraints of our particular ecclesial boxes and agendas.
There was strong, overall agreement on the liturgical chaos caused by the linguistic mess of RMIII. The majority solution: use the shortest Eucharstic Prayer (II). (That’s the best we can do? less of awful is better than more of awful?). My idea–use the beautiful Eucharistic Prayer written by Nathan Mitchell and published by ICEL in 1989 (“As a mother gathers her children,” etc.).
Our Wednesday liturgy, presided by a wonderful church leader, Archbishop John Wester, was awesome and inspiring in many ways (including the opening and closing music and dances performed by local members of the Jemez Pueblo). But a two hour liturgy, outside, in the 102 degree heat on a sunny day in Albuquerque, is beyond good sense. And, how very sad that the dozen or so vested altar servers and mass assistants were all male!
Last Sunday, after evening prayer at the Norbertine Abbey (a truly remarkable and deeply spiritual, desert place of prayer on the southwest outskirts of Albuquerque), a Catholic sister and I talked about the upcoming AUSCP conference. “Oh,” she said, “You’re attending the conference for retired priests.”
I smiled. “No,” I told her. “We may look like old, retired men,” but we are an active, progressive group that welcomes clergy of all ages.”
Age. Older guys in the AUSCP. Older folks in the pews of our emptying churches. “The Church We Seek”… “calling for massive reforms because “Christ and his gospels are not getting through and calling the new generations.” Until we change what we are doing (in church), how can we ever expect young people to return?”