Liturgy and Solidarity – Beyond Frontiers

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[music playing] [Father Thomas Stegman,
S.J.] Good evening. [audience] Good evening. [father stegman]
Tonight I am very proud to introduce to you
two of the STM’s finest, two of our grads who
we’re very proud of. Susan Bigelow Reynolds
holds the Master’s in Theological Studies from
the STM as well as a Master’s of Education from another
Catholic school you may have heard of, the
University of Notre Dame. [laughter] Before beginning
her doctoral studies, Susan taught middle school
in Brownsville, Texas through Notre Dame’s ACE
program, the Alliance for Catholic Education. And tomorrow is a
very big day for her, so you might want to keep her
in your thoughts and prayers. She’ll be defending her
dissertation for the Ph.D. in Theology and Education
here at the STM. And her dissertation is
entitled “Becoming Borderland Communities: [colon]
Ritual Practice and Solidarity in
Shared Parishes.” And the nice thing is she
already has a job lined up. Beginning this fall, Susan will
serve as assistant professor of Catholic studies at Emory
University’s Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia. Emory is a great school. It’s where I got
my degree, and I’m very happy to have one of
our grads go down there. So represent us well, Susan. Her research examines
ritual practice in context of difference,
marginality, and suffering. Much of her work and
pastoral experience is located in multicultural
Catholic communities. Central to this
work are questions of racial justice,
intercultural collaboration, and embodied practice. Susan has also written
and lectured extensively in the area of theology
and pregnancy loss. Her work has been published
in New Theology Review, Lumen et Vita, and multiple
pastoral venues. Susan is the mother of two young
daughters, Nora who is three and Lucy who is one. Marcus Mescher is
assistant professor of Christian ethics at Xavier
University in Cincinnati. Now, we have his
master’s degrees, but I have to say he also has a
bachelor’s degree from a school dear to me, Marquette
University, which is where I first met Marcus
back when my hair was his color. Marcus earned a Master’s
in Theological Studies specializing in Christian ethics
as part of the first graduating class at Boston College School
of Theology and Ministry. Marcus completed
his doctoral studies in STM’s Theology and
Education Program, focusing on moral formation
to practice the principles of Catholic Social Teaching. His teaching and
scholarship are informed by nearly a decade of experience
in parish youth ministry and college campus ministry. Marcus’s primary
areas of interest include the moral
formation of young adults, the relationship between family
life and the common good, the demands of solidarity
and the preferential option for the poor, and
ecological sustainability. He has published articles in
the Journal of Catholic Social Thought, the Journal
of Moral Theology, and several edited volumes. He’s currently working on
a book manuscript inspired by Pope Francis’s emphasis on
building a culture of encounter entitled The Ethics
of Encounter: Christian Neighbor Love as
a Practice of Solidarity. That book will be published
in 2019 by Lexington Fortress. I should add that Marcus
and Susan both have articles that appear in the book Liturgy
and Power published by Orbis Books last year, available
at the BC bookstore table in the back. And it was these articles
that planted the seed for tonight’s presentation. Marcus is married and a father
of Noah, age eight, Benjamin, age five, and Grace, who was
born just a few weeks ago. Marcus was still able
to make this trip even with a new baby in the house. Now, I’m wondering
if your wife thinks you ran away and
abdicated, [laughter] but that’s another discussion. I think of Susan
and Marcus as people who exemplify the best
of the School of Theology and Ministry. They do theology and ministry
in service of the world. They’re parents, scholars, and
educators with a strong sense of ministry. So please join me in welcoming
Marcus Mescher and Susan Reynolds, speaking on “Liturgy
and Solidarity: Beyond Frontiers.” [applause] [dr. marcus mescher] Thank
you, Tom and Melinda. Thank you for
being here tonight. I can’t tell you what an honor
it is to be here this evening back at Boston College. I had six amazing years here. I wouldn’t be the same
person without Boston College and the Society of Jesus
and all of the people that I learned from and
continue to learn from. So I just wanted to start with
a profound and sincere word of thanks. So tonight’s program will
move forward in three steps. I’ll begin by tracing some of
the historical roots of liturgy and paying attention to the
present sociocultural context for thinking about the
relationship between liturgy and solidarity. And then Susan will
follow, focusing on liturgy as an experience
of the borderlands and how parish life, especially
in a multiracial, multiethnic, multicultural context, invites
us to more inclusive belonging. And then the third step
of tonight’s program will be open for your own
reflection and discussion, and we look forward
to whatever seeds we can plant for your
insights and questions. So I’d like to begin with
just a little bit of context in this Francis Moment. We’ve just celebrated
the fifth anniversary of Francis’s pontificate, and
whenever I think of Francis, I think of an interview
he gave to Father Spadaro for America Magazine entitled
“A Big Heart Open to God.” And Father Spadaro
asked Francis, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” And Francis’s answer
was, “I am a sinner.” That is not a literary genre
or a figure of speech– “I am a sinner.” And I was struck by the fact
that he introduced himself to the world with those words. Certainly for anyone
in the room who’s worked through the
Spiritual Exercises, you can hear in
Francis that first week of reflecting both on our own
sinfulness, but especially God’s abundant mercy. And you can see in
the last five years, Francis has been inviting
us over and again to bask in the unending mercy
of God, the super-abundant love of God, the steadfast
loyalty, profound forgiveness, the generosity, the solidarity
of God who is with us and who is best
known through mercy. In fact, in Francis’s book
The Name of God is Mercy, Francis writes that mercy
is God’s identity card. And so in this context,
I think it’s worth noting that when Francis
talks about who he is, he puts forward
that identity rooted in sinfulness and in the
reception of God’s mercy. And his image of
the Church, he says, is not a toll booth that
gets to decide who gets in or who’s worthy of belonging. It’s not a fortress. It’s not a lab where we try
to create the prime conditions for holiness. He describes the Church
as a “field hospital,” out going into the world
to tend to the wounded, as a place without frontiers
where no one is outside, no one is excluded, no one is
unworthy, and a mother to all. In a homily he gave
at Lampedusa in 2013, he used the Parable
of the Good Samaritan to urge Christians and
all people of goodwill to burst the soap bubbles
of our self-concern. I love that image. And I can imagine a lot of
us just being so wrapped up in our busyness, our agenda, our
to-do list, where we’ve been, where we’re going, that we’re
just enclosed in these soap bubbles of self-concern. And Francis’s call to
all of us is to burst those soap bubbles through
the culture of encounter, to overcome the
globalization of indifference or the globalization
of superficiality so that we can draw
near to others in need, so that we can be
agents of mercy. And obviously I’m sure you
are familiar with this phrase that he’s been using over the
course of the last five years, this call to build a
culture of encounter, to draw near one another. And I don’t know if you’re
familiar with the TED talk he gave a year ago
this month, but he was invited by the TED conference– the title of the conference
was “On the Future.” And Francis’s talk is entitled
“The Only Future Worth Building Includes Everyone.” And he hit three points. And the first one
was mercy, hearkening back to what he wrote in
“Evangelii Gaudium,” calling for a revolution of tenderness
and asking each and every person to be artisans for peace,
ambassadors of reconciliation, and agents for this
revolution of tenderness. And he followed that up by
talking about solidarity and asking each person to make
that their default attitude, to see in one another
a sense of kinship. And he ended it with hope,
talking about hope as a doorway to the future or as a
flicker of light that shatters the darkness– the promise of tomorrow. And he said that the
future relies on you, each and every one of
you, to be someone who is open to God’s promises
and what lies ahead of us. So with that little bit
