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'I prepared a speech, but I will give it to the bishop.'

Today Pope Francis met with a group of Italian priests. Rather than delivering his prepared remarks, he chose to take questions from the assembly. During that conversation, the pope told the following story:

Two years ago, a priest went to Argentina as a missionary. He was from the Diocese of Buenos Aires and he went to a diocese in the south, to an area where for years they had no priest, and evangelicals had arrived. He told me that he went to a woman who had been the teacher of the people and then the principle of the village school. This lady sat him down and began to insult him, not with bad words, but to insult him forcefully: 'You abandoned us, you left us alone, and I, who need of God's Word, had to go to Protestant worship and I became Protestant.'

This young priest, who is meek, who is one who prays, when the woman finished her discourse, said: 'Madam, just one word: forgiveness. Forgive us, forgive us. We abandoned the flock.' And the tone of the woman changed. However, she remained Protestant and the priest did not go into the argument of which was the true religion. In that moment, you could not do this.

In the end, the lady began to smile and said: 'Father, would you like some coffee?' 'Yes, let's have a coffee.' And when the priest was about to leave, she said: 'Stop here, Father. Come.' And she led him into the bedroom, opened the closet and there was the image of Our Lady: 'You should know that I never abandoned her. I hid her because of the pastor, but she's in the home.' It is a story which teaches how proximity, meekness brought about this woman's reconciliation with the Church, because she felt abandoned by the Church.

And I asked a question that you should never ask: 'And then, how things turn out? How did things finish?' But the priest corrected me: 'Oh, no, I did not ask anything: she continues to go to Protestant worship, but you can see that she is a woman who prays. She faces the Lord Jesus.' And it did not go beyond that. He did not invite her to return to the Catholic Church.

Read the rest at Vatican Radio.

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"I am not some post-conciliar novelty..." is my new favorite Pope Francis quote.

What a lovely story! I am sure Protestants everywhere are very much encouraged.

At some point, someone is going to need to invite that woman, or at least help her to realize that she is invited.  I hope that the priest is playing a "long game".  

Mollie,

Before broadcasting the "quote" further, check the Italian:

Per me le chiacchiere fanno tanto danno. E non sono una novità post-conciliare…. Già San Paolo dovette affrontarle, ricordate la frase: "Io sono di Paolo, io sono di Apollo ……" Le chiacchiere sono una realtà presente già all’inizio della Chiesa, perché il demonio non vuole che la Chiesa sia una madre feconda, unita, gioiosa.

The Pope is speaking of "chiacchiere" -- gossipy words, and he says they (plural in Italian) are not a post-conciliar novelty; already St. Paul had to contend with them. The "non sono" is not "I am," but "they are."

Perhaps Eugenio Scalfari is now translating for Vatican Radio!

Aw. Disappointing.

Jim, P, if I understand the pope, this woman is already being "invited in." Indeed, she is already "in" in some important sense. By his tact, the priest shows her that he and she are both "en route," both seeking to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

I'm particualrly taken with this story because i have the constant temptation to try to show others how right i am. It's fine for me to aspire to being right, but I have to be aware of the risk I run of wielding whatever truth  that I may have arrived at like a cudgel.

if I understand the pope, this woman is already being "invited in." Indeed, she is already "in" in some important sense. 

She seems to be in a state of spiritual confusion, in which she needs to (literally) hide her devotion to the Blessed Virgin from her pastor.  I don't think she is all the way "in".  

 

 

I don't think she is all the way "in".

Who is? :-)

 

Bernard D is right.

Jim Pauwels, do you believe that only Catholics are in Jesus' "club"?  Do you believe that Jesus only "invites" people into one particular denomination in christianity or does Jesus invite all of us to follow him, on whatever path God has planned for each individual.

Does not the fact that the woman prays, worships with others at her church,  "faces Jesus", and tries to live a gospel-inspired life mean that she has already accepted the invitation of God  and does not need to be "invited' into anything by a Catholic priest?

