October 14, 2011 – Change On My Mind

People who write headlines for a living I’m sure were thrilled at the result of last night’s (Thursday’s) Cardinal game.  I heard more than one reporter say that “the wolf must have eaten the squirrel,” referring to the Brewers starting pitcher Randy Wolf and the now all too famous rally squirrel.  So now we are even at 2 games a piece, but the trend this year has seemed to be that the Cardinals play their best when their back are against the wall, so we’ll see what happens from here.  Oh, by the way, the Cubs hired a new general manager who previously was with the Red Sox.  Good luck with that.

Now on to more serious matters (really, there are more serious matters?).  This past week St. Mary’s hosted a meeting of the clergy and religious from the West Deanery.  If you are not aware our diocese is divided into 6 deaneries, and our West Deanery basically consists of Randolph and Monroe County.  They come together every quarter I believe to enjoy a meal and to hear various reports from different diocesan departments.  It is also a chance for them to “touch base” with one another.  I was privileged to be invited to snap a few pictures (which I have posted on our website) and to enjoy lunch (roast pork & dressing, yum!!!).

One of the things that struck me was the “make-up” of the group.  If this group met say 20-25 years ago, chances are that most parishes would have had their own priest, and they would have been priests who for the most part were born and raised in this area.  Now as I saw this group together I observed many priests who have more than one job, whether it be having to minister to multiple parishes and/or performing other duties for the diocese.  I also saw an aging group of “homegrown” priests, and also a growing group of priests who have come to us on loan from other countries, including 2 who have recently come from Africa who are currently getting acclimated to our area.  We of course are all aware of the need for an increase in vocations to the priesthood, and we need to continue to pray for this.  But besides this, it gave me pause to think that the face of our Catholic Church is changing.

The topic of change has been on my mind since earlier this week when I read that October 11 was the 49th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.  This day was also designated by Pope John Paul II to be the feast day to commemorate Blessed Pope John XXIII.  Those of us who were not around yet at that time I don’t think appreciate or realize the scope of change that the Catholic Church went through during this time.  There were of course the obvious ones – Masses were now permitted to be proclaimed in each nation’s own language instead of Latin.  The priest was now permitted to face the people during the consecration of bread and wine instead of having his back to the congregation.  There were, however, many other changes that came from the Council, including an increased role for lay people in terms of consultation and a revival of the ministry of the diaconate.  Here is a link to an interesting reflection video on Pope John XXIII which I think will help us, especially those of us not as familiar with what happened at that time, with the impact of the change that took place.

 http://youtu.be/wXcGdiv9-2M

Despite the historic changes that took place at that time, there are those who still believe that the church is way out of touch with our modern world, and need to make more dramatic changes.  We need to allow priests to be married and have a family.  We need to ordain women priests.  We need to change our positions on social issues such as abortion, contraception, and euthanasia.  We need to accept the fact that homosexuals can be “married.”  And the list goes on and on.  Those who are vocal about making these changes believe that the church would be stronger and that those who have left the church for whatever reason would be more apt to return.

But would this really be the case?  There are also those who would argue that it appears from the outside that our church was stronger before the Second Vatican Council.  There were more clergy.  Churches were fuller.  Catholics were more devout.  Perhaps it was these changes that are driving Catholics away from their faith.  So we stand at a crossroads.  Who is right?  Is either side right?  As with any situation, I think there are multiple factors at play here.  Families are not as large as in the past.  People become angry when they don’t feel that instant sense of satisfaction when they go through bad times and they feel that God is not helping them.  They are disappointed in the church’s handling of the sexual abuse crisis.  And there are simply more and more distractions keeping people from making church a priority.  And the list could go on and on.

We Catholics who regularly practice our faith I think are always searching for a magic “potion”, some magic words that we can use to bring people back to the church.  As we know it simply isn’t that easy.  Should that keep us from trying to bring wayward Catholics back into the fold?  No.  Should we continue to offer invitations to these people?  Yes.  Should we continue to publicly express our faith by holding events such as the rosary rally this weekend?  Yes, absolutely.  What we need to avoid is becoming frustrated when our efforts don’t seem to be working.  And even if we disagree with what the church is doing policy-wise, whether we fall on the side of desiring more change or desiring to roll back to the days of old, we need to remember our true purpose: to spread the gospel of Jesus and to be witnesses of how He taught us to live.

A final note: To those who have not yet participated in one of our meetings concerning the Pastoral Renewal and Restructuring, there is a “Town Hall” style meeting on Tuesday, October 18 at 7:00PM at the KC Hall.  ALL parishioners are invited to attend and participate in the process of assessing our parish viability.  Hope to see you there. 

Continue to enjoy our beautiful fall.  Peace.

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