of context in place, I want to turn to the liturgy. And really what’s at
stake here is a question of belonging or inclusivity. Who belongs? And this quote comes
from “Evangelii Gaudium,” where Francis writes that, “The
Eucharist, although certainly the key to the sacramental
life, the fullness of the sacramental
life, it is not a prize for the perfect
or a trophy for the holy, but a powerful medicine and
nourishment for the weak?” And the quote at the bottom of
the screen refers to a message that Francis gave for the
inaugural World Day of the Poor five months ago. And I love that line,
that “Love has no alibi.” It reminds me of a
line from Dorothy Day when she said, “My love for God
is only as great as the love I have for the person I love
the least,” inviting all of us to think about how great,
how inclusive, or expansive our love is and what that
has to do with the liturgy. So essentially I am just
going to raise three questions with the time that I have
with you this evening: What is liturgy? Why do we gather? And what do we do? So my first question:
What is liturgy? I think, for my part, I
have been raised Catholic. Before I went to
college, I could count the number of times I had
missed Sunday Mass on one hand. And after college, it
didn’t grow by that many. But I had always taken the
current cultural context for granted. And in our Eucharistic Theology
class with John Baldovin, I was able to learn about the
historical roots of liturgy and why it matters that we
are doing something that Jesus himself did 2,000 years ago. It was news to me, even
being a lifelong Catholic, that liturgy means the shared
work of the people, which implies that I am not a
spectator or an observer or a witness, someone
on the sidelines. When Jane Regan
talks about liturgy, she very often uses the
analogy of a gas station where people come,
they get their fill-up, and then they go on their
way and only come back when they’re feeling empty. And that’s not at
all what liturgy was like for the first Christians. It was an intentional
act, for them to be reminded of who
Jesus was and what he did and how he lived, that it
was about inclusive table fellowship where
everyone belonged. So why do we gather? Well, I could go through each
and every one of these points, but what I’d like to
focus on is that there are theological,
Christological, pneumatological, ecclesiological, and certainly
moral reasons for why we gather. We remember the
Paschal Mystery, we re-enact God’s covenantal
bond with Creation, we petition the presence and
power of the Holy Spirit, give thanks for the
foretaste of our destiny, and, as the Catechism teaches,
we are recommitted to the poor. But I think it’s worth
noting, especially, that Jesus was someone who
ate not just with the lonely or the marginalized or the
excluded, not just the poor, but he ate with tax
collectors, agents of the empire that were
oppressing the Jewish people. He ate with Pharisees, his
own critics and enemies. And as Robert
Harris claims, Jesus was crucified because
of how he ate. That’s how countercultural
his action was– to show that no one is unworthy,
no one is beyond the pale, no one can be disinvited– and imagining what that
meant for those people who had so much stigma or shame,
who were then invited or deemed worthy, who were shown that they
counted, that they mattered, that they belonged. And this was something the first
Christians took very seriously. The Jewish people
were restricted from eating with
non-Jews because of their dietary habits. And so those first liturgical
meals the agape meals, were intentionally
dietary neutral. They were bread, fish, and
wine, something that both Jews and Gentiles could
enjoy together, to try to live into that
aspiration that we read in Galatians 3:28, that ‘there
is no longer slave or free, Jew or Gentile, male or female,’
but that all are one in Christ. So when we gather for
liturgy, what are we doing? Certainly we are trying to honor
the directive that Jesus gives us to do this in memory of me. We remember our identity
is shaped by our memory. And so when we gather, we
gather to remember who we are, whose we are, and
what we are about. We also, though, gather to be
intentional about expanding the networks of kinship,
to make our patterns and practices and relationships
ever more inclusive in seeking solidarity,
and especially to ensure that there is
no one in need among us. St. Paul, in the First Letter
to the Corinthians, chapter 11, rails against those in Corinth
because some are feasting while others are going without. So we see from the
very first years of the Christian
followers this connection between the liturgical meal and
a commitment to social justice. And then, as you may have
heard, we have this command from Augustine. In one of his homilies,
he says that we are to become what we
receive, the body of Christ. These rituals and symbols remind
us of our shared identity, that this isn’t just true
for me as a Christian, but it is true for us,
the Body of Christ, as a corporeal
embodied community. I won’t go through
all of the quotes from all of these
theologians over time. But I do think it’s worth
hearing the words of Saint John Chrysostom who– and you don’t have to look all
the way back centuries to find him because he’s being
quoted in encyclicals and in the Catechism. But Chrysostom says, “The
temple of your poor neighbor is more holy than the
altar on which you celebrate the holy offering.” And in another sermon he
says, “You dishonor this table when you judge
someone else unworthy to take part in this meal.” So my point, really, is to
say that even though Susan and I have been working
for months and months to figure out what we
wanted to say tonight and how we could help make
more explicit the connection between liturgy and solidarity,
is that essentially this is nothing new; that this is
going to the very roots of our liturgical tradition
that we’ve inherited. However, be that as it may that
this is what the Tradition has been teaching for
centuries, I’m not convinced that this is
actually the lived experience of liturgy. And I think it’s very easy
for many in the Church to fall into a kind of
“sacramental optimism,” to borrow a phrase from
my friend Katie Grimes– also a product of
Boston College– that we presume
that God will take care of all these problems. We fall into this
trap of just thinking that there’s something
magical about the Eucharist and that it will take care of
everything that ails us when this is obviously not the case. When we look at
the Body of Christ, we don’t necessarily see
a spotless, sinless body. But we see, as
Thomas Merton wrote, “a body of broken bones,”
a wounded, dirty Church. And we can see this in
a whole host of areas. We can look at examples of
white supremacy, racism, discrimination. We can look at patriarchy
and clericalism, homophobia, the exclusion of people because
of their marital status. In fact, when Pope Francis
was preparing the bishops for this synod on
marriage and family, he prepared a 46
questionnaire asking families to reflect on their experience. And if you read through
“Amoris Laetitia” carefully, you’ll see that
it addresses some of these really deep wounds that
the lay faithful feel when they find that the liturgy, or
the Eucharist in particular, is a wedge used
to divide people, to deem some worthy
and others unworthy, whether it’s an
interfaith marriage or whether it’s an instance
of divorce or remarriage. Even children, after
their parents’ marriage has been annulled, they
wonder about their status. And there are a lot of people
who question whether or not they belong. And I think it’s worth
noting that when we’re talking about a Body
of Christ, we’re not talking about something
that is made from anything else but our flesh, our
flesh that is porous, and we have to pay attention
to our social context and to think about
why it is that we have a body of broken bones. It strikes me as particularly
sobering that Martin Luther King called 11 o’clock on
Sunday morning America’s “most segregated hour” 50 years ago. And all the data that we have
show that nothing has really improved in those 50 years. The most racially diverse
denomination in America are Catholics. One in five Catholics worship
in a diverse parish setting. But everyone else,
it’s 15% or less who are actually worshipping
in a diverse parish setting. And our parishes are actually
less diverse than our schools and neighborhoods, although
Robert Putnam, in his book Our Kids: The American
Dream in Crisis, points that inequality and
the stratification of people by class, by gender, by
ethnicity, on race, et cetera, that that’s actually growing
and that we have a harder time understanding how people
who are different from us actually experience the world. There was a poll that came
out not that long ago that said that 75% of White
