Tuesday, April 30, 2013

THE POPE APPROVES OF THE SOF COMBOX!



The other day, a delightful New Orleans soon-to-be ex-seminarian (I may have to tell his story, if he'll let me) named Austin Ashcraft sent on a piece called "Pope Francis and the Reform of the Laity."

Get this!:The Holy Father has identified ecclesiastical narcissism as the fundamental illness the Church needs to address.

I read the article, by Fr. Roger Landry, with mounting excitement.

Here's an excerpt:

"One of the wild grapes that flows from the vine of clericalism, the future Pope said in El Jesuita, is a hypercritical spirit that leads some Catholic priests and faithful to expend most of their energy censuring others inside and outside the Church rather than seeking to live and share the joy of the Christian faith.

“This is a problem not only for priests,” he said, “but also for laypeople. One isn’t a good Catholic when he is looking only for the negative, for what separates us. This isn’t what Jesus wants.”

Such unredeemed behavior — found regularly in personal conversations, blogs, comment boxes and Internet video analyses — “mutilates the message” of the Christian faith and scares people away from it, he said.
Firing vitriolic criticism at those with whom one disagrees is not the path of the reform of the laity and the Church.

The true path, rather, was delineated by Cardinal Bergoglio in the final report of the Latin American bishops’ encounter in 2007 with Pope Benedict in Aparecida, Brazil.

Cardinal Bergoglio was the principal author and presenter of the "Aparecida Document," which not only echoes many of his fundamental themes, but is a reliable indicator of his thought.

The reform of the laity, the document says, must involve reforming them to become “missionary disciples in communion.”

Those four words define the lay vocation: converted followers of Jesus, who, together with others, share Jesus’ life and faithfully seek to spread their joy, life and love to those who have not yet come into that twofold communion..."

Here at last is the corroboration, from the Vatican no less, I've been waiting for! Here is the Pope himself decrying the craven nitpicking that so often masquerades these days as "faith." Here is the very Vicar of Christ on earth saying the mark of our faith is wonder, joy, and how well we love "the least of these"...

I don't read most Catholic blogs for the same reason I don't watch TV: because I find a culture of carping, snitching, and gossip inherently un-Christlike. As you know, I don't tend to weigh in on Church scandals (partly because I usually don't even know of them); global disasters; who, in the Catholic world or elsewhere, is doing or saying what.

I am anything but 'trending.'  

953 comments from people with nothing better to do on a glorious spring day than sit in front of their computer screens and insult each other is not what I have ever been after. I am after, among other thing, shadows, random leaves on sidewalks, tarantulas, orchids, Etta James, The Queers, dinner parties, the long, slow death of my mother, and drunks.

I also quickly discerned what kind of comments I would host: those that reflect fellow feeling; fresh insights; a sense of humor (always welcome), or courteous, well thought-out dissension. I will not host  comments that are insulting, rude, or doctrinally wrong. In a post that is clearly from goodwill and a searching heart, a commenter who zeroes in on a tangential, not-in-discussion point is doctrinally wrong, because Catholicism is not stupid. An insulting comment is doctrinally wrong because the doctrine of Christ is love. A comment that is rude, threatening and anonymous is doctrinally wrong because the doctrine of Christ is courage.

Insults and rudeness drive traffic--thus I have foregone that kind of traffic.

Which brings me to my real point: the incredible gratitude I feel to my readers.  As I told Austin, "I am never more certain I haven't gone completely off the rails as when I am irresistibly drawn to Mass; when everything in me just desperately wants to be close to Jesus"...And if you follow Shirt of Flame, in some way you want to get close to Christ, too--close to truth, close to goodness, close to beauty... 

I could barely sleep the night after I read Fr. Landry's piece. To spread my "joy, life and love" has been my aim since Day One. Pope Francis has corroborated what any follower of Christ knows instinctively: that our goal is not numbers; it's authenticity. Our hope is not in marketing; it's in fidelity.

My correspondent also sent on "this absolutely brilliant and convicting and so precisely sharp article  I recently discovered that sums up many of my thoughts and conversations (particularly many conversations with my spiritual theology professor Dr. Tom Neal who is a living breathing real-live saint and just a joy of a man: (you can check out one of my favorite blog posts of HIS here)) over the past several months (and years) in such a clear and concise manner that it absolutely must be passed on to you, because I think you share the same heart on this matter.

Whoever this Fr. Landry is, I want to be friends with him."

As I told him: "I want to be friends with Fr. Landry, too."

And we both celebrated to heaven on high his successful use, in the paragraph above, of double parentheses.







