instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Misperceptions from the inside

I'll just mention two specific misperceptions I think I heard from the attendees, and I'll be done (probably) commenting on the Forming Intentional Disciples mission Sherry Weddell led at my parish this past week.

First: To active, faithful Catholics, passive acquiescence can look like active participation. I should go to Mass? Okay. I should kneel here, bow my head there? Okay. I should get confirmed? Ask Jesus to forgive me? Go to confession? Okay.

It's kind of a disturbing thought, maybe, especially for cradle Catholics who did start doing a lot of those things via passive acquiescence rather than active participation. When you're a child, you of course think like a child. But does anyone check that the adults have put aside childish things?

The antidote to presuming activity is not to presume passivity. For those in the parish whose place it is to know, I'd say it's best to stop presuming at all, and simply ask. Not as an inquisitor, or judge, or evaluator, but as a brother or sister in Christ.

Second: To active, faithful Catholics, the sacraments of the Church can look like the ministry of the Church. I say that because at one point on Saturday, Sherry asked us how well the Church had helped Daniel, whose story we were hearing. We had just watched a video clip of Daniel saying that, when he showed up high at Mass one day, the priest (who knew of his addiction from his confessions) told him, "I can't help you, you need to find someone else." Daniel said he had the feeling the priest didn't want to deal with having him around.

At least a couple of people said the Church had been a real help to him, because he was able to come to Mass, pray, and receive the Sacraments. The church -- that is, the church building was always there when he needed it. The priest was only being honest with him, perhaps even showing him some tough love.

I think those answers sound like answers from people who have never needed help from their parish -- or perhaps never thought of their parish as a source of the help they needed. If the Church is only there to provide the Sacraments and a quiet place to pray, then no, the Church did not fail Daniel.

Or perhaps the answers were simply an expression of piety. The Sacraments and a quiet place to pray are, after all, not chopped liver, even if ideally the priest would have been able to help with drug addiction.

The one priest in the audience shook his head regretfully when Sherry asked how the Church had helped Daniel.