Jeanne, I agree 100 percent with what Bernard said, especially about the temptations of the evangelist. But, at the same time, I agree with what I take to be Jim's position, that there is more than she now knows available if she returns to her roots. She wouldn't have to hide the Blessed Mother from her pastor if she were a Catholic. There is no real conflict between those positions. We'll all -- including the woman, her pastor, the ministr and thr pope --merrily meet in heaven if we all stick to them.

 

She wouldn't have to hide the Blessed Mother from her pastor if she were a Catholic.

 

Many Catholics were made to feel ashamed of their devotional practices when the liturgical movement told them to use a missal instead of a rosary and mocked them for preferring the good old Marian hymns to the new stuff.  In fact, that still goes on. 

It is one thing to honour Mary as first disciple, as theotokos, as prefiguring the church, as the new Eve. It is another to have processions with statues depicting her as a white European, draped with roses, and carried aloft. I think that places devotion outside of the Bible and even tradition.

Also some of the St .Jude novena procedures read like chain letters. E.g.mmake sure to publicize this in the paper, etc.

I don't see how this is really helpful in terms of people's faith. At least the rosary centers around the mysteries in the life of Jesus.

Prayer and devotion are all well and good and I should do more but some practices and popular piety are a bit much and seem disconnected from authentic piety, for example gang bangers wearing rosaries or tatoos of our Lady of Guadelupe. I knew one social worker who did not have any religious faith who found it odd when she would visit some woman of usually  Latin American ethnicity who would have statues plastered around her home, pictures of the Virgin Mary, etc. all the while with three kids with different fathers struggling with drugs and so on. That is where some people see the disconnect.

Congar, I undestand, is responsible for inserting the words "subsist in" when referring to other Christians participation in the RC Church. I believe he pressed for these words among purists who see the RCC as the Mecca of Christianity. Benedict played on these words in Dominus Jesus, another action to show that we are better than them. Augustine gave this kind of thinking a major push when he taught that non conforming Catholics could be forced to obey the Catholics.

John XXIII put this in perspective when he refused a Jewish man's desire to convert, telling him not to. Now Francis makes the same point. It is like Jesus said of the pitiful  religious leaders of his time: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves." Francis also apologized to the Pentecostals for the Catholic persecution of them. We have to remember that Jesus always preached orthopraxy over orthodoxy. The Church as Empire does not understand that the beatitudes are the name of the game. Not empty dogma.

This is one of the few instances during the eight-year life of the commonweal blog that I have seen such an intense discussion of Mother Mary.  And George D, in Africa one may see a black Madonna, in Europe and the western world a "white" madonna, in Mexico, Central and South America, a dark-skinned hispanic, or indian Madonna.  Thus is political correctness vanquished in the gentle and wise person of the Mother of God.  And there is, in one of her litanies, the, to me, most beautiful of praises: Mary, Glory of Israel.  Indeed and Amen.

Wow, George D, you provide a perfect illustration of what I was talking about.  

 

Hi, Jeanne, I hope you don't mind if I don't permit myself to be cross-examined :-).  But I would note this: if I answered "Yes" to your questions, I'd be taking a pretty triumphalist stance - a position to which I think the meek priest in this anecdote is in no way entitled.  The church already had abandoned this woman.  I take her response to the priest to be that of a woman who felt betrayed by that abandonment.  She didn't switch to some other denomination because she liked it better; she grasped the only lifeline offered to her.  If the priest asks her forgiveness and demonstrates the church's good faith, it may be that she can somehow be brought to forgive the church, and she may be happier as a formal member of the Catholic church, as it seems that it is where her spirituality is at home.  (Indeed, rereading the anecdote, I see the Holy Father also uses the language of abandonment and reconciliaiton.)