Americans said they didn’t have a single Black friend and that
two-thirds of African Americans didn’t have a
single White friend. So how can we talk
about solidarity when we don’t have friendships
that cross the color line, when we don’t really know, much less
care about, much less stand in solidarity with, people
who are different from us? So you can read the sociologists
who talk about these lifestyle enclaves where we’re
kind of collecting toward people in
ever-more homogeneous subsets of the population. But I think what’s important
is that we are talking about liturgy as if it
is enacting solidarity without us really
partnering in those efforts. One of the things
that I can still remember John Baldovin
saying after all these years is that a sacrament
is always valid, but it is only fecund
or potent to the extent that those people who are
receiving the sacrament actually use their free will,
use their intentionality to cooperate with the
grace of the Holy Spirit. Gustavo Guti rrez, when
talking about the Eucharist, says that essentially, Church
teaching describes this as an exercise in make-believe,
where we connect the liturgy to social justice on
the level of ideas, but it doesn’t line
up with reality. So that’s part of
what Susan and I would like to accomplish tonight,
just to figure out, how do we translate this
from ideas to reality? And I think the place to
begin is the imagination. And when I say that word, I’m
not sure what you might think. Maybe some of you
think of imagination and you think of
fantasy or illusion or some alternate reality. But William Lynch reminds us
that the imagination is not about fantasy or illusion. It’s actually the fruit
of our deepest desires. And William Lynch claims that
the Christian imagination is an invitation to literally
imagine new things with God. Another Jesuit theologian,
Michael Paul Gallagher, also writes extensively on the
relationship between theology and imagination, describing
it as a liberation into a different
wavelength so that we can be ever more
perceptive of the presence and power of the Holy
Spirit, an invitation to a transformed consciousness. I think Pope Francis is
someone, even though he doesn’t talk much about imagination,
is certainly someone who witnesses imagination. In fact, he talks
extensively about the need to penetrate ambiguity
and to reject rigidity. In fact, he says rigid
thinking is not divine, that it’s okay to explore
the messiness of life and to imagine what
more is possible. And I had to include
this line from the poet Emily Dickinson, who writes
that, “the possible’s slow fuse is lit by the imagination.” And I just want
to return quickly to Francis, that statement– “I am a sinner.” And you can imagine
what it’s like to make that your sense of
identity, how humbling it is to make that
your sense of self and the posture of radical
openness, of dependence, of availability to the God
who never tires of loving us or forgiving us, that
actually in turning to mercy, mercy is what makes our
imagination possible, that we don’t have to be confined to
our present way of thinking, or our present way of living,
or our past attitudes or habits. We are more than the worst
thing we’ve ever done, we are more than our faults and
failings and our limitations, and that if we
truly bask and savor the endless, infinite,
unconditional mercy of God, then surely more is possible. At this point, I
think it’s also worth thinking about liturgy
in terms of synergy, especially because so many of
us do think of liturgy like Jane Regan describes– going
to the gas station, getting your fill-up,
and not really coming back until you feel
like you need another fill-up. And you hear about these
phenomenons of church shopping, trying to find a place with
good music or good homilies. And we treat the
Eucharist and we treat liturgy like just
another object to consume, just waiting for
that Yelp review to help us find the right
parish where we can be filled. But the problem with
thinking about liturgy as something we consume, is
it renders us entirely passive and it makes us envision
the parish as a place where sacraments are dispensed
and all we have to do is show up. And what I really like about
the work of Jean Corbon is that he traces a
trajectory of synergy through the Incarnation,
actually beginning with Mary at the Annunciation. Her “yes” is the beginning
of this trajectory of synergy where you see the joint activity
of humanity and divinity. And that’s what the Incarnation
is ultimately about– Jesus, who is fully
human and fully divine, showing us the potential for
this human divine synergy, this full availability
and willingness to cooperate with the presence
and power of the Holy Spirit. So what I’m
suggesting tonight is that we make an
intentional choice to move from being spectators
to stakeholders, that we move from
sacramental consumerism to sacramental partnership. Synergy relies on
this trajectory that begins with kenosis,
God emptying God’s self, that offer of agapic love,
that model of divine power that isn’t power
over, but power with, an invitation to be empowered,
and that in kenosis, Corbon talks about theosis,
the process of divinization, whereby when we take up
that invitation to kenosis, we become more human
and more divine. And in that process of moving
from kenosis to theosis, the end goal is koinonia,
a word that we typically translate as communion,
but the roots of that word really mean to share
things in common. And in fact, some would argue
that actually the better translation is partnership,
partnership between humanity and divinity for the
sake of communion, of course, for
right relationship. So instead of
thinking of liturgy as this market exchange where
we show up to get something and then we go on
our way, Chauvet invites us to think about it
as a symbolic exchange, a gift that is offered,
received, and returned, wherein our life is a
returned gift in thanksgiving for the Eucharist. So what would this
look like if we were to take this joint
activity seriously, if we were to
participate as partners in synergy for solidarity? John Zizioulas states that
Christ is revealed as truth not in a community, but as a
community, the very bonds of our relationships,
the measure of our love, of our mercy, of
our forgiveness, of our courage,
compassion, and solidarity. The image that you see on
the right hand of the screen is a chalice that was made from
the wood of a shipwrecked boat off the shores of Lampedusa. I was reading an interview that
Pope Francis gave not that long ago when he was asked what his
initial vision for being pope was like, and he said he
doesn’t like to travel. I don’t know if you know this,
but he only has one lung. He lost a lung– well, one of his lobes of
his lung, when he was young. He’s never liked to travel. It gets him out of his routine. He’s not comfortable with it. And he imagined
when he was pope, he could just kind of be the
same kind of cardinal he was, which was to just kind of be
in one place all the time. But he said, “I was moved– I was scandalized by the
thousands of refugees who are drowning every year,
fleeing violence and seeking peace.” And so he was invited
to the refugee camps off the coasts of Sicily on
this tiny island of Lampedusa, which is about halfway
between Italy and Tunisia, and he could not get over
what his presence meant to the people on the
island of Lampedusa, especially the refugees,
and what they meant to him. And this chalice is
made from the wood of one of the boats that
capsized with refugees drowning, fleeing violence. And Dan Groody, who’s
a priest at Notre Dame, travels with this
chalice to bring it with his talks to talk about
the connection between liturgy and solidarity. And he actually added a piece
of mesquite wood at the bottom of the chalice to also remind
us of the refugees and migrants who are coming to the
U.S.-Mexican border, also seeking peace– that mesquite wood is from
the U.S.-Mexican border– to actually invite
us to think about, when we are celebrating the
Eucharist, about the status of those crucified
peoples of today, and certainly refugees and
migrants would qualify, and to ask ourselves:
Who belongs? Who counts? Who matters? Who am I allowing myself
to be encountered by? With whom am I in solidarity? And if we take seriously
this command of solidarity, then we have to begin with
this focus on encounter, to heal the wounds of
this body of broken bones. Willie James Jennings writes of
our diseased social imaginary, that it’s the product of our
inability to be intimate, to open ourselves to intimacy. And he says that a lot of this
is because that for too long, power in the Church has
been used to oppress. And he uses examples
like white supremacy to show that the Church has been
a force of power over rather than power with, and
