instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

With non-rapt attention

A post at Flos Carmeli suggests that I am puzzled, when in fact I am merely correct.

What that post's author misses -- I say this imputing no blame; pious convention refers to such Carmelite inattentiveness in terms of contemplative rapture, a circumlocution I can work with -- is that the part of my post he refers to was written from the perspective of a[n imagined] disappointed reader who wants the Pope to insist on concrete and dramatic changes within the Church now, in proof-text-worthy terms.

There may be some irony, for those who look for such things, in that where the encyclical calls for concrete and dramatic action, it does so in markedly un-proof-text-worthy terms.

Well, it does have this sort of thing:
People who pray are not wasting their time, even though the situation appears desperate and seems to call for action alone.
But it's a pretty sad conversation that requires a participant to say, "Wait a minute! Didn't you read what the Pope wrote? 'People who pray are not wasting their time'!"

Be that as it may, most of the call-to-actionable stuff in the encyclical is more along these lines:
Interior openness to the Catholic dimension of the Church cannot fail to dispose charity workers to work in harmony with other organizations in serving various forms of need, but in a way that respects what is distinctive about the service which Christ requested of his disciples.
Asking yourself whether your charitable work serves in a way that respects what is distinctive about the service which Christ requested of His disciples is an action the Pope calls us to, but it's not a particularly dramatic or percussive act. It ought to effect some change in the Church, but I don't think it will cause anyone to say, "Non serviam! I don't need to serve in a way that respects what is distinctive about the service Christ requested!" It is, so to speak, a "soft" action, something a person can claim to have done without having done it.

Maybe the distinction I'm looking for is that this is a teaching letter, not the disciplinary letter I suspect a lot of people were hoping for (and not a few fearing). And I mean "disciplinary" in a broad sense, including not only correction and punishment, but a program of training and formation.

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