Pope Francis

Fear in the Church

fear

I was already writing this blog post when a blog was posted by Archbishop Coleridge of Brisbane. I want to quote him here because he states from an inside perspective what I have been noticing from an outside perspective.

I’ve noticed as I’ve been paying attention to the synod that the issue of “fear” seems to keep coming up. There is a perceived fear of change and yet like Archbishop Coleridge I don’t believe fear is of God. I’ve always preferred the translation of being in awe of the Lord. I think fear limits our ability to be in awe of what God is capable of doing in our lives and in the church. No one likes change. I certainly do not. It’s terrifying at times because we don’t know what is going to happen. Human beings prefer not to be surprised. We want to be in control of what happens and it’s not as scary if we determine what happens. I certainly know I am not a huge fan of change and yet I’ve also learned that fear, in that it doesn’t allow change, keeps me from growing. It pushes God out of my life and puts me at the center. To be afraid I think is to put myself at the center because I am unable to trust in God.

Fear causes the deterioration of right and just relationships because we become consumed by a way of thinking that puts “me” first. It was this fear I believe Pope Francis spoke to while in this country. I think it would be a grave mistake if we were to so quickly forget the visit of our holy father. I have found myself reflecting deeply on his words and his actions while he was in this country. He arrived at a time when our nation and our church are becoming more and more polarized by ideological differences driven in part by fear. No one knew for sure what Francis’ message would be. Many thought he would come wagging his finger at the oppressive nature of western ideologies and the evils of unbridled capitalism. Yet in watching and listening to his speech to congress I found myself mystified by every word he was saying and which at times moved me to tears.

His speech was nothing less than prophetic. He stood in the midst of the center of power and spoke truth and love to power. Rather than scolding this nation he used our historical memory as a people to remind us of who we have been in the past, who we are today and calling us to become an even better version of ourselves in the future. He pointed out in no uncertain terms that these issues that divide us now we have overcome together in the past. He warned us of the path division will take us down and reminded us that moving forward as a nation we have to work together.

This is I think the hallmark of his papacy. It is a papacy that at its heart is driven by a spirituality of encounter. His words during his visit were powerful and thought provoking. However, his actions and his deeds were even more powerful. Taking his namesake to heart, like Saint Francis, this pope has an uncanny ability to pick people out in the crowd and to shine the light on them; people often turned away or rejected by society. He is drawn to them and in that encounter fear is driven out and love is allowed to flourish.

I think one of the major problems at the heart of our polarized nation and even our church is a fear of encountering the other. It’s a fear of being challenged in our beliefs or values. Maybe it’s even a fear of loving the other and allowing ourselves be loved and to be transformed. Something blocks our ability to meet the other where they are. Whatever it is I think one of the reasons why Pope Francis is so popular, even in the United States, is that he reminds us of who we are. He searches out the good in us and around us and reminds us of what we are capable of. In this I think the fear breaks down and we begin to stand in awe of what God is capable of in us and through us and in and through the church.

-Jason Salisbury

Quote found: (http://brisbanecatholic.org.au/articles/on-the-road-together-invective-fear-surprise)

Photo: Flickr

Eucharistic Foundations and Social Transformation: The Eucharistic Thought of Benedict XVI

This article, by Graham R. Golden, O. Praem., was included in the inaugural publication of Theophilus. Graham Golden is a member of the Norbertine Community of Santa Maria de la Vid Abbey in Albuquerque, NM. He is currently pursuing a Masters in Divinity at CTU with an emphasis in intercultural ministries. In addition, Graham also recently graduated with a Masters of Arts at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration with a broad focus on macro-level social interventions in policy and social program development.
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Eucharistic Foundations and Social Transformation: The Eucharistic Thought of Benedict XVI

Between October 1 and 16, 2013, the Federal Government of the United States was effectively “shut down” due to Congress’s inability to resolve the budget for fiscal year 2014. In contemporary American politics, we have become accustomed to stalemates in public policy and political processes being driven by ever-increasing polarization. These polemical trends have become the dichotomous lens through which the media and our world perceive reality. The Church is not immune to such polarization, especially in how the media and general public often caricaturize Church leadership and doctrine.

Since his election on March 13, 2013, Pope Francis has been a media darling, being frequently portrayed in stark contrast to his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, especially in terms of the pastoral and social emphasis of his pontificate. The height of Pope Francis’s 2013 media rise was his being named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. A lesser known public media accolade was that The Advocate also named the Pontiff as their Person of the Year, a surprising pick for a LGBT publication. Although both Time Magazine and The Advocate couched Francis’s often-interpreted liberal worldview in a more balanced light, such nuance is lost on most of the media. A quintessential culmination of the division depicted between Francis and Benedict in public discourse is the February 13, 2014 Rolling Stone cover story: “Pope Francis, the Times They Are A-Changin’.” A central theme of this division is the caricaturization of Benedict’s doctrinal and liturgical emphasis and Francis’s interest in poverty and inequality. The article claims:

Francis threw down a real marker in November, with the release of his first apostolic exhortation, or official written teaching. Apostolic exhortations under John Paul II and Benedict tended toward the dogmatic (JPII’s Familiaris Consortio restated orthodox Church teaching on birth control and the traditional family) or the wonky (Benedict’s Sacramentum Caritatis spent 32,000 words on the Eucharist). In this context, the blistering attacks on income inequality in Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”) resonate like a bomb.1

Many conversations, formal and informal, in theological circles seem to focus on how “progressive” Francis is or is not. However, little energy seems to center on determining the legitimacy of portraying his predecessor as out of touch and disinterested in the concerns of our time. Has Francis departed that significantly from Benedict? Is a pontificate that would dedicate so much verbiage toward the Eucharist somehow inherently disinterested in the plight of the poor, or is there more depth to what Benedict was attempting to accomplish? Did he provide a more significant foundation for the social emphasis of Francis than may be thought by the general public?

Given the popular conception of Pope Benedict XVI as a radical conservative, there was little surprise when he issued the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, allowing what he called the extraordinary form of the Mass (usus antiquior), the 1962 Missal of Blessed John XXIII—functionally known as the Traditional Latin Mass of the council of Trent—to be celebrated more freely in the Church. He is also known for attempted reconciliation with the schismatic conservative group The Society of St. Pius X. Under him, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith took steps toward correcting what the Roman Curia deemed a “doctrinal crisis” among women religious in the United States. More surprising to many has been the pastoral nature of his encyclical letters Deus Caritas Est and Spe Salve, along with the post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis. Yet more striking still was the release of Benedict’s last official encyclical as a reining pontiff, Caritas in Veritate. Lisa Sowle Cahilldescribes the encyclical letter as “a concrete response to global poverty and violence, especially the inequities and imbalances of power that lie behind the global economic crisis of 2008 to 2010.”2

For many, this document was so unexpected that some of Benedict’s greatest supporters, like George Weigel, responded with criticism and even redactions in search of what was an “authentic” voice of the Pope amidst what were seen by critics as external intellectual influences. Benedict advocated both for what some would classify as anachronistic liturgy and ritual, and major structural change in social, economic, and political spheres. For many this is inherently contradictory. I believe that these two “poles” grow from the same intellectual tradition exhibiting a remarkable continuity (though not without evolution of thought) within the theology of then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.3 If this continuity of thought is true, then the emphasis of Francis on the poor is not a departure from the theology of Benedict but an ever increasing praxis of what was set forth by his predecessor. It may be in fact a concrete manifestation of the liturgical axiom, lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi.

To continue reading this timely article, please go to the Theophilus Journal website.