that because this has been an expression of
subjugation or domination, that people are afraid
to be vulnerable because they worry about being
exploited or being harmed. And so Willie James Jennings is
inviting us to be vulnerable, to be passionate about desiring
to belong to someone who is different from me, someone
with different political views, someone from a different
race or ethnicity, someone from a different
socioeconomic class, and to see us
connected, as bound, to each other in kinship. And it’s important that
if we talk about liturgy as ‘the source and summit’
of the Christian life, that we think about to
what extent liturgy is a ritual and symbol of encounter
with God and one another. Who is welcome and who is not? To what extent are we
agents of reconciliation, of this revolution
of tenderness, of inclusive belonging? And that’s how I’d
like to end my time, is inviting you to think about
how you can be an agent of not just a culture of encounter–
that’s certainly the first step– allowing ourselves to
be reached by another, to draw near to
those others in need, much like the
Samaritan on that road to Jericho who
goes out of our way and into the ditch to
take up the vantage point of the one who is in need– but to move from a
culture of encounter to a culture of belonging. Robert Putnam, in his
book American Grace, says that there is
little empirical evidence to say that people’s moral
or religious formation is moved by strong
exhortations from a pulpit. People aren’t swayed
by data or statistics, but people are shaped
by their relationships. We are our relationships. And those networks
of belonging, those practices that we share,
that’s how we build who we are, both personally
and collectively. So Susan and I wanted to
raise the question about, to whom are you responsible
and accountable? To whom do you belong? Who belongs to you? Who is included and
who is excluded? And how can we move toward a
vision where all of us belong? All right, Susan, I’ll let
you take it from there. [applause] [dr. susan reynolds]
Thank you, Marcus, for starting us off with
that important work. It’s really an
honor to be here, I have to say thank you to
Jane, thank you to Melinda. It’s wonderful to be back
in Boston and here with you all this evening. In the second part of
our time together, I’m going to begin where
Marcus concluded, by offering the parish, the
ordinary, everyday parish, as a sort of
practical case study in the convergence of
liturgy and solidarity. Francis is a pastor
of the borders. This photo is from Francis’s
February 2016 visit to Juarez, Mexico, just across the
U.S.-Mexico border from El Paso. If you take a
glance at the image, here Francis is pausing for
prayer at a memorial that was erected for those who have died
trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. The centerpiece of the memorial
is this very large iron cross, which is emblazoned with
an image of the Holy Family fleeing into exile. It’s constructed on a platform
that directly overlooks the U.S.-Mexico border, which
is the space that’s both heavily militarized and also
very transnational. About 14,000 people,
every single day, cross back and forth
legally for work, for study, to go to school, to be with
family members, to shop. So it’s this deeply
complex space. The beams of this cross
evoke the iron beams that, in many places along the
2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border, form this two-story-high wall
that divide our two countries. As Father Stegman so graciously
mentioned in his introduction, I spent several years teaching
in Brownsville, Texas, which is the southernmost tip of Texas– so right where U.S. and
Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico converge. And I actually witnessed– living very, very
close to the border– this wall being erected
actually from my front yard. I could see it. It’s about a mile and a
half in from the border. It’s not on the border itself. But it was this very haunting
image that in some way propelled me to
theological study. That’s what a profound
symbol it became in my mind. What Pope Francis
so often offers the Church is an
embodied interpretation of the Gospel in response to
the global signs of the times. This image emblematizes, in
a particularly salient way, the gravitational force that’s
at the heart of Francis’s pontificate, which
is this constant pull towards the borders, towards
the margins, the peripheries. His stance here is
powerfully symbolic. It’s also quietly subversive. For three minutes,
about, he dwells silently in this space charged with the
memory of decades and centuries of human suffering
and injustice caused by this unnatural division. In so doing, he invites
the Church, all of us, to dwell there too. Francis invites
us, in other words, to make the
peripheries the center of our liturgical and
pastoral imagination. Dwelling there, as
Francis does, what we find is that it is the Crucified and
Risen Christ whom we encounter. Francis’s prayer
at the border cross was followed by the
celebration of Mass. The Mass was simulcast
across the border where a massive crowd gathered
in El Paso’s Sun Bowl to participate in
liturgical solidarity. Many more gathered along
the border fence itself. The Eucharist was
distributed simultaneously on both sides of this frontier. The setting of Francis’s
liturgical and sacramental practice is not
extrinsic to its meaning. In other words,
Francis’s celebration of the Mass at the
border isn’t just about an outward demonstration
of solidarity or bridge building. Making present the
fundamental unity of all baptized in Christ, the
sacramental act of solidarity forms participants imaginatively
into a more expansive, more inclusive understanding
of the Body of Christ. Francis invites the Church
to make a preferential option for the in-between spaces,
the borderlands, the spaces where nations, where races,
cultures, languages, classes, generations, and
histories touch. In word, in deed, he invites
us to view the borders as a locus ecclesiologicus,
as a place from which renewed ways of conceiving
of and being Church emerge, propelled by and guided
by the Spirit of God. But living as we do in
the shadow of colonialism and in the midst of
profound polarization, advocating for a theological
commitment to the borderlands is not an easy argument to make. In our distorted
national imagination, the specter of the border
looms both as a dam, holding back oncoming tides
of the undesired Other, and as a frontier to be
conquered militarily, economically, and culturally. In our national
imagination, borderlands are check points, stopping
points, end points, spaces of danger and suspicion
beyond which we dare venture only as missionaries or as
tourists, never as equals, lest we too become undesirable. Borders are spaces from
which, like Nazareth, we who are formed
to fear them come to believe that nothing
good could ever come. In our national imagination,
then, the architectural form, proper to the borderland, is not
the bridge, but rather the iron fence or the concrete wall. Taught to fear our
geographical borderlands, we imbibe, in turn, a fear
of the borderlands that exist within our own
near communities, the spaces in our
churches, our schools, and our neighborhoods
where races, cultures, and classes meet. Such fear must be rejected
for the sake of the Gospels and for the sake of our souls. Re-envisioning borders,
not as the spaces where relationships and
identities end, but rather where they meet, we
are able to see them as spaces infused with the
possibility of encounter, conversion, solidarity,
and salvation. This “theological
transvaluation of the border,” to use the phrase
of Roberto Goizueta, is not merely the replacement
of a false negative image of the border with an equally
false romanticized one. Rather, it’s about coming to
see the border as it truly is– a space where the
unifying Spirit of God breathed new life
into the Church. Solidarity across borders
becomes a real possibility when we approach this joining
not as an act of service or a begrudging welcome, but as
a soteriological act, a desire for true communion
with our neighbors– emphasis on “desire.” If this is the case,
then the question Pope Francis
implicitly poses to us and which I pose to
us here this evening, in light of what Marcus so
helpfully shared with us, is: Where are the
borderlands in our midst? Where are the borders to
which we are being called? It’s tempting to
believe that this call of missionary discipleship,
this outward centrifugal impulse of loving encounter which
Francis so often speaks, compels us to journey
to somewhere else. As Americans, our largely
racially, culturally, and economically
segregated existences encourages the
misconception that in order to encounter difference
in consequential ways, we need to go far, far away– on a mission trip, for example,
