For many of us who have been reading through Michael Morwood’s Tomorrow’s Catholic, there arise strong feelings. Maybe these are feelings of elation and hope that someone (at last?) has articulated the doubts, hopes, fears that we all have about our Church. Maybe they are feelings of worry, even despair, that we’ll ever see adequate implementation of the vision that Morwood presents. Mostly, I suspect, readers are relieved by our common discussions to discover that we’re not alone in our feelings. Others share them. And therein lies the value of the book for us of IVC. Morwood has provoked us to substantial, productive dialogue.
Another thing, though, that has been occurring since Easter is our vicarious journey through the Acts of the Apostles via the daily readings at Mass. Luke has been recounting for us what he heard about (and even in some instances personally experienced himself) of what was happening in the very earliest years of the church’s existence. And, just as in his Gospel, Luke tells a terrific story. I think he’s the best story-teller of all, with about 25 of the best Gospel stories all his own: The Good Samaritan, The Prodigal Son, Zaccheus, The Road to Emmaus, etc., etc.
The stories Luke tells in Acts are vivid, vibrant, full of concrete details, the kind that pull us into the action. He doesn’t hesitate to recount episodes of conflict, even violence, within the early communities. Some of the stories are (at least to our ears) funny, like the one about Demetrius in Acts 19:21 ff. Others are rather sobering, like Paul’s prediction in the same chapter that “savage wolves will come among you . . . and from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth . . . .” He tells the story warts and all.
So what? Well, such things still happen. Our Church is divided. There are disagreements on every side, exaggerations, slander, name-calling, disparaging of opponents, etc. The Vatican hits on American nuns. The U.S. Bishops’ Conference investigates the Girl Scouts. Bishops close parishes and parishioners sue. That is our story, not unlike some moments in the earliest Church which Luke narrates.
But this is not unique to the Church. It’s part of the human condition. We disagree because that’s part of being human. We’ve been here before. We started out this way! We take our religion very seriously because we love it.
Think about that the next time we sing “Be not afraid! I go before you. Come, follow me!”
Simon (Si) E. Smith, S.J is a New England Jesuit with a broad background and varied international experience. He taught at different levels in Baghdad College, Iraq, Boston College, Weston Jesuit School of Theology, Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley and Nativity schools in Boston and Worcester. His major and preferred areas of instruction are Scripture and liturgy. He is known as an organizer and administrator, having spent a dozen years based in Washington, as Executive of Jesuit Missions for the U.S. and Canada. Si has published widely, is a popular lecturer, is fluent in French, Spanish and German and has traveled & worked extensively in the third world. And we are grateful that he also serves IVC as a Spiritual Reflector.