To Be Church, Together

Like so many, I continue to digest Pope Francis’ interview.

Never in my life have I heard from so many people who shared they were moved to tears. Never in my life have I heard so many saying their faith has been “restored.” (My instinct is to write “rekindled” but that’s not the word they use.)

I’ve heard from many colleagues that they just did not respond to media queries, hesitating to speak too soon. Perhaps they wanted to discern “patiently,” wary of that “first decision.”

Francis has changed the game in the church and for the church in the world in ways that I know I don’t fully fathom.

The petitions are beginning, incorporating Francis’ words—and with Canon 212, I affirm everyone’s right to make their opinion known. But there is something new in Francis’ interview, another dimension in which we might act.

Francis evoked a vision of the whole church, at once the “people of God” and “holy mother the hierarchical church,” gathered together in pastoral closeness and in healing the wounded in “nearness, proximity,” “proclaiming the Gospel on every street corner.”

Perhaps the way forward is to take the first step in living that together as people and pastors?

At the risk of speaking too soon, let me hesitantly suggest that one way forward is to seek to act in the dimension Francis has opened.

Rather than sign a petition, ask your bishop to meet. Seriously, call and ask. If that isn’t possible, write him a letter of the sort Francis is receiving. Share your faith, your fears, your frustrations, your hopes, your tears.

Rather than signing petitions to be sent “to the places with power is exercised,” we could begin to invite, encourage and build these relationships. They might indeed be the “long-run historical processes” we need to start.

Maybe what we need most is not a cry for reform, but a cry to really be church together. In that, perhaps we might all agree, will be found the only true reform.

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Photo caption: Parishioners recite the Lord's Prayer during Mass at St. Mary of the Isle Church in Long Beach, N.Y., Aug 15, the feast of the Assumption of Mary. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

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