which have their merits. And yet– and yet, the notion
that the place for solidarity is somewhere else is a deceptive
one because in some way it exculpates us from
our responsibility to scrutinize the contours
of our own local realities. I want to suggest that
one place we can all respond to the call to
solidarity across borders is within our parishes. The adage that “Sunday
morning in America is the most segregated
hour of the week,” as Marcus cited for us, has
become somewhat of a cliche. But like most cliches,
it’s essentially true. Studies of American
religious congregations have been unequivocal
in demonstrating that the majority
of Americans worship with people who are racially
and culturally similar to themselves. Catholic parishes are, as
Marcus said, on average, more diverse than
Protestant congregations, but only by a little bit. And the picture
isn’t much rosier on this side of the fence. The majority of
Catholics still worship with people who look
mostly like themselves. Yet, slowly this is changing. Today more than one-third
of Catholic parishes serve multiple cultural, ethnic,
or linguistic communities, a number that’s
steadily increasing. The one in five number
that Marcus cited has to do mostly with
racial diversity. But about 1/3 of parishes
serve communities that might not be
racially diverse, but might be
linguistically diverse– a French-Canadian
community, for example, or Ukrainian community. Locally, we tend to
refer to such communities as multicultural. But in fact, calling these
parishes multicultural is a bit of an
overstatement in most cases, as perhaps those of you
who belong to such parishes can attest. Typically– typically– not
in every case, but typically, cultural and ethnic communities
exist in relatively separate spheres– the English-speaking
community and the Spanish-speaking community. They attend different
Masses, participate in different ministries,
and generally kind of orbit
around one another, intersecting for brief
moments in the parking lot or maybe once or twice a
year at a bilingual Mass. Scholars and the U.S. Catholic
Bishops thus terms such parishes shared parishes,
because in most cases that’s exactly what they are– two, three, sometimes
four, or more even cultural subcommunities sharing a
space, but often little else. While Catholic
parishes have been sites of intense intercultural
negotiation for as long as the Church has been
a presence in what’s now the United States, the
shared parish phenomenon is a response to a few ongoing
transformations in the Church that are somewhat unique. First, it’s impossible to
overstate the significance of the demographic
transformation underway in the U.S. Catholic
Church, particularly the extent to which
Latino Catholics are reshaping the Church. Around 38 percent– so almost
40 percent of U.S. Catholics are Hispanic or Latino. Overall, according to estimates
by the USCCB, more than half– more than half of
U.S. Catholics today are not of
Euro-American descent. In other words, most
Catholics aren’t White. Obviously this is
not a reality that’s reflected or expressed in most
of our Catholic institutions. Latino, African,
African-American, and Asian Catholics
are in many ways responsible for the
continued vitality of Catholicism in
the U.S., especially among younger generations. This reality, of course,
is starkly at odds with the continued normativity
of white Euro-American cultural expressions, practices, and
leadership in the Church. Second, models of parish
life have changed. While the coexistence of
multiple cultural communities in a single parish is
not new, this model of the shared parish as a
community of communities, so to speak, is becoming
increasingly common. In the past,
particularly in dioceses, like in the Northeast
for example, and regions of the country
where the establishment of national and ethnic
parishes was most common, the sharing of a single parish
by multiple cultural groups was often understood
as an interim state, a temporary arrangement
until a group could petition the bishop for a
parish of their own– a Polish parish, for example, an
Irish parish, a German parish. Where national parishes
were not an option, efficient Americanization of
the newcomers was the goal. Today, the
culturally-shared parish is not a temporary
arrangement, but a unique and emerging model of parish
life in its own right. Yet the coexistence of
multiple cultural communities in a single parish still
feels, in many ways, like an ad-hoc arrangement,
something that no one really chose, nobody really set
up in advance, but just kind of works for
the time being, but still has this sense
of tentativeness about it. Whenever I speak to almost
anyone who belongs to or ministers at a parish
like this, most of the time they express a kind of mild
discomfort over the fact that they belong to the same
parish as an entire group of people that they
don’t know at all, and have no contact
with whatsoever, based solely on the fact of
their ethnicity or language. Most acknowledge that they
don’t know what to do about it or where to start, but
the discomfort is there. So that’s something. Third, attitudinal
ideological shifts have occurred, both within the
Church and broader society. Generally speaking,
attitudes with respect to cultural diversity
have shifted away from assimilationism and toward
at least a nominal appreciation of cultural diversity. In recent years, bishops
have expressed the notion of unity and diversity
through frameworks such as interculturalism,
integration, and communion. So these aren’t just
abstract trends. Many of you here this
evening are likely experiencing this
reality firsthand in your own parishes– an
English-speaking community and a Spanish-speaking community
or a Brazilian community or a Korean community. If you’re a parishioner at St.
Ignatius or St. Columbkille, or St. Mary of the Angels,
you belong to a shared parish. In the Archdiocese of Boston
alone, for example, parishes ministered to at least 27
distinct cultural communities if not more, including
Vietnamese, Haitian, Kenyan, Nigerian, Cape Verdean,
Korean, Filipino, Polish, and Italian
Catholics, just to name a few. But even for those of
you who don’t currently belong to a culturally
shared parish, this question of
community and diversity remains highly relevant. Here in Boston, parish
mergers and clusterings have meant that all
of us here likely have been faced in some
way with this question or this task of forming
community in difference, whether that difference is
ideological or spiritual or organizational. The parish is traditionally
defined as a stable community of the faithful, which almost
sounds a little laughable given the state of parishes in
the Archdiocese right now. We’re in a state
of so much flux. Today we see that the parish
is also a place of ambiguity, of change, of uncertainty. Our parishes are,
in some real sense, the borderlands in our midst, or
one site of borderland identity in our midst. If we’re committed to
Pope Francis’s vision of a Church that’s without
frontiers and a mother to all, then our parishes,
which for most of us form our most consistent
and intimate connection with that Church, should
be the primary locus of this solidaristic task. Perhaps more so than
any other institution, parishes are places where we’re
invited into the challenging task of joining with
and loving other people in their difference. This is not easy. This is very different than
the nice sounding suggestion that we should
celebrate diversity, which demands nothing more
of us than general tolerance of the existence of
people who are not us. Solidarity and
difference requires, in the words of Jon
Sobrino, “a true conversion to the neighbor,” a
willingness to be challenged in our presumptions of
normativity, a willingness to be the guest
in the very place where we’re used
to being the host. So given the theme
of this evening, how can liturgy help
to build bridges across borders in our parishes? Asked another way,
at least as it’s been asked by social
scientists, how does ritual produce social solidarity? Produce, of course,
is in quotation marks because, as Marcus
helpfully pointed out to us, liturgy on its own
doesn’t produce anything, like an equation
or a magic trick. So this is social
scientist-speak that isn’t exactly
reflected theologically. If it did, if rituals
simply produced solidarity, then the problem of community
and diversity in parishes would be a very
easy one to solve. Yet research
suggests that ritual does play a critical role in
cultivating and strengthening social bonds. There’s a great deal of
research to support the idea that participating in
longstanding, pre-established rituals leads to
inter-group cooperation. So for example, when a
small faith-sharing group recites the Lord’s Prayer at
the beginning of each meeting, the research suggests that
