It’s good to be at the desk again after a two-week trip up north for family visitations and a little sightseeing. The trip was anchored around my niece Mandi’s wedding in Western New York on June 3 and Margaret’s grand-niece’s baptism last Sunday. I did not post my absence on the Café’s Facebook site for security reasons, but I did several entries as time allowed from a portable platform on the road.
I will have the Gospel post for Sunday’s Feast of Corpus Christi available by Friday at the latest, and will get back into a regular routine for the next five weeks or so until it is time to pack a suitcase again.
The mail box contained several inquiries and news stories providing topics that I can address as particular issues, and each does deserve at least a full post. For several weeks now I have been getting personal and emailed questions about a renovation of my own parish church, generally along the lines of the rights of parishioners to weigh in on the decisions of pastors where large expenditures of funds are involved. I have corresponded privately with my pastor about my own concerns, in my case a sense of dissonance between cosmetic ecclesiastical interior decorating and Pope Francis’s rather pronounced preference for the poor and away from the “bling.” I weighed carrying this over to the blog, but Catholics in any parish do have a right to understand their duties and powers in the full Church legal structure. In a few days get ready for a trip into Canon Law—and prepare to be surprised.
Another question--on general parish life--had to do with assignment of priests as pastors from other countries and continents. The fear seems to be that the sermons would be unintelligible. I will address this as a day’s entry, too, but for the moment I would offer three considerations. With the multiple closings of parishes around the country (see this story about the Archdiocese of Hartford and reader comments), the presence of a pastor who is struggling with English is (1) not only a heroic thing to witness, but (2) represents a bishop’s effort to allow a parish to keep its corporate identity instead of closing it. A further point (3) is the popular belief that Catholics receive all their doctrine and spirituality in a ten-minute dose on Sunday. Truthfully, a Catholic adult must be a daily reader and student of Scripture, a self-starter, so to speak. I hesitate to add this final point, but (4) there are a lot of sermons in perfect English which are unintelligible, too but without excuse.
While I was on the road I received this news item from the conservative National Catholic Register about the Archdiocese of Denver restoring the order of the sacraments, so that children would receive Confirmation in the third grade, at the same Mass as their First Communion. Today’s Register updated the story; several dioceses, including Manchester, N.H., are undertaking the same move. Portland, Maine, in fact, has been following this practice for 20 years. Again, this news is worthy of consideration here at the Café.
The United States Bishops are meeting in Indianapolis presently, their annual spring assembly. The Register focuses on the agenda—issues to be discussed, and some that need addressing but will not be mentioned. I find it interesting that the bishops, who generally avoided all things Obamacare over the past eight years because of the contraception mandate, are now voicing considerable concern over the threats to health care for the poor under the present regime. Interesting. And finally, I learned that my own Orlando will be hosting a large convention of clergy and laity July 1-4, “A Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America.” Again, the Register has the details here. I tried to get tickets, but the event is by invitation only.
The event is hosted and organized by the USCCB. Several thousand people will be in attendance; $500,000 has been spent on scholarships alone. The purpose of the meeting is a national sharing of vision, goals, and strategy for the purpose of evangelization. Ideally, the term “evangelization” means bringing the good news of Christ to the world. In practice, it often means bringing people back to the Catholic Church, in this case the “Nones” who are mentioned in the article. The social scientist in me screams out for some evidence that our current ways of evangelizing show any measure of success. Or from another direction, what does research tell us about why so many Catholics have left the Church, or organized religion, for that matter.
I end on this note because I did not abandon my theological reading in the lounges of Best Westerns and Hampton Inns, particularly the ones with 24-hour coffee. I read significant portions of Richard Gaillardetz et. al., A Church with Open Doors: Catholic Ecclesiology for the Third Millennium. One point brought home by Gaillardetz: in terms of evangelization, we might do well to listen for a change, with the assumption that there are a lot of good people out there who might bring something to the Church if, indeed, the doors were opened. Having just attended a weekend Catholic sacramental celebration with very intelligent millennials, I would have loved to pick their brains. Hopefully, this will become the Church's project, too.