I have been trying to digest the words of Pope Francis from yesterday's published interview. There are posts galore commenting on his words.
Here's a section of the interview that particularly touched me:
“How are we treating the people of God? I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherdess. The church’s ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor. This is pure Gospel. God is greater than sin. The structural and organizational reforms are secondary—that is, they come afterward. The first reform must be the attitude. The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost. The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind. But they must also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.
“Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the 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.”
When I read this, it immediately brought to mind the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. You might think this odd, but there is a small rubric contained in the rite of acceptance into the order of catechumens that relates directly to what Pope Francis is talking about here. Here's the rubric, at number 48 of the RCIA:
The candidates, their sponsors, and a group of the faithful gather outside the church . . . As the priest or deacon, wearing an alb or surplice, a stole, and, if desired, a cope of festive color, goes out to meet them, the assembly of the faithful may sing a psalm or an appropriate song.
"Goes out to meet them." For me, these words are some of the most important in any liturgical text. You see, there are still parishes who have developed and still use a warped approach to this rubric. For convenience sake, instead of anyone going to meet the inquirers, everyone in the assembly, including the ministers, simply wait inside the church building, listening for a knock at the door. Someone opens the door and the inquirers and sponsors then enter. What does this say about the activity of welcoming? The activity that is evangelization? The activity that is the Church? What it says is that we simply wait for people to come to us; and this waiting is ritually passive in the scene I just described. Listen to what Pope Francis said: “Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the 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."
I think that what he is getting at here is found in those five words from the RCIA: "goes out to meet them." "Let us be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself . . ."
I am a refreshed Catholic these days. How about you?