For Christmas, my parents gave me a copy of A Big Heart Open to God: A Conversation with Pope Francis. I just finished it today and am immediately mailing it to a good friend of mine. I read most of the interview in bits and pieces when it was published, but reading the Pope’s words in book form, along with the accompanying reflections offered by other Catholics provided me with wonderful perspective. Two items stuck out in my second reading that I missed the first time.
Instead of begin just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage.
Ours is not a ‘lab faith,’ but a ‘journey faith,’ a historical faith. God has revealed himself as history, not as a compendium of abstract truths. I am afraid of laboratories, because in the laboratory you take the problems and then you bring them home to tame them, to paint them artificially, out of their context. You cannot bring home the frontier, but you have to live on the border and be audacious.
And something memorable from Cardinal Dolan’s reflections:
I’m always worried about where God seems to be absent. But Francis reminds me He’s always there, I’m just not noticing Him. That takes discernment. Where is He as I decide to merge a parish? Where is He as I mull over the budget? Where is He as I worry about dwindling Mass attendance? Pope Francis claims He’s there! In all those neuralgic areas where we think He’s sleeping … No. He’s there. I better discern that presence and that direction.