Joy of the Gospel in America
Convocation - Day 4
It seems to me, that, regardless of all the divisions within our church, the center continues to hold. Unity is easier when we are all the same; it is more challenging - and more beautiful - when the differences among us are recognized and embraced. At the closing Mass, I was struck by our diversity - the disabled among, and leading, with the able, young and old, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, native, lay, religious, ordained, women, men, cradle Catholics and converts.
Patrick Lencioni (Amazing Parish) reminded us that we have, as Stephen Covey taught, two circles; one of influence and the other of concern. We need to keep these separate and distinct and build our circle of influence. It is easy to get bogged down in concerns that we cannot influence; we get disheartened and are tempted with resignation. By focusing on our circle of influence - taking baby steps - we actually begin to grow our influence and can effect more change.
How do you grow your circle of influence; focus on your self, focus on your team, and build a healthy organization. Lencioni has written a lot on team; start by building trust, then learn how to handle conflict in a positive way, build commitment for the mission, hold each other accountable, and stay focused on results.
Bishop Robert Barron (Los Angles), via video stream, reminded us that we have a huge challenge before us, "a fight on our hand" and that the saints never backed away from a "good fight." He noted that for every Catholic that enters the church today, six leave and only 50% of those who call themselves Catholic go to Mass on a regular basis.
He sees three obstacles and three opportunities to the Evangelization of our culture. The challenges are scientism, m'eh (indifference), and the culture of indifference. The opportunities are the transcendentals; truth, goodness, and beauty.
We are beguiled by science and seduced by its offspring technology. Science itself is revered by the church that has always celebrated both faith and reason. Scientism makes science an idol; the new savior of humankind.
On the personal level, indifference, what Barron named "m'eh," is the personal loss of objective truth. Young people affirmed a 5'10" white male reporter when he told them he was a woman, continued the affirmation when he added he was Asian, and, a little reluctant at first but still "go for it if that is really you" when he told them we was also 6'2". Citing John Henry Cardinal Newman, Barron asked where the river "gets its verb," its energy? From its banks. Without its banks, without objective truth, the river becomes a lake, placid, diffused, stagnant.
Finally, the culture of self invention - drawing on Nietzsche's will to power - has created volunteerism - the world is what I want it to be. My freedom determines the meaning of my life. The will triumphs over the intellect.
The first opportunity is truth. Catholicism is an intelligible religion; we have to stop dumbing it down. Each of us need our personal explanation - our elevator speech if you will - on the existence of God. Barron has found contingency helpful; everything is contingent. There must be something that is not. The argument from intelligence - that there is an innate intelligibleness to everything that is suggest a supreme intelligence.
Goodness is another avenue to the truth of our faith. Barron lifted up St. Teresa of Calcutta, as a shining example someone who fell in life with God's purpose for her life and recognized, revered, and cherished the innate goodness of each person - even the poor and dying in the streets of Calcutta.
Finally, Barron spoke of the beautiful - not personal taste but that which is objectively valuable. He likes Chicago style pizza - that is his personal taste. Someone else may prefer New York pizza. The great works of art - such as the Sistine Chapel or Ode to Joy - grabs you by the shoulders with its truth and goodness. Beauty haunts and edifies.
During the final breakout session, twenty-five missionaries gathered to discuss next steps. We need to see each other and connect to one another. We committed to building a comprehensive list of all organizations doing mission and Evangelization. Second, we will work together to identify mission sites that are willing and able to welcome mission teams. Finally, we will work together to move mission from the fringe - from the periphery - to the heart of the church.
Cardinal DiNardo, in his homily, reflects on John Chapter 16 where Jesus invites his disciples - us - into the intimacy of his prayer with and to the Father. May we be one as Jesus is one with the Father. We are one, and we are sent into the world just as the Father sent Jesus into the world.
Archbishop Pierre, the Holy Father's representative to the United States was given the last word. He affirmed this wonderful gathering as a significant moment in the life of the US church. He noted that for those who do not believe that Pope Francis is the cure for what ills the Church, then they do not understand the disease. The Archbishop will report positively how the U.S. Church has taken to heart the Joy of the Gospel.
Together in Mission,
Dr. Donald R. McCrabb