My comment was prompted by my conviction that the church needs to let the woman know that she is welcome.  It needs to let her know that it is sorry that it abandoned her, and that it wants her.  Such words, in my view, need to be spoken; they shouldn't be left unspoken, as though it should be obvious.  It is not obvious.    It is not obvious to many people in many different situations that the church welcomes them, that it wants them to be part of her.  Too often, the opposite is true: because of experiences, whether that of abandonment as this woman experienced, or of any of a thousand and one other experiences, people perceive that they are not welcome, that the church does not want them and has no interest in them.

 

 

 And there is, in one of her litanies, the, to me, most beautiful of praises:Mary, Glory of Israel.

As a child in first grade, many decades ago, I loved saying the Litany of Loretto after Mass.  Tower of David, Tower of Ivory, House of Gold, etc.  My favorite was Morning Star.  As an adult, on my first visit to China, I bought a picture on silk of a Chinese Madonna.  Her title was written below in Chinese characters.  I had to ask the translator what it said:  Morning Star.

I've known many people in my life who were devoted to Mary, but never one who would think of her as the "new Eve", whatever that means.  It seems to be a way of keeping her far from humanity, far from being a real woman who went to a wedding at Cana and sang and danced and drank wine.  And far from being a real woman who went to her cousin Elizabeth's house to help her through childbirth.  And far from being a wife and mother.  Better to think of her as "prefiguring the church."  

 

Jeanne L, what matters is what the Catholic Church teaches. The Catholic Church does not consider itself a denomination. If what you say is true, there is no need for the Catholic Church at all. If fact, there is no need to believe anything. Do you think Jesus is perfectly happy that the woman in question is not receiving his Real Presence in the Eucharist, that she is now visibly out of communion with the community that the Lord established, the Catholic Church? Do you think none of this matters? It does not mean that Jesus is going to exclude her from his Kingdom, but it does matter. To say otherwise is contrary to everything the Church has taught since its founding. Go and read the first letter of John and you will see that right belief is important.

Bill, so you believe whatever seems congenial to you, yes?

 

David, Jesus did not found the "Roman Catholic" church. 

So what matters is what Jesus taught those who followed him, in words and more importantly, in his deeds. His followers were not Roman Catholics, but Jews, just as he was.  The stories of his teachings were written down in the gospels.  Eventually Jesus' followers were known as christians.  The Catholic church may not consider itself to be a christiian "denomination" but everyone else does.  The Catholics and the Orthodox trace their histories to the early centuries of the christian church (and both teach that they alone are the "true" church that Jesus "founded"). So together, they might be looked at as the "trunk". But a healthy tree does not have just a trunk, it has branches and leaves. Without the branches and leaves the trunk dies and vice versa. So it's better not to cut off all those branches and leaves.

 God's wisdom and love is not constrained by the limited understanding of human beings, who are always anxious to decide who is "in",  leaving the rest "out"  Even some of those who commented on this article use that kind of  language - classifying some who seek God and try to follow Jesus' teachings as being "in" or, by implication, "out", although there was a clarification on one comment and the use of "invite in".    If the Holy Spirit is leading Protestant evangelists to small, rural towns in Latin America where they form Christian communities that teach the gospel, then perhaps there is a reason for this that God knows, even if not all Catholics get it.   It seems that Pope Francis does get it. Thanks be to God!  Once amost all Latin American christians were members of the Roman Catholic church. Now more and more of them have become Protestant. Do you not think that the Holy Spirit might be leading this movement and has a good reason for it? Do you question God's wisdom?

Some comments about the Roman Catholic church are very  "self-referential"  - they refer only to what the Catholic church teaches about itself - (the Catholic church does not consider itself to be a denomination....to say otherwise is contrary to everything the church has taught since its founding" etc.).   So the church says  (about itself) that it alone is the "true" church, a claim also made by the Orthodox. Half of the world's christians disagree.  They too are part of "the church".  Perhaps it would be better to say that all people are the "true' people of God and stop worrying about which church is "the one true" and which people are "in" and simply try to follow what Jesus has taught.

