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.