It seems to me that a Vatican II Australian church, tasked with reading the ‘signs of the times’ can presume God is speaking in the reading of those signs.
Some that immediately come to my mind are:
- The Report of the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse, especially the recommendation to abolish clericalism – something which is being echoed by Francis Sullivan, former chair of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Bishop Vincent Long and many of us in the pews. As long as clericalism remains we will have a submissive laity, with stifled gifts, and clerics who are out on a limb, rather than immersed in the people of God.
- A recent study by the Religious Women of the United States which made the observation that the day of the individual is gone. We are called to work collaboratively: women and men together. The life-giving experience of the Diocese of Wellington, New Zealand, regarding very well prepared and resourced parish leadership attests to the wisdom of this.
- From all corners we, the baptised, are being invited to engage actively in the life and future of the church – no longer leaving decisions to others or refraining from being involved. Summoning voices include those already mentioned, and most notably Pope Francis (who is doing so repeatedly). Decisions need to be truly sensus fidelium ‒ ‘sense of the faithful’. That means active and inclusive participation and dialogue across all levels: hierarchy, theologians, People of God. Anything less is not the voice of the church. A truly synodal church, as our many diocesan visiting theologians have reiterated, is one in which we ‘walk the way’ together, seeking to follow in Christ’s footsteps.
- Pope Francis’ call to move to the margins seems to be a top priority. We need to mobilise to be people of engagement, attending to the cries of the most vulnerable: the planet, the homeless, the addicted, the vulnerable. There are numerous examples from across our nation and the globe (many schools are doing this remarkably) of people coming together for local projects, such as a community garden – bridging gaps and generations. Then our celebrating, sacraments and rituals will actually derive from and flow back into a community that is sharing together the work of the gospel and impelled to be together in prayer, aware that it is God’s reign in which we are engaged. So animated, we might not continue to sit in ever-shrinking, predominantly mono-generational pews.
- A key insight from the Vatican Council is the church as the ‘People of God’. This raises exciting and mostly overdue prospects for liturgical renewal. Our liturgical space needs to reflect such a reality, so that people are enabled to focus upon the symbols of font, tables of word and eucharist as well as engage with one another as the gathered body of Christ. I have a strong sense (and experience) that if we can move from worshipping in seeming ‘corridors’ and get our liturgical spaces ‘right’ – with liturgical leaders, homilists and ministers competent in drawing a people into unity ‒ our worship could indeed be life-giving. If liturgical language was also inclusive, reflecting God as God – neither male not female – and all God’s people as equal before God, that would also be a more than timely bonus.
If you would like to express your views about you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time, please email Brooke.Robinson@mn.catholic.org.au