Yes, Jesus did found the Catholic Church. And yes, I know Jesus and many of his first followers were Jews. I know well the history of the Church. I have read a great deal. The bottom line is that Jesus did found the Catholic Church. That is what the teaching of the Catholic Church is. It is not a question of "may", the Catholic Church is not a denomination. There was no "Christian" Church. There never has been a "Christian" Church. Leave off with the nonsense about a trunk, branches, and leaves.

Do you really believe the Lord is leading people away from the Church he founded? Do you really believe the Lord wills division? I question your understanding of God's wisdom. I hope you do not claim to be Catholic. If you think you are, you are definitely not by the standard of what the Catholic Church actually teaches.

I stand by what the Catholic Church teaches. As for the Orthodox and other Christians, read the following 2007 CDF document:

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20070629_responsa-quaestiones_en.html

David July 30, 2014 - 5:40am

Bill, so you believe whatever seems congenial to you, yes?

David, this is a response from someone who wants to pontificate rather than dialogue. Do you stand by the bishops approval of Charlemagne when he had people beheaded who refused to be baptized? The RCC always has an important role to play. But the people who are the church must make sure that it is faithful to Jesus. 

 

Gerhard Lohfink is right, I believee, when he stressess the necessity for the Church being a visible earthly community. Like the Jewish community of which Jesus and His first disciples were members, the Church has an essential role in making the Kingdom of God a rreality. Its fundamental mission os to maniffest and make present the saving work of Jesus. Its mission is universal. The history of the relationships between the Roman Catholic Church and other communities of baptized Christians is complex, as the ecumenical efforts have so often shown. Unity is the ultimate objective, but the path to it is not obvious. We Catholics, like all baptized Christians, have an ongoing responsibility to look for ways to promote this unity, but we have to do so in full awareness that it is God who provides the opportunities and resources for our efforts. Something of the same can be said of the relationships of Christians to non-Christians.

Part of this ecumenical work is the task of theologians to present the essential doctrines of the Gospel. Part of the work of the Catholic Church is to insure that these doctrines are made available to the world. At bottom, all this doctrinal work is in service of the loving worship of God to which every person is invited by in God's own way. How are African animists called? How are intellectually serious atheists called? We believers don't know, but we do believe that God does call them and they can and do, we hope, respond favorably.

Our place as Catholics, is to offer our lives as witnesses to the Gospel, always aware that we do so imperfectly and sometimes badly. So--we Catholics, all of us, need both to show and to pray to receive mercy and forgiveness. This is no "relativism." It's a hard truth that is always in need of emphasis.

 

 

It is a response from someone who is puzzled that you claim to be Catholic, yet you are dismissive of dogmatic teachings.

It was not Congar who put the words "Subsistit In", but the Dutch Jesuit Sebastian Tromp. He had also drafted a few of Pope Pius XII's encyclicals. Given that he had theological battles with Rahner and other like-minded theologians during the council, he would have been in no way aligned with liberal interpretations of "Subsistit In".

Bernard - what a wonderful comment you've made at June 30, 10:24 ET / 9:24 CT.

To folks who have commented so far - I don't think the Pope's anecdote is meant to illustrate that Catholics are righter than Protestants.  Nor do I think it is meant to illustrate that Protestant denominations are just as a-ok as the Catholic church in all respects, such that it doesn't really matter which church or denomination a person joins.  Clearly, the Protestants who came into 'Catholic territory' in Argentina and 'converted' those Catholics to Protestants don't believe that, and the Catholic Church doesn't really believe that either.

For those involved in missionary work - in the nuts and bolts of evangelizing - ecumenical conflict is a difficult fact of life.  I would think that Francis, because of his heritage and background, would be more attuned to this than a European pontiff might be.  In this anecdote, I think he is holding up a priest who, in his estimation, is handling these difficult on-the-ground situations quite well.  He is bearing witness with a humility that is appropriate for a public minister of the Church that, in this instance, had previously abandoned a member of the flock (what a grave sin that must have been).  He is witnessing with spiritual authenticity and sensitivity.