PHOTOS FROM THE ARBORETUM
UNIVERSITY OF GUELPH

GUELPH, ONTARIO, CANADA

17 comments:

  1. Pope Francis’s focus is definitely on making us all missionaries to spread the truth of Christianity. It was actually Pope Benedict’s focus as well, but Francis is approaching it with renewed urgency. Perhaps because as a Latin American, he’s seen the success of evangelical Protestantism there, which shows very clearly that there’s a craving for a one-on-one, cut-to-the-chase approach to spreading the word of Christ.

    I pray I can live up to his expectations.

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  2. At the height of the priest abuse crisis Fr Landry posted an essay that was one of the most heartening and hopeful in the middle of what was then probably the most depressing periods of church history during my life time. I must track him down and start reading him again.

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  3. lovely light in these photos. I especially love the last one, with the shells and leaves.

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  4. Since I read that piece by Pope Francis, I have been wondering what he meant specifically by "ecclesiastical narcissism" - ultimately with the hope that I can avoid it or stop doing it if I am currently.

    What is it?

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  5. I agree with you so much Heather. If it weren't for my job, which requires me to be on Twitter, Facebook and to read the papers, I would pull way back from what is online. (Like you I don't watch television so I already avoid that media influx.) What disheartens me is that it is really hard to find news sources, blogs or articles that don't resort to sensationalism, sniping, antagonism or just in-your-face attitude. It is hard to find people relating to one another without labels, even when they aren't looking to pick a fight. People can't just be 'people' anymore. Everyone has an issue or a category they "identify" with and you have to pick sides, etc.

    I find it exhausting. And I appreciate so much the way SOF is a little island free of all those things. You have grace and its a gift for all of us.
    Cheers,
    Dana

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  6. it's all laid out in the Fr. Landry piece, Patrick, and I'm sure if you googled you could find more. Basically, it's policing and picking at each other, as the Pharisees did, rather than learning to love each other and, as Mother Teresa put it, "joyfully participate in the sorrows of the world." Catholicism is based on falling in love with Christ and on loving each other. In the carping blogosphere the Pope is decrying, I find very little, if any, actual mention of Christ...

    Thanks, Fred! It was getting near dusk when I was able to take a walk in the Arboretum, thus accounting for the especially beautiful light.

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  7. I was just sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament, thinking, "We labor and are heavy-burdened:" at least I am. Don't we suffer ENOUGH insult and burden in our daily lives!? Why would we believers in Christ's love want to ADD to each other's burdens!? I am in constant need of encouragement and shoring up myself, and in my better moments I hope to be able to give that to others...

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    1. Because we're Daughters of Eve and Sons of Adam (as C.S. Lewis would have it)?

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  8. I was part of the "Widen Your Phylacteries Club" for many years. The example that got me back to the Way Christ Himself sets forth was the woman, who after praying in front of the abortion clinic, went up to the "escorts" to ask them out to breakfast. They said "no," but one guy in particular wanted to say "yes." We could tell. He looked hungry.

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  9. Thank you Heather for putting into words what I have felt in my heart/soul for so long. It makes me feel like singing to finally know there is a place to share this! God bless you & your ministry!

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  10. I put this one on par with your "Avoiding the Right and the Left" blog. Brava!

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  11. It's just too easy to get caught up in and entrapped and entranced by defending what doesn't need our help depending - at least not in the negative manner described - and to try to right every wrong. I've done the above more than once. it takes diligence and purpose to avoid all that and to do / be the good.

    I feel like that snail; doing my thing, slowly and slowly learning to take the better path.

    God Bledsoe you dear Heather.

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  12. Hi Heather;

    The article (link) you mention in your last paragraph before the last three lines is something that I am interested to look at. But for me the link does not work.

    Also, thank you for your 'breath of fresh air' found in your blog. I have never thought of your approach to DOCTRINE and I am getting excited over it? There is less need to be defensive and self referential when coming from LOVE. Grace and Peace to you. Brian.<><

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  13. Thank you so much for this. I have been feeling the same way and have actually started writing a blog article about it myself! I have stopped reading some blogs because of their "hypercritical spirit."
    Something Pope Francis (and Pope Benedict before him) seems to be focusing on is that Catholic Church is not about the institution, it is about the encounter with Christ. It is, as Pope Francis put it, "a love story." Amen!!
    God bless!

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  14. Casalibus Hermit, the article referenced in the last paragraph is the same article in question: Pope Francis and the Reform of the Laity by Fr. Landry. I fixed the link and it's linked above in the piece, too. Thank you!

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  15. This is very difficult for me. I take much pride (a deadly sin) in being correct. Sometimes being correct hurts my peace. I very much need to learn how to approach people with love, explaining to them a better way (not necessarily the "right" way). I pay to God for this grace and he responds: "My son, I'll give you countless opportunities to practice." :)

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  16. i just found your writing; i could just cry. thank you.

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