performing that ritual action consistently helps
them to strengthen their bonds as a group. if you’re a Girl Scout, you
recite the Girl Scout law at the beginning
of each meeting. If you’re in the
Kiwanis Club, you recite the Pledge of
Allegiance, or whatever. And we sense that, okay,
something about this helps us to feel at home. It helps us to feel a
shared sense of belonging. However, a recent study also
suggests that new rituals, brand-new rituals in
newly-formed groups– so among people that
don’t know each other, that have no prior
knowledge of one another– can also promote
inter-group bonding. In other words, the
study found that when they took people who didn’t
know one another at all, put them in small groups,
and had some begin their time together,
whatever they were doing, with some sort of
made-up ritual, something they had just put
together, and said, okay, you begin each time you
meet with this ritual. And the other group didn’t. And by the end, the group
that performed this brand-new, prior meaningless
ritual actually evinced higher levels of
solidarity and inter-group bonding. So ritual is efficacious
even in secular settings. So there’s something
very important to be considered there. Scholars of diverse
congregations have also pointed to the
vital role of ritual practice in cultivating community
in context of difference. And of course, this probably
doesn’t surprise us. Sociologist of Religion,
R. Stephen Warner, emphasizes the crucial role of
embodied ritual– embodied– as a key to the
capacity religion has to bridge boundaries
both between communities and individuals. Chris Tirres, scholar
of pragmatist thought in U.S.-Latino religion, argues
that the spiritual and moral power of popular religious
rituals is related to their capacity to
become sites of integration and boundary transgression. When distinctions between us and
them are ritually transgressed, people are moved
at the moral level through feelings of deep
solidarity and empathy. Practical wisdom also
affirms this connection between ritual and community. In shared parishes,
bilingual liturgies often represent best
attempts to build bridges between members
of distinct linguistic communities. Bilingual Masses can
be onerous, right? They can be imperfect,
especially where such practices are not the norm. But the significance
of such efforts shouldn’t be overlooked. Indeed, such attempts
at fostering community through shared
linguistically-inclusive liturgical participation
evince an instinct similar to those
elaborated by scholars. We sense that we become
community by doing community. So how does liturgical
participation enable us to do community? Religious study scholars Adam
Seligman and anthropologist Robert Weller, both at BU– local institution– conceive of
ritual as subjunctive action. Those of you who
are Spanish speakers will find that more
immediately meaningful than those of you who are not,
but I will explain what I mean. By this, they mean
that ritual is the embodied imaginative
construction of a shared as-if reality. Their work follows that of
Catherine Bell whose classic Ritual Theory, Ritual
Practice conceptualizes ritual as a kind of practice where
power relationships aren’t merely symbolized or suspended,
but actively negotiated. Seligman and Weller
suggest that ritual should be understood as a
particular way of framing actions rather than as the
performance of a commonly held set of meanings or values. Ritual is about doing
something together more than it’s about saying
something together. It’s the doing itself that lends
ritual its power and meaning. This also means that far from
consolidating group identities and values in a uniform
way, ritual should instead be understood as disclosing a
unique capacity to encompass and mediate difference
without seeking necessarily to resolve it. Shared participation
in ritual doesn’t require that all
participants hold an identical set of
meanings or identities in order to participate. In context of profound
diversity, which is to say in the absence of
commonly agreed upon meanings, language, or symbols,
ritual can be efficacious, precisely because, through
embodied participation, they integrate participants
holistically and nondiscursively into a
shared subjunctive reality. They provide us a
template, a script, for acting like the
kind of community that we hope to become, right. We practice becoming
what we receive. Seligman and Weller argue
that the work of ritual teaches us how to live
within and between different boundaries rather
than seeking to absolutize them. Ritual, in this
sense, can be compared to play, a joyful, creative
imagining of a world that could be, that might be. We act like community. We do it over and
over and over again. We practice becoming
a community. Ritual becomes, in other words,
the language of community. And it doesn’t require that
you give up your culture or I give up my culture, that
we co-exist in perfect harmony. It means that we practice
doing life together. It’s a kind of practice. I love that image, actually, of
liturgy as a kind of practice. We talk about this in
academic-speak, liturgical practice. But what’s practice? You’re trying. You’re trying again and
again and again, just like you practice piano
or you practice softball. And that kind of practice
can be transformative. As Virgilio Elizondo writes,
“Through ritual participation and celebration, we begin to
experience a new kind of we, a new kind of belonging.” It’s an experience of community
that emerges in practice before it emerges in theory. It’s lived before
it’s understood. Liturgy, as Marcus told us,
is the work of the people. Liturgy, in context
of diversity, is the hard work of the people. And as one woman I
interviewed put it, “We have to work hard
at figuring out how we hear one another’s voices.” So to conclude, in my pastoral
experience and in my research, intercultural liturgy
works, so to speak, when five things are true. And this is not a
limited list necessarily, but this is what I have found. It works when it’s
highly embodied. So accenting the highly
embody participatory elements of the liturgy– processions, the Sign
of Peace, for example– and developing new embodied
rituals within the liturgy, gives parishioners
the opportunity to touch, to embrace, to walk
together in a literal way, again, drawing our imaginations
into a more intimate, more consequential understanding of
what it means to call ourselves the Body of Christ. Intercultural liturgy works
when it’s highly participatory. Typically we don’t like too
many cooks in the kitchen. It makes things messy. But ironically and
perhaps in contrast to our desire for control and
seamlessness in our liturgies, the more lay people
who are involved from all cultural
communities in a parish– in liturgical planning,
implementation, and evaluation– the better. Giving people roles,
even if they’re small but very, very specific,
gets skin in the game. It makes people stakeholders
in this “work of the people” that Marcus spoke of. Plus, relationships
are formed this way during these meetings,
these planning meetings, these evaluations. That’s where these
relationships are formed. Third, intercultural
liturgy works best when people expect
discomfort and imperfection, right. In corporate-speak,
I think this is called managing expectations. Even people who’ve been
doing this for decades– and through the research that
I did for my dissertation, I had the gift of talking
to a lot of people who have been doing this for decades– even they talk about how
they always expect it to be seamless, the best-laid
plans of mice and men, and then it doesn’t. Somebody reads the
same part twice. An entire page of The Passion
was skipped accidentally. There’s a long, awkward pause
between the first reading and the second reading. It’s not perfect,
but it’s practice. It’s worth doing. Number four, intercultural
liturgy works when it’s done in conjunction
with a larger vision or mission of intercultural
collaboration at the parish. As we’ve said, I
think nine times now, liturgy isn’t a magic trick. It has to be part of a broader
structural effort at a parish to enact justice and
intercultural collaboration at all levels of parish life,
from equity and compensation to empowered leadership, from
representation and decision making to culturally
responsive ministry. And finally,
intercultural liturgy works when it’s supplemented by
opportunities for celebration and social life
wherein people come to form friendships and
come to genuinely care about each other, to desire one
another’s friendship, to desire one another’s fellowship
and presence and belonging. We don’t practice solidarity
to be politically correct or celebrate diversity in
some benign kind of way. We do so because we believe
that salvation is communal. Solidarity is an expression of