That's my takeaway, anyway.

 

My take was sort of like Jim Pauwel's with a bit of a twist perhaps. My sense is that the woman, and by extension a lot of her neighbors were essentially Catholics at heart, but the Church left them alone. The Protestant missionaries came an filled a yearning for God and continue to fill that yearning while the Catholic Church sends someone only occasionally. If the Church were available on a regular basis, it could very well have a chance to keep, or bring back these people. Since it isn't they take what is available. It is as simple as that. And Francis gets that. What would be the value of bringing the woman and her community back to a Church that cannot provide for their needs except on a once every few years basis? better they should take the "spiritual nourishment" that is available than live without.

David, 

I am dismissive of the Church of Dogma. Not teachings as such. The Church of Dogma refers to those who prefer orthodoxy over orthopraxy. Conformity became a big deal in the fourth century when people like Augustine used the secular arm to abuse and kill Catholics they disagreed with. For all you know I could be a better Catholic than you. At any rate your Church of Dogma has not refrained from blessing battleship and offering forgiveness for those who killed Muslims. ETC

You will have to give more evidence on your assertion that Congar did not author "subsist in." A person who worked with Congar informed me that Congar was especially proud of this insertion. Ironically, Congar pointed out that because there may be better people outside the church, that does not destroy the teaching of the church. 

Finally, what is your reason for not giving your name? Some are excused here but are known to the editors. What is your fear?

What Jim Dunn wrote.

From Wikipedia

"Recently Tromp's theology has merited some attention in relation to the Vatican II definition on the identity of the Catholic Church with the Body of Christ, which he greatly influenced. The Council stated that "the Church of Christ subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church". Father Karl J. Becker, a professor at the Gregorian University, has argued that the phrase "subsists in" was intended by Tromp "to reiterate that the Church of Christ, with the fullness of the means instituted by Christ,perdures forever in the Catholic Church".[citation needed][note 1] To some this interpretation signifies the roll-back of an "open Church" concept,[6] while to others[who?]it documents consistency in the theology of Sebastian Tromp and the Roman Catholic Church as a whole."

So David may be right about Tromp originating it. I need more time to look into the Congar connection. What is incontestably true is that Tromp wrote the schemata for the council presented by Ottaviani which was totally and summarily rejected by the Vatican II bishops. 

 

Jim D - yes, I really think you've nailed it.

 

Bill M - thanks for that Wikipedia quote.  From what article was it taken?

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by this, but I was: there is an entire Wikipedia article specifically on the controversy surrounding the meaning of the term subsistit in.  It includes this passage from a 2007 CDF document on the interpretation of that phrase, which may be relevant to our discussion:

The use of this expression ... does not change the doctrine on the Church. Rather, it comes from and brings out more clearly the fact that there are "numerous elements of sanctification and of truth" which are found outside her structure, but which "as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards Catholic Unity". "It follows that these separated churches and Communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation. In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation

 

 

 

Jesus wasn't a Catholic. I don't believe he cares what denomination Christians belong to, but he cares about what's going on in their hearts. Speaking of Mary, can I be the only Catholic who is put off by the way the church has embroidered her NT image with claims of perpetual virginity and an immaculate conception?

I htink it is somewhat true that many Catholics have raised Mary to the 4th member of the Trinity, as a Protestant friend of mine puts it.  His view is that Catholics tend to credit her for things Protestants credit to the Holy Spirit.  I'm not sure that is exactly true, but I can see where that view comes from, especially with some of John Paul II's ideas.  Interstingly, though, his Episcopla Church has incorporated some Marian devotion in recent years including a May Procession and Crowning.  He says their priest sees Mary as a role model for women and girls and a way to bring them more into the faith.  So I guess you never know...

