The Time of Inner Renewal

My morning prayer includes spending time with some brief pieces of wisdom available through the internet. First on my list: Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche Community, and certainly one of the holiest and most wisdom-filled disciples of our day. Here is his “Daily Thought” for today, Tuesday, May 22, 2012:

A Time for Inner Renewal

The time when a community feels it may die is not the time to change externals, like the rules or identifiers. If it does this, there is nothing left to hold people together. This is the time for inner renewal, for a renewed trust in personal relationships; it is a time to stay close to the poor and those in distress. When the inner life is strong and when love is truly the guiding spirit, then we can reduce the externals but not before.

I usually find in Vanier’s wisdom something that speaks to my own spirituality or that of my faith community, the Parish of the Resurrection. What struck me today is the insight it offers for my larger community of faith: the Roman Catholic Church.

I am pondering how the church is doing as we adapt to the third edition of the Roman Missal. The recent article in America magazine, “Grading the Missal,” presents observations from four contributors who are knowledgeable about liturgy. They describe experiences which include:

  • “assemblies demonstrating a strong commitment to ‘getting it right’,”
  • presiders often “employing a strategy of selective proclamation,”
  • a sense that people have “lost touch during the priest’s prayers,”
  • the struggles with cadence, syntax, and obscure phrasing (one of the most awkward seems to be ‘prevenient grace’ from the prayer over the offerings for the feast of the Immaculate Conception).”

At a coffee shop with friends, I recently found myself hearing a brutal listing of the controversies surrounding the Catholic church:

  • priest sex abuse, the cover-up and protection by bishops,
  • the church in Ireland,
  • the study “Empty Pews” and the “loss” of the current generation,
  • the “battle” waged by the bishops against Washington,
  • the scolding of the LCWR by the CDF,

and of course, the revisions “imposed” by the new Roman Missal: “Why was it done?” and “Has it helped us in our prayer?”

And so I ponder the wisdom of Jean Vanier: “When a community feels it may die is not the time to change externals; … this is the time of inner renewal, for renewed trust, a time to stay close to the poor and those in distress.” It makes so much sense; it is so obvious, so clear. Vanier offers today a beautiful mantra: “When the inner life is strong and love is truly the guiding spirit….”

Could this be the promise of Pentecost?

Fr. Greg Corrigan is associate pastor of Resurrection Parish in Wilmington, Deleware.

4 comments

  1. At a coffee shop with friends, I recently found myself hearing a brutal listing of the controversies surrounding the Catholic church:
    •priest sex abuse, the cover-up and protection by bishops,
    •the church in Ireland,
    •the study “Empty Pews” and the “loss” of the current generation,
    •the “battle” waged by the bishops against Washington,
    •the scolding of the LCWR by the CDF

    It seems that only the first two of these are really controversies, at least in a wider sense. Not too much “controversial” about the young not attending church, and the last two require one to take a particular ideologic stance for them to even be objectionable let alone controversial.

  2. Jeffrey Herbert :

    At a coffee shop with friends, I recently found myself hearing a brutal listing of the controversies surrounding the Catholic church:
    •priest sex abuse, the cover-up and protection by bishops,
    •the church in Ireland,
    •the study “Empty Pews” and the “loss” of the current generation,
    •the “battle” waged by the bishops against Washington,
    •the scolding of the LCWR by the CDF

    It seems that only the first two of these are really controversies, at least in a wider sense. Not too much “controversial” about the young not attending church, and the last two require one to take a particular ideologic stance for them to even be objectionable let alone controversial.

    I don’t understand why one needs a “particular ideological stance” for the last two items to be considered controversial. Even if one agrees whole-heartedly with both of them, it is difficult to avoid the empirically verifiable fact that they have disturbed many thoughtful and knowledgeable people of good will who have raised serious questions about these moves to know that they are indeed controversial.
    I do wonder how the U.S. Bishops understand how they are perceived by the larger world. Not that they should avoid a prophetic witness stance when appropriate, but even so, the prophets wept for those who would not hear them, they had a sense of humility about their own position of being enmeshed in the practices they were condemning…

  3. Time for Inner Renewal

    The time when a community feels it may die is not the time to change externals

    This sounds like the hide our heads in the sand, don’t do anything that might rock the boat attitude that prevails among all too many priests and laity. Hardly another Pentecost!

    When the community may die we need to talk about what is going on. Diagnosis the illness. Not pretend that it is not happing. We should not be cooperating with things that are bringing suffering and death to the community.

    Our diocese is conducting a massive fund raising drive, 70% of which goes to the diocese; 30% to the parishes. A letter from my pastor requested $3000; a wealthier friend received a request for $35,000 (over 5 years)! In response I detailed the corruption of the bishops (sexual, financial, and political) which is driving people from our Church and declined to enable their corruption with additional money.

    The campaign itself is an example of the bishops’ corruption. They become increasingly dependent upon the wealthiest members of the community, and horde money through parish closings so that they do not have to care when people cease attending Mass or leave the Church. They should be given less money so they have to worry more about alienating people.

    The Gospels make it clear that we need to place our faith in Jesus, not in the disciples who betrayed, denied and fled from him. The historical record of the corruption of popes and bishops is extensive.

    Sexual, financial and political corruption are also extensively present in the Religious Right and have been the cause of alienating many people (the rise of the Nones from about 5% to about 15% of the population), especially among the young (where they are becoming 20-25%).

    Religious leaders like our governmental and corporative leaders need to be kept under constant public scrutiny and criticism.

    Support the Sisters; Reform the Bishops

  4. We Are All Nuns

    This is the time …

    for a renewed trust in personal relationships; it is a time to stay close to the poor and those in distress.

    While God has not preserved popes and bishops from corruption by money, power and status, he has abundantly given the Church saints for its renewal, often in the form of founders of religious orders.

    Certainly American women religious are our modern day saints. Before Vatican II they not only led a dual life as active religious, e.g. teaching by day, and completive religious in the convent, they were getting their educations during the summer!

    Even before Vatican II, Pius XII recognized that modernization needed to be made in education and habits(!!!), hence the Sister Formation movement. They essentially were given the task of completing modernization by Vatican II. So the Sisters have been outstanding models of doing their best with all the Church has handed them both before and afte the Council.

    Unlike the bishops and the even the clergy, they are outstanding models that we can hold up and imitate, and that non-Catholics and non-Christians can admire.

    In response to the bishop’s request for more money, I made clear to my pastor my continued support for our parish ministries to the poor. My support exceeds by several times what the bishop wanted for the diocese.

    I reminded the pastor that the parish fails to earn its offertory money since I mostly worship at another parish with a sung Eucharist Prayer. I suggested simply having one such Mass per Weekend would earn the parish more money annually than the bishop was asking.

    Yes we should affirm the exemplars of life for the community, and we should take care of neediest members of the community, but at all times not just when we are in trouble.

    Community is not only dying it has never really existed if we are not talking honestly to one another. Honest talk by itself is not Pentecost, but it could be a step in the right direction.

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