instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Now we begin to work anew

Cardinal O'Malley quotes himself from his presentation last week to the U.S. Bishops’ Working Group on the Life and Dignity of the Human Person:
The secular culture is defining the Church and its teachings for our people. We ask ourselves why we aren’t better able to reach them. Polls may tell us what people think, and how often they come to church but what is sometimes missing is the ‘why.’ Why do our people in the pews feel the way they do and how does that affect our capacity to transmit the gospel?
The thought occurs that the answer might have something to do with the fact that polls tell bishops what people think  Do our bishops not learn what people think by talking to people? Do shepherds read polls to find out what their sheep think? Are their children a matter of academic study for parents?

It's not an either/or proposition. Polls and similar sorts of data can help to quantify circumstances, clarify issues, solidify impressions, fill in or augment the anecdotal picture.

But what is my bishop to me, or me to my bishop, that I should listen to him? To paraphrase a laywoman I know, if my bishop is what he ought to be, he will set fire to all his diocese, and not only there.

Now, that laywoman would say the same about me, and I don't mean this as a "You first, your Eminence" post. But there's something about the way American bishops bishop -- at least in the giant archdioceses I've lived in -- that  makes it easy for their Catholic flocks to regard them as irrelevant.

Coincidentally (if you believe in that sort of thing), the letter containing St. Catherine's famous "set the world on fire" line begins this way:

Dearest son in Christ sweet Jesus: I Catherine, servant and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ, write to thee in His precious Blood: with desire to see thee arise from the lukewarmness of thy heart, lest thou be spewed from the mouth of God, hearing this rebuke, "Cursed are ye, the lukewarm! Would you had at least been ice-cold!" This lukewarmness proceeds from ingratitude, which comes from a faint light that does not let us see the agonizing and utter love of Christ crucified, and the infinite benefits received from Him. For in truth, did we see them, our heart would burn with the flame of love, and we should be famished for time, using it with great zeal for the honour of God and the salvation of souls. To this zeal I summon thee, dearest son, that now we begin to work anew.