The difference with the Episcopal church is that, given it's had women priests for 40 years now and a woman as presiding bishsop, Mary as a role model means something very different than it means in our male dominated church.

Bill, there must be very little in the NT that you consider acceptable. Undoubtedly, the bulky middle sections of the Gospels are what you prize most. I bet you are not much of a fan of the First Letter of John. John takes no prisoners. I am for believing and doing; there is no reason to pit them against each other. Conformity was a big deal from the very beginning. It is there in Paul, in John, Peter, Hebrews, Jude, James etc. Are you ticked off that John rallied against the growing gnostic tendencies among some Christians in the first Century? Was John putting too much emphasis on orthodoxy over orthopraxy when he railed against them? Should he not have let them all run wild and free as Homer Simpson would say?

I could give a surname, but how would you know it is my surname? Perhaps my first name is not David. My full name might be Diamond Rhodes or Hugh Lovett. :)

Really, it does not matter. If I were throwing verbal bombs about, then there would be good reason to banish me.

Crystal, do you believe Mary was perpetually a virgin and that she was conceived free of original sin? If not, how can you remain a Catholic when you do not hold to dogmatic teachings of the Church?

David, please - can we skip the inquisition here?  Whatever dissent or faith struggles folks are engaged in around here, they're well aware of them, in some cases they're a cause of pain, and there is no need for you to interrogate their beliefs.  Candidly, you're not entitled to public answers to questions like those you're throwing at Crystal.

"....do you believe Mary was perpetually a virgin and that she was conceived free of original sin?  If not, how can you remain a Catholic when you do not hold to dogmatic teachings of the Church?"   I don't believe that it is proper to "put the question" to people in this fashion.  People struggle with faith issues all the time.  It doesn't make them less Catholic or less good. I don't have a problem with the Marian teachings but there are some other ones I wrestle with from time to time.  No one of us has the right to declare anyone anyone else "in" or "out". We are all a work in progress.  I believe sometimes the struggle is a part of our spiritual growth.

David, I think "test your orthodoxy" questions like "how can you remain Catholic and not..." are indeed a form of bomb-throwing. And "I stand by what the Cartholic Church teaches," in this context, is also a form of bomb-throwing.

To answer one of your questions, I believe that Mary was conceived free of original sin because the Church teaches it, but I don't remotely understand it. Maybe some day, when I don't happen to keep running into people who were mugged on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho, I will have time to ponder and arrive at some mystical understanding of the dogma. I will not then impose it on anyone, much less a mugging victim. OK?

"David": Don't post on this thread anymore. 

do you believe Mary was perpetually a virgin and that she was conceived free of original sin? If not, how can you remain a Catholic when you do not hold to dogmatic teachings of the Church?

I find both of the ideas very hard to believe  ... the NT says Jesus had brothers and sisters, and original sin is an Augustine construct that even the Orthodox church doesn't believe.  It seems like the church felt the need for a "purer" version of Mary than is given in the NT ... why?

I remain a Catholic because of the stuff I *do* believe and like about being a Catholic  :)

Getting back to the story the Pope was telling, I believe Jim Dunn was correct in his comment at 2:08 that part of the problem is that the Church is spread so thin that it is unable to provide for the spiritual needs of people like this woman on more than an occasional basis.  I read a statistic that the ratio of priests to laity in S. Americais something like 1 to 7000.   We complain about the priest shortage here, but the ratio is close to 1/1300.  We talk about celibacy being an obstacle to vocations in the southern hemisphere (as well as here) but the educational requirements are, I feel, even more daunting.  Most of the time seminary and formation is at least 8 years post-secondary; even more for some religious orders. In countries without universal schooling through the secondary level, the priesthood is for all intents and purposes simply out of reach for many young men.  On the other hand, evangelical pastors are formed in a much more grassroots way, much more quickly.  I'm not saying that the Church should dumb down the priesthood.  I don't know what the anwer is, maybe more lay ministry and more emphasis on recruiting people for the diaconate. But if the Church isn't able to reach people more than once or twice a year, the evangelical and pentacostal groups are going to keep making inroads.

