Monday, March 24, 2008
Easter Should be a Time for "Something New"
In 2004, Bryan Massingale, a priest for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee gave his "See, I Am Doing Something New: Prophetic Ministry for a Church in Transition" speech at the annual Spring Priest Assembly. His words are needed as much, if not more, today as they were needed four years ago.
Citing Walter Brueggemann, Massingale states that "the biblical prophets have a twofold task: first, in light of God’s word, to express the people’s deepest hopes and lead them to embrace God’s promise of new life." His speech then breaks into two parts: "I have heard the groans of my people..." and "I am doing something NEW..."
In the first section Massingale spoke of the "community's groans and giving it a voice." Priests have become "older, grayer and fewer." Many are sick mentally and/or physically. A sign that "all is not well." There is also "a desire for an honest discussion of the human sexuality of priests."
Among bishops, many "fear that they are becoming a little more than 'liturgical police' enforcing laws that they did not write, were not consulted about, and really do not agree with." Among the laity there are groans for "relevant homilies" and "collaborative relationships with priests and bishops." Because of these groans and many others, the prophets states that: "These things must end!" or "to put it bluntly, a particular way of being 'Church' is dying." The "all-male, mostly celibate priesthood" is declining, we're moving from a European church to a global church, there's a shift to female equality, there's been an increase in lay participation, and a rise in "Bible-based worship" among many other things.
In part 2, I am doing something NEW...
There two "dangers" or "temptations" that arise in "times of transition:" 1) "nastalgia" for the past or 2) "despair" for the future. Then Massingale comes to some very important sentences: "Brueggemann maintains that among the ways that the prophets pierced the veil of the community’s numbing despair and energized it with new hope was by offering symbols and images that nourished an alternative vision. In that spirit, I want to offer an image that speaks to me of hopeful endings and new beginnings: the image of hospice. I want to suggest that prophetic ministry today requires a “hospice” mind set and approach to priestly ministry. I believe that priests today are called to be hospice ministers for the Church. Hospices prepare people to face endings that are unthinkable yet inevitable . . . and thus also prepare people for new beginnings that are unwanted yet full of life."
"God will work a miracle, but not the one that we expect. I’m not entirely sure what this means concretely for the Church.... a hospice approach to priesthood means that we must help facilitate honest conversations of sadness, hurt, anger and even rage, for these are some of the inevitable and essential reactions to any transition or loss. A hospice consciousness requires that we recognize that not everyone in the Church will be on the same page in dealing with the stress of transition."
Massingale closes by saying: "The prophetic vocation is to help the community to accept a loss they cannot admit and to embrace a hope they cannot dare to believe. Prophets do this by attending to the present groans of the people and positing an alternative future vision. This, I believe, is the essence of being a spiritual leader in the Church during this time of transition."
Happy Easter from a Faithful Catholic