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Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Meeting People "Where they are"

An interesting, (I'LL be the judge of that, I tend to say when someone starts an anecdote or conversation that way... so, interesting to me, anyway, I should say,) synchronicity of events.
We have a transitional deacon at the parish just now. He was put on the spot recently presiding over a devotion that is a parish tradition which, he, not being from the parish, understandably knew not very much about.
(That's a general problem in the town where I now live. Whilst sojourning down east, as they say, Himself and I had a joke about certain parts of New England, where it was difficult to find direction and location signs -- we said there should be notices everywhere posting the Yankee philosophy, "If it were any of your business where you were, you'd already know." And people in this community believe they can leave an awful lot unsaid -- often directions include a street referred to as "the avenue" -- as if there were only one. Or only one that mattered, anyway. They remind me of a beloved great-aunt of mine who used to describe places with landmarks that had passed into history “before The War.“ An expression the use of which in itself is an example so what I am talking about -- which “war?” I digress.)
With Exposition and Benediction coming up, I told the pastor that if the deacon would be assigned to preside at either opening or closing to tell him he could get in touch with me if he wanted to go over any of the sung parts, or if he wanted to be accompanied during the actual event.
The pastor, (who I have always thought of as more or less progressive leaning, though completely orthodox, so this exchange surprised me,) thanked me and bemoaned the lack of liturgical formation his community seemed to be giving their members in seminary, and said he intended to speak to someone in authority about it. He said they were particularly neglectful of anything that smacked of "traditional," and all but used his fingers to make air quotes, and gave no doubt that he found such an anti-traditional bent lamentable.
The day after this conversation I sat down to skim through the newsletter from their community which had just arrived, and there was a column about vocations and an acknowledgement that sometimes communities need to change or die, and asking if the community was willing to sacrifice "authentic" parts of itself in order to survive, i.e. attract new vocations.
"Those of the millennial generation have a lot of different ideas than us. Studies show that many of them are attracted to the Church through more traditional devotions, (for example, Eucharistic devotions.) Some of us may not understand this attraction."
To which I can only reply, Huh? You are saying that some of you do not understand why anyone would be attracted to, devoted to, the Lord in the Eucharist?
I can see how you might not share it, (not all devotional practices are going to fit all peoples' spiritual needs all the time,) but to not UNDERSTAND it? to imply that you were sacrificing some aspect of being "true to [yourselves]" by encouraging or promoting, (or even neutrally refraing from discouraging,) such Adoration?
Because in context it sounds as if Eucharistic Adoration is somehow in conflict with the community's identity, as these boomers see that identity.
And further, "Many young people... long for peace, solace and silence. They like the quite contemplation offered by Eucharistic devotion.... the idea of habit for women religious is intriguing -- but they have no idea why people in their 50s and 60s are so opposed to it."
Okay, I'll bite (although I'm nearly twice the age of some of the people whom they seek to attract to vocations,) WHY? why are people in their 50s and 60s "opposed" to women religious in habits? (which is not the same thing as not preferring to wear on oneself, the way I read the quote.)
But the column strikes an optimistic note, the community is open-minded, an attraction to Eucharistic devotions would not be a deal breaker.
The funny thing is, I was a member of this parish for several years before I was aware that it was not staffed by the diocese, (Miss Oblivious of 2001,) or what their community was, and instead, first became aware of the community through online resources, and meeting members of it “virtually,” because of Catholic Spiritual interests that I was developing that were, by most peoples’ assessment -- traditional.

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