our peoplehood, the fullness of that communion, united
across near and distant borders as the Body of Christ. Thank you. All right. So let’s open it up. There’s a microphone
that is back there, if we all direct our
attention to the back. If anyone feels
moved, we would love to hear some thoughts, some
pieces of the conversations that you just had, share
your own experiences, kind of bring it to the
table, because that’s that’s what this is all about. So if you put your hand up and
you’ll receive the microphone. [participant] Thank
you very much– wonderful presentation. In the research you’ve
done and certainly I’m sure you’ve traveled
around, why did you not mention the beauty of Base
Christian Communities? And why haven’t we adopted that
in most parts of the United States? [dr. reynolds] That’s
a great question. And I think people who know
much more about BCCs than I do have ever reflected on that. Some elements of the Base
Christian Communities, I think, have been tried and worked,
I think, in certain contexts. And in other ways,
I think people have found that there’s
something about that model that for some reason
has flourished most successfully in Latin
America and in Africa in particular. But I think that you’re wise
in drawing our attention to the power of
encounter that happens in these small communities. I know that I have witnessed
this model of practice just in travels that I’ve done
in East Africa and in Brazil, and in both of those cases,
the people who I’d been with had named that community as
just this very, very powerful and very life-course-shaping
site of encounter with one another and with God. And I think that
you’re wise, again, to direct our attention to the
capacity of these small groups, which is a space for those
kind of relationships. I don’t know if you have any
background on that as well. [dr. mescher] Yeah. I think it’s a great question. It’s something I’m
really interested in, and I think I’ll just make
a couple quick remarks. The first is that,
as Susan alluded to, we see base ecclesial
communities flourish when there’s a communal
anthropology already in place. In a place like in Central or
South America where you have this vision of life, of
conjunto, of togetherness, of [non-english speech],, or
in an African context with– I think of the Bantu word
ubuntu: I am because we are. That does not square with
our hyper-individualistic anthropology in
the United States. And some of my work is
in marriage and family, and what I’m struck
by right now is how many families report
being stressed, busy, and overwhelmed. And in fact, busyness almost
becomes like a badge of honor– just, “You think you’re busy? Let me tell you how busy I am.” And the one upmanship
of busyness– that it’s become a status symbol
or we have this prestige envy. We live in a very
competitive cultural context. That makes base ecclesial
communities really difficult. The other point
that I would add is, although it’s wonderful to focus
on these grassroots movements– and Francis is doing that. You can see the
synod on the Amazon that will be coming up
in a couple of years trying to empower– he gave a
number of really amazing talks in Bolivia to
grassroots organizers and really commending the work
that they are doing and urging them forward. We also have to find a
way from the micro level to complement it with
some macro-level systems and structures, otherwise
it’s just benevolent chaos. So we have to do the both
of the micro and the macro, and I don’t know that we’re
doing either very well right now, in at least
the United States. And then the third and
final thing I would say is, I also think that
it’s worth pointing out that base ecclesial
communities are dying. And if you spend time in Central
or South America right now, there’s something
that people talk about being vibrant
in the seventies or something that maybe current
grandparents were involved with. But for whatever reason,
it’s been lost in translation to current generations. And at least as far as I
can tell, in places like El Salvador, they’re not
vibrant and they’re not drawing in young people
like 40, 50 years ago. So I think there’s an important
question to figure out. What is being lost
in translation to today’s generation
that they’re not seeing that as a worthwhile
way to spend their time, to build community, to
feel like they belong? [dr. reynolds] One, actually I,
thanks for raising that, too, because it reminded me, too– I was reading recently Walter
Kasper’s large, excellent volume on the Catholic
Church, and he talks in there about this
crisis that Northern and Western Europe is undergoing in terms
of a vast secularization and just a real loss
of Christian practice. I mean, he actually
proposes a model that’s very similar to the
Base Christian Community model. He does not make that connection
overt, but what he proposes is essentially a model that’s
in some ways very reminiscent of this model of kind
of the center and then these peripheral communities
that really are in some ways their own center of
faith life for people, and that aren’t
necessarily clerically led, but very familially led. The other thing
that I would say to, just thinking more
about your question in terms of the potential gifts
to recover from the BCC model, is its intergenerationality. And I think that’s a gift
of particularly the Latino presence right now in
the Church in the U.S. is drawing us back to this sort
of familial, whole familial, whole life course,
intergenerational experience of spirituality. In fact, one of my junior
colleagues in the Ph.D. program at the STM is writing
her dissertation on that and it sounds
absolutely fascinating. But in the places where
I’ve witnessed that model, still somehow evolved
but alive, it’s been this very family-based and
intergenerational thing that I think is something very astute. So thank you for your question. [participant] So thank you both. Eleanor really loved
the presentation. [dr. reynolds] We loved her. [participant] Yeah, she was
very vocal during some parts. [dr. reynolds]
Intergenerational. [participant] Yeah–
very intergenerational. So as I was hearing you,
Susan, walk through what a bilingual liturgy– I’ll stand over here– bilingual
liturgy would look like, I thought to myself, if only in
this part of the country there were two vibrant communities of
different cultures that could come together to do this– like, normally there’s
the one that’s dying and the one that’s moving in. So it’s no wonder that all
the church self-help books now are talking about forming
evangelizing disciples to go out to a different
type of margin than what we’re
talking about today. So is there a way, then, that
your conversation today can influence that formation
of discipleship so that when they do
go out to the margins, it’s not just the other
people who look like me who don’t go to church anymore? [dr. reynolds] That’s
a really good question. And in fact, the
concern that you raise is very much
reflected in the data. I’m a big fan of the social
sciences, as you can tell. But a recent sort of data
conducted by the Center for Applied Research in
the Apostolate, CARA, out of Georgetown in
Washington, D.C.– part of what they, they did
this wonderful and very, very expansive study recently on
the attitudes of Catholics who belong to shared parishes, who
belong to diverse parishes– and they broke that data down. And essentially
the finding there was that White Catholics think
that their communities are much more integrated and
much more successfully, sort of just, than do
Catholics of Color, which was very interesting. Related to your question– when the survey
asked, “Who do you think that your parish should
be spending more time focusing on attracting?”,
White Catholics, in sort of an
astounding and frankly a very shameful and
embarrassing margin, put “strongly
agree,” essentially, for divorced and
remarried Catholics, for youth, for people
who were married to non-Catholic spouses,
for people like that. But support declined very,
very markedly for outreach to Spanish-speaking Catholics,
to Native-American Catholics, to Asian Catholics,
to immigrants, to non-English
speaking Catholics, to recently-released prisoners. Again, there’s sort of an
implicit racial bias there. And so I think the
moral of the story is, often when you talk
to people who are engaging this kind of outreach,
we think we’re doing a much more
just and equitable job than we’re actually doing. And so I think– particularly, I think– sort of
returning to the praxis of Pope Francis, which Marcus really
did a beautiful and very comprehensive job
illuminating for us– I think unseats that kind
of complacency with the job that we’re doing. There’s something so powerful
about his embodied practice, about his actions, that sort
of convicts us in a way. I know it certainly does for me. The humility that he evinces,
