What Now for the Church?

There has been an awful lot of media attention lately on the issue of abuse of children by clergy of the Catholic Church. Catholics are saddened and confused, angry and defensive. What do we say around the water cooler in places of business and education? What do we say in our parishes and families?

Perhaps some of the more thoughtful responses in the media are those that ask what we can learn from this episode in the history of our Church at this moment in history, the year of our Lord 2010. How can our responses lead to a renewal in our church, a “new Pentecost”?

You can bring your own prayer, study and research to this topic, but for now I want to offer some suggestions given by Father Gregory Collins, OSB, a Benedictine monk in Ireland, in the TABLET magazine of March 13, 2010. Father Gregory suggests three areas of focus for our consideration:

One: We can continue to implement the Second Vatican council by making “communion/community… being of one heart and one mind” into something very real in our daily lives. But, he writes that “it requires dialogue and perhaps painful change. It means mutuality in communication and decision making.” I believe this requirement is true in families, in the parish, in communities, corporations and academic institutions.

Two: We can foster a continued vitalization of liturgy in our lives so that people in our parishes “can find in worship a source of joy and strength.”

Three: Fr. Gregory reminds us that we must foster the mystical tradition: He writes, “We need a church where lectio divina on Scripture fuels passionate commitment to the transformation of society, where we develop contemplative insight into God s transforming energies at work in the world.”

I find these three suggestions inspiring and doable, whether one is in the monastery or not. I find these to be the work of Christians, whether in the Roman Catholic Church or not. In addition, my own personal joy in our Church today is found in (among others) three places: the vibrant parishes across the country that continue to seek the kingdom of God and God’s justice and who manifest that in their worship and service to their most needy neighbors; in families who continue to pass on these values to their children; and lastly, in communities of women religious in this country who have in season and out of season dedicated their lives to the mission of Jesus Christ on this earth.

photo: S. Kathleen Rademacher with a First Communion candidate at Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Maplewood, Minn.