Like most of us, I wasn’t there, so I am relying on what I read to understand Pope Francis meaning. Trying to put a little context around the Pope’s cry, it would seem to go something like this.
"Please, let us not convert the church into a customs office" where only the "just," "good," and "properly married" can enter while leaving everyone else outside, he said. "No. The church is not that," he said, rather it is a place for "righteous and sinners, good and bad, everyone, everyone, everyone."
From ‘Pope Calls for Inclusive Church’ Justin McLellan US Conference of Catholic Bishops
Let’s reflect a bit:
Everybody! Everybody! Everybody! is made in the image and likeness of God and filled with the breath of divine life.
Everybody! Everybody! Everybody! is unique, different and precious in God’s sight.
Everybody! Everybody! Everybody! is loved by God and God is present with them in all the circumstances of their life.
Everybody! Everybody! Everybody! is invited and called by God to live in relationship with God.
Everybody! Everybody! Everybody! is called and invited by God into the community of the faithful and to engage in the mission of proclaiming God’s love to Everybody! Everybody! Everybody!
Everybody! Everybody! Everybody! is free to discern their response to God … to walk with God or not.
Everybody! Everybody! Everybody! is incomplete and on a journey to wholeness …
Not everybody seeks and becomes a member of the Catholic Church. That is the choice of a few.
How are we to balance in life-giving tension, universality and particularity?
Bring in Fr Richard Lennan! While the Pope’s mantra has been echoing around the world, we in the church of Maitland-Newcastle feasted on a week of opportunities to gather with Richard to reflect on what it means for us to be church here and now for everybody. What are our foundations? Our challenges? Our possibilities? How do we cooperate with the Spirit of the living God to be at once self-critical and engaged in the grace of creative faithfulness in a way that celebrates diversity rather than homogenises?
As baptised members of the faithful, we are called -
to be open to, listen to and accompany Everybody! Everybody! Everybody!
to live in self-critical and creative faithfulness to the Church which is at once God’s church and an unfinished project inspired by the Holy Spirit.
So, my questions are shaping something like this:
- How do we hear Pope Francis ‘Everybody! Everybody! Everybody! self-critically and with creative faithfulness, rather than with a simplistic naivete that eradicates the legitimate difference and diversity that colours God’s creation?
- How do we shape our prayer and worship life to accommodate the difference amongst those who seek the living God here and now?
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he taught them the Our Father. It was a long and painful journey before they broke bread with him.
Our Catholic tradition invites us to follow Jesus as our way: to meet people where they are, to respect their diversity, to accompany them on a journey that gradually helps them to open their eyes and hearts to the presence of God with them in each moment of every day. We have a rich treasury of Catholic prayer and worship which helps us to do this. Chief in this treasury is the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) which is our guide for encountering everybody. You’ll find there that the starting place for prayer is Word rather than Sacrament, though that depends on the seeker.
I think it is true to say that our more common pastoral practice seems to be to invite ‘everybody’ immediately to join us in the celebration of eucharist. We do this in our schools. We do it in our parishes. The Diocesan Liturgy Council has long encouraged a different approach. Is anyone ready to explore that? If so let me know.
I certainly feel like I have a lot to ponder. What are Pope Francis and Fr Richard inviting you to ponder? How are we being called to be at once self-critical and creatively faithful? Everybody needs us to keep tilling the Church to strengthen our integrity for the sake of the world. We are an unfinished project. How exciting!
Fr Richard Lennan’s latest book is titled ‘Tilling the Church: Theology for an unfinished Project’ 2022. Liturgical Press, Collegeville Minnesota. It is highly recommended!
Diocesan Liturgy Council Update
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