A final reminder to read the wording of Proposal 3 very carefully and some of the analysis surrounding this proposal. Links are provided at the stregis.org website. There is a link as well to my video “A Message from Our Pastor” as to why I am personally voting “No” on Proposal 3 and encouraging others to do the same.
*St Regis’ “Book of Life”
Prior to COVID, we placed a book near the baptismal font each November so that people could write in the names of loved ones who had died, especially since the previous year. We have re-instituted that practice this year. Write in any names you wish. Each weekend Mass will include a petition for the deceased and then for “all those written in our Book of Life.” Thank you.
* Pope Francis and the Synod of Bishops on “Synodality in the Church”
Last week I summarized the U.S. Bishops’ chapter on “Enduring Wounds,” which is part of their response to the Vatican in preparation for the Synod. But I did not say much about the last “wound”—the marginalization so many people feel when dealing with the Church—other than quoting the document. The summary noted that all sixteen regions made mention of this marginalization, and so it is something that all of us should be aware of. Some who feel marginalized lack the social and/or economic power to feel fully part of the Church’s life and leadership. This includes immigrants, ethnic minorities, the homeless, those in prison, as well as those who are poor. In particular, the report notes how many women feel that their voice is insufficiently heard in the Church, especially in leadership.
Because the Church, at least in the foreseeable future, will not be opening up ordination to the priesthood to women, it becomes even more important to clearly separate those leadership positions which require ordained leadership and those that have no essential connection to ordination. Pope Francis recently did just that for a number of Vatican positions, making it possible for lay men and women to be in very significant leadership positions. In the past the Church defaulted to ordained men for all such positions and even balked at allowing lay people to have direct authority over an ordained co-worker. Much of that was due to inertia—it is so hard to move an institution that is set in place—but also because it is much easier to control those in leadership if they are ordained. Bring in lay people and the employer has to follow all labor laws, can no longer simply dismiss a person from their position, and so forth.
Pope Francis also commissioned a task force to look at the question of women deacons from a historical perspective. The commission was of two minds. One group believed the historical evidence is quite clear that in the early centuries some women were ordained as deacons, using the same or similar sacramental rituals for the ordination, and so it makes no sense to say women cannot be ordained deacons. The other group insisted that the historical evidence only pointed to women in a special deaconess role, mostly to assist with women who were to be baptized, and such women were not seen as ordained in the same way as the male deacons. You can guess my own historical judgment—pretty clear to me that the Church did in the past, and certainly could now or in the future, ordain women as deacons. But even if that step is not taken, why couldn’t women be named cardinals? A cardinal is a papal-appointed position. Most are bishops, a few over the years have been priests, some have been lay men prior to being appointed cardinal, but there is nothing inherent in the position that would make it necessary to be ordained. The role of a cardinal is to advise the pope on matters pertaining the to unity and good of the universal Church, and, if under 80 years of age, be one of the electors should a Pope die or resign. Wouldn’t it be good to have some wise women do that advising and electing as well as men? Would there be a lot of awkwardness and negative feedback in instituting such a change? Yes, but so what.
After expressing the wounds, the U.S. Bishops’ Summary then turns to several areas of “hope,” ways that people hope the Church can build on what it is already doing in order to become even better at serving the mission of Jesus Christ. For example, one such hope is that of “Enhancing Communion and Participation.” This chapter points out that there was nearly universal agreement on the centrality of the Eucharist in the lives of Church members, even if there were lots of differences about how to make it more engaging (better preaching, better singing, more Latin, less Latin, etc.). Moreover, nearly all the regions expressed the desire for and a belief that the Church can be “more welcoming.” As one region put it (quoted in the summary): “The Church seems to prioritize doctrine over people, rules, and regulations over lived reality. People want the Church to be a home for the wounded and broken, not an institution for the perfect. They want the Church to meet people where they are, wherever they are, and walk with them rather than judging them; to build (continued on page 4)
real relationships through care and authenticity, not
Pointedly, the groups quite often mentioned in this regard were those who feel the Church condemns them or other family members with its teaching (most especially our teaching on marriage, divorce, and sexuality). Regions expressed a desire for the Church to find a way to accompany such persons and their families in an authentic way. Accompanying does not mean the Church will change its teaching. It does mean the Church needs to listen to the experiences of those who feel excluded and take seriously how they are experiencing the grace of God in their lives, even if their lived experiences go contrary to the teaching of the Church.
Finally, to enhance communion and participation the Summary talks about the need to take seriously the experiences of those who feel excluded not because of Church teaching issues, but because of how the Church is too often experienced as closed or unwelcoming to them. In this regard the Summary mentions racial and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, and most especially the youth in our parishes. In that regard I loved what one region said, after listening to the youth and young adults who participated in the listening sessions in that region. Do not call us, they said, “the future of the Church.” Rather, includes us now in ministries, on councils and other leadership groups. That is a wonderful insight. In many areas of the world, this would not be an issue, because the majority of Church members are under forty years of age. In the U.S. and Europe, however, where so much is structured around older Catholics (and, to be honest, the support of older Catholics makes possible the existence of current structures), we have to stop seeing youth as a problem area to be solved and let them lead us and surprise us with the ways they want to get involved and shape the Church.
We are at a crisis point in the Church—we can choose to maintain a tight hold on customs that are not essential to our identity, thereby becoming a much smaller, more uniform, more closed-in Church, or we can embrace the “open windows” model, which Pope John XXIII began with the Second Vatican Council and find ways to become a more youthful, energetic Church, open to the future. I think Pope Francis sees the upcoming Synod as a step in that direction. Next time, another area of hope: lifelong formation as disciples.
*Save the Dates
Each Advent we have a number of opportunities to deepen our faith. Here are some “Save the Dates” for Advent:
Communal Penance Service for Advent on Saturday December 3 from 3-4 p.m. and Tuesday December 6 from 7:00-8:00 p.m. The initial focus will be on our First Reconciliation students, but then open to all who want to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Advent by Candlelight, Sunday evening December 4, open to all women. We will begin in the Church with song, prayer and an inspirational talk by Nancy Murphy, a mother of four adopted children, then head to the Birmingham Athletic Club for dinner and celebration.
Men’s Prayer Breakfast, Saturday morning December 10, open to all men, young and old, in the Fr. Shields Hall. The Knights of Columbus will provide the breakfast followed by prayer and an inspirational talk by Tom Graves, a family physician, member of St. Paul on the Lake Parish, and active in evangelization.
Holy Hour for Vocations to the Priesthood, Tuesday evening December 13, 7:30-8:30 p.m. One of four such Holy Hours being sponsored by the West Maple Family of Parishes in response to Archbishop Vigneron’s call to dedicate this year to a year of prayer for vocations to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Detroit.
Advent Communal Penance Service, Monday December 19, 7:00 p.m. at Holy Name, sponsored by the West Maple Family of Parishes. Several priests will be present for individual confession.