Faith

Post-modern ministry and new evangelization and the way my mind works these days

On Monday on received a phone call at noon.

So, I went to take the call outside.

(This is very “If you give a mouse a cookie…”)

I realized that I didn’t want to stand still and talk (for it is cold and I am Nell), so I started walking around the block.

And I was halfway between my church and the church up the block when the call ended, so I decided to split the difference and go to the other church for noon:fifteen mass.

I got there a few minutes late, and every minute counts at daily masses (the prayers go fast!) so I slid into a back row, crossed myself, sat down.

That church is larger than my normal haunt, physically soaring to the sky, painted molding in intricate patterns, vintage saint-statues everywhere, dark paintings of Biblical stories high in airy crevices. A few other people walked in late, too. One was a doctor, I think, checking his pager every so often and still wearing his lab coat. A few other business people crept in behind me. No worries.

And, there were two young adults behind me. They didn’t stand and sit with the congregation. They didn’t receive communion. Mostly they just sat there and occasionally smiled and whispered to each other.

So, after mass I was like, “Hi! Are you guys from around here? :D”

And they were like, “No, we’re not even Catholic. We’re just visiting churches.”

And I was like, “Consider visiting my church–up the road! I can show you around!”

I walked back, started eating lunch.

Then–I saw them, these two young adults. Her with the hot pink winter scarf, him with the olive skin. They came in, I took them to the church, we all started chatting.

Turns out, he was a Muslim friend, from Saudi Arabia. She, I think to be some form of Christian, was from Wisconsin. We talked church for a bit. I pointed out the subtle markings of our faith, and explained them to him–the symbols of the Evangelists, the pelicans. Did you know that Muslims have a devotion to Mary? They do. So, I pointed out her imagery. (This common Marian devotion always links me to Muslims, I feel. I think the girl felt excluded, since she appeared to be some form of Protestant. Isn’t that odd? That the Catholic-Muslim world can be bridged so easily?)

As they were leaving, he pointed to a poster on the wall, of all of our seminarians–their faces, names, and home parishes. He asked why they were all there together. I told him that it was because they were all studying to be priests. He asked why there were no women in the photo. I told him that there aren’t women priests, and I started to say, “Just like in a marriage, you have a man and a woman…”

And then I had to pause and regroup. What with recent Supreme Court decisions and all.

I tried again, “Well,” I said, “we would say that a sacramental marriage occurs between a man and a woman. And the church is the bride, a woman, and the priest marries the church.”

They lit up at this, nodded, smiled. They agreed with me, we talked some more, they left.

As I shut the door tight behind them, I reflected on the phenomenon that is–working with a changing culture.

I’m not afraid of change. Really, I’m not. The world is always changing, as is the church, and it’s OK to have new ways of doing things. It’s a trap, though, to think that we can just do what we’ve always done with regards to loving well, as a church. Loving well and teaching well and guiding well and everything else.

I know this and so does everyone else, so why am I even typing this? Because I’m a blogger. Bloggers gotta blog.

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I received a text today from a dear friend and an old friend, we’ll call this friend “Sam.” Sam is trustworthy and good. Honestly, vulnerably, Sam teasingly asked if I new any good single people who might be worth knowing.

I know Sam to be a good person. I know Sam to be healthfully (as far as I can tell, I guess) seeking a strong marriage. I want to help Sam, and everyone I know who is like Sam–earnestly seeking meaning and personal call. (I started scrolling through my single friends’ FB profiles for Sam because it doesn’t hurt now, does it?)

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I was talking to another guy (we’ll call him “Aaron”) the other day–he was sharing that he met up with a young family, like his young family.

Aaron has a few littles, a lovely wife, and a supportive family structure of grandparents and aunts and uncles.

This new family, though, Aaron said, had none of that. In fact, Aaron told that the young wife, “Helen,” shared with him her story. When Helen was young, her mother had taught her this worldview : “Oh, and make sure to wisely invest in your career so if/ when your husband divorces you, you’ll have a way to support yourself and you children.”

Matter-of-factly, just like that.

If/ when your husband divorces you.

I know a few young families in similar situations. Really, they have no script for what family life is supposed to look like, since they’re from broken places and homes(of course, in some way, we all are), so, really, they’re kind of just making it up as they go along.

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My parents’ church has a collection of good priests (this is grace). Two of them are wonderful, loving men with gifts for teaching and hearing confessions and being generous and comical and a whole host of virtues.

They’re also from broken families.

I think I remember one of them saying that he didn’t ever really know his father.

How much harder it seems, to know how to father well if you never experienced knowing a good father yourself.

Of course, of course, of course, there is always, always grace for whatever situation we are called to. But…it brings up this point in my mind which is: how do we address a culture, call it to new levels of life and love and holiness, when what we used to consider the basic structures that no longer exist?

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The purpose of this post is not: Let’s all freak out because things are different than they one were.

Nah.

Lame.

Never look back, dahling.

There never has been and never will be a time where an “ideal” church has existed.

But–things that worked well 50 years ago aren’t so today. (Enter “New Evangelization.” Or, don’t. Your high-level church-talk will confuse too many people).

(Other blog post about “Horrific Young Adult Dating Scene,” other tongue-in-cheek blog post about similar things. But, remember, I’m not here to only talk about marriage. This is total understanding of faith. And, marriage fits into that category, obvi, but still).

How do we open the doors, I guess?

And, more personally, how do I? How do I help people find their vocations/ personal happiness/ personal love story with God?

What should ministry look like now? How do people need to be healed? How do people need to be supported?

What kinds of love do those young couples literally making up family life together need to receive?
How do I help people find their vocation–any vocation–in a supportive, proactive way? How do we bring guys and girls together or to religious homes?

I was told, earlier this summer, that to discourage someone is to take courage from them.

To encourage though, is to literally pour courage into someone.

Courage.

Courage is the crux of so much of the spiritual life, so much of life in general–jumping headlong into the love and care and promise of God.

And how, how, do we effectively pour this courage on a needy world?

These, questions, my friends, are what I wade through tonight.

Wish me luck.

And courage.

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