but also the willingness to go to the places that
other people reject, I think would be the most
powerful kind of witness to and lesson for our
evangelizing task there. Microphone. [participant] I know, but
I think I can be heard– [dr. reynolds] Oh no, it
picks you up for the video. [participant] That’s
right– for the video. I’m reading the bottom
on the presentation. And it may even connect
with your last comment. It says, “Have you
participated in multi-cultural, multi-lingual worship? What worked? What would you change?” And I think I want to
go to the last part, that this driving for perfection
is what I would change. Because we strive
for perfection, we often, at least
subconsciously, reject those that don’t fit into our
preconceptions of how things are supposed to be or
the historical practices we had, and we’re ready
to criticize things that aren’t quite what we
expected them to be, what aren’t quite what
we wanted them to be. I mean, as you
know, Susan, we’ve plenty times rehearsed
for different functions and come the day, you
find out that they didn’t understand what I
thought I was telling them. And where I thought I
was having people sit didn’t end up being where
they ended up sitting. But it’s okay. And that’s something
else that I know I myself have to learn
to do is let go and let it be okay because
it’s God’s Church that we are participating
in and sharing in, and God loves us all
with our imperfections, and heaven knows none
of us is perfect. [dr. reynolds] Amen. Joyce could easily be
up here giving this talk because she is somebody who’s
taught me a tremendous amount about that exact point– the need to not just kind
of tolerate imperfection, but actually embrace it. Often our rejection
of things that don’t fit into our
mold of perfection ends up being a
rejection of the Other, the person who doesn’t
walk fast enough or upright enough or
nice enough to be part of the liturgical procession,
the person that reads too slow, the person that doesn’t speak
very clear English, or Spanish perhaps, or whatever
the case may be, and our desire for choreography
and for good liturgy. And there’s nothing
wrong with good liturgy. I came, actually, to the parish
that I was a member of here, and where Joyce has been
for many, many years, at St. Mary of the
Angels when I lived here, from the University
of Notre Dame where I was president of
the Notre Dame choir where we sang in the Basilica
of the Sacred Heart every 11:45 on Sunday mornings. And I came to a church
that was, by all accounts– and you would not disagree– very economically
marginal, very poor. This is a poor church for
the poor, by and large. And it unseated my
own understanding of whose the liturgy is, and
by whom that work is done. And I had to go through
a very painful process– and it was not easy at times– of managing my own understanding
of how perfect and how choreographed liturgy is
supposed to be and where that balance between preserving
those ritual aspects, which are very important because
we don’t want to lose that– because, as the
research has shown us, liturgy gives us
this– or ritual– liturgy being a part of ritual– gives us a template for
being together meaningfully. So if we stray
too far from that, nobody starts to feel at home. And that’s an experience
of discomfort as well. But where do we find the balance
between that and inclusivity? And not just inclusivity
in a tokenizing way– okay, we have somebody who’s
Spanish-speaking, we have somebody who’s Black,
we have somebody who’s White, and they all did the readings
and therefore we are diverse. No. Authentic inclusivity, which
often involves the inclusion of people who are far more
difficult to include or make us far more uncomfortable. And that’s something
to look at, too. So thank you for
your comment, Joyce. [participant] Hi. I’d like to speak
to what I think is the current reality of
the Archdiocese of Boston. When we, in the
last X years, have had to form collaboratives
of two or three or even four churches, coming together with
very different experiences, having a shared pastor,
having experience of pastor with very different sense
of theology and liturgy than the previous
three pastors were, and we’ve experienced
that again– I’m St. Mary of the Angels, but
I’m part of the Roxbury Jamaica Plain Collaborative. And we have had wonderful
resource of Jesuit priests and deacons who’ve been
part of our community and they continue, both English
speakers and Spanish speakers. And then our pastor
who took over this, is a neocatechumenate. And so we had very,
very different ways of looking at Church. And we’ve worked
hard at it to try to understand how we can come
together and do our best, and certainly not perfect. But I think that’s part of the
current reality of where Church is today, a very
different liturgical, theological, philosophical
roots of people coming together. So any comments on
that would be welcome. [dr. reynolds] Yeah. You’re very wise to point us
toward those borderlines, which in some way are more salient
than racial or cultural or even linguistic borderlines that
particularly– bless you– given the contemporary sort
of sociopolitical context in our country. I know that I
catch myself having sort of an automatic allergy
or aversion to anybody who seems to– okay,
they said this, and I feel like they
probably mean this, and they probably
voted for this guy, and therefore they probably
mean this, and okay– yeah, we’re not– no, we don’t agree. And it’s so fast
we jump to that. And that, I think, right now
it is a very, very salient dividing line, and
that’s something that I feel particularly in
this experience of clustering and collaboratives. Often it’s these
divisions, the spiritual or theological or
ideological divisions, that become almost more salient
than racial or cultural ones. And you’re wise to point us
toward that reality in Boston. [participant]
[inaudible] language, because we’re both Spanish and
English speakers, with, again, a lot of– we’re both Spanish
and English speakers with a range of backgrounds
and beliefs systems. So you put it all together
and it’s complicated. [dr. reynolds] It’s complicated. [dr. mescher] Can
I just add to that? I think we’ve got work to do in
what we expect of each other. And to go back to the
way that I was trying to highlight the
co-responsibility of the faithful, more than
50 percent of Catholics say that their pastor doesn’t
expect them to do anything for parish life, and
two-thirds of Catholics say they don’t want to take
any leadership responsibilities in their parish. So we really have a
disempowered laity that really has to change. And I think what’s
interesting about this Francis Moment is that he is
emphasizing the grassroots. He’s encouraging
synodality, asking people to gather, to listen, to
learn from each other. I mean, Francis is writing
encyclicals with his gestures. It slipped– I don’t know if
on purpose or by accident– but he mentioned
that he has been meeting with victims of priest
sexual abuse every Friday. The posture that
he’s taking, the way that he came out really
profusely apologetic about the way he botched
the abuse scandal in Chile. He calls her a bruised and
broken image of the Church, but if you google images of
Pope Francis, a lot of them, he’s got that
black eye from when he was in South America
and a horse reared up and ran into the popemobile,
and a police officer fell off her horse. And without even waiting
for the popemobile to stop, Francis was dashing
off the popemobile to tend to the policewoman
and check on her. He’s showing us this way
to go out, to engage, to encounter, to listen, to
imagine, and I’m hoping that– I mean, his approval ratings
are through the roof– I mean, the envy of
every politician. I’m hoping that we can move
from the Francis Moment to the Francis
Movement and we can have a much more empowered
laity who actually take up and appropriate the example
that Francis is providing us. [music playing]


One Response

  1. minorityvoice

    August 13, 2018 2:50 pm

    Yes everyone is welcomed but there is also the act of belief faith and obedience. We seem to want to gray the lines between acceptance and instruction. What is and what isn't a prophanation to our Lord. The Church is always opening her arms to the faithful. Witness every day the truth, and be willing to die for it, this is how we must bring the gospel, but if someone rejects it after continual instruction then a judgement must be made to deny that person to the table. This is how the church has always taught the line between acceptance and denial of fraternity. It hasn't changed, what has changed is our zeal to witness and speak the truths of the faith, and want to replace it with an all inclusive noone has to obey mentality.


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