"On the other hand, evangelical pastors are formed in a much more grassroots way, much more quickly.  I'm not saying that the Church should dumb down the priesthood.  I don't know what the anwer is, maybe more lay ministry and more emphasis on recruiting people for the diaconate."

 

Katherine, 

The RCC is set up to rule not serve. The preeminent virtue is obedience since it fosters Empire. The reason it took so long to uncover the cover-ups with predator priests is that all Catholics are  taught that priests are special and one must have a super, super, extraordinary reason to criticiz them. Authority over service. It is okay for Catholics to go without the Eucharist as long as the sanctity of the clergy is unpheld. Or go buy some Indian and Nigerian priests. This is changing. And it is a paradigm change. Credit Vatican II and courageous leaders.. 

 

Thank you for sharing this story.  

 

Sometimes we underestimate the interior conflict that can come from sitting astride two traditions.  My mom’s family is Swedish and I was raised Lutheran in the Midwest, all very Prairie Home Companion like.  I was drawn to the Catholic Church in college and joined when I was 21.  I transferred from my Lutheran college to Franciscan University.  

 

A lot of my new friends and professors used the term “convert”.  I was always a little uncomfortable with the word “convert.”  I did not “convert.”  I was already a baptized believer in Christ, and I just found a new home for my faith.  It was not merely about picking one column of doctrines and practices as opposed to another column of doctrines and practices.  The reasons were more complex, more mysterious, and did not make a tidy conversion story that I could share on EWTN. 

 

Thirteen years later the Church has become my home.  Sometimes, it is not an easy home.  But this is where I pray and find communion, and this is the place from which I face Jesus.

 

I still keep a lot of Lutheran things in my “spiritual closet”.  I still know all the words to “Children of the Heavenly Father” by heart and sing it to my little girls when I rock them to sleep.  I still go to the St. Lucia festival at the local congregation.  

 

Faith is a mystery.  Who knows why this woman chooses to stay an evangelical while keeping a statue of Mary in her closet?  Maybe she became an evangelical at first because the Church abandoned her, but maybe she stays so because she has found something positive also that keeps here there.  Maybe she is conflicted and wishes she could take the statue out and display it, or maybe she is at peace and finds something meaningful and intimate about keeping the statue in the closet.  Maybe she loves her new church but gets a little thrill out of the rebellion of keeping the statue secret.  I’m a therapist by trade; if I’ve learned anything about human beings it is that consistency is not our strong point.

 

People aren’t spiritual trophies to be won and collected, and I think any evangelization effort that treats them that way is doomed to fail.  That does not mean do not evangelize; it means to engage people with humility and allow them to be authorities on their own hearts.  It means to approach all persons as the complex, individual mysteries that we are.  I think Pope Francis gets that.

As someone who keeps an idol of a bull in my closet, I empathize with this woman.

This might be off topic, but for those (Bill Mazzella, Jim Pauwels et al) who have been discussing Congar's role in sensus fidei fidelis and the sensus fidei fideliu,  jump over to the new discussion by J. Komanchak, The Instinct of Faith on Dot Commonweal.

Open the link he has for the document, Sensus fidei in the Life of the Church,  and scroll down to #43. 

 

 

Philip, many thanks.  I've begun plowing through the document, which seems very interesting.  I may have some comments under Fr. K's thread after I read it.

 

Abigail, thank you for sharing your story.  I totally agree with you that, "People aren't spiritual trophies to be won and collected, and I think any evangelization effort that treats them that way is doomed to fail  That does not mean do not evangelize; it means to engage people with humility and allow them to be authorities on their own hearts."  So often we treat people's conversions as a break from their past, rather than a continuation of their journey.  Of course they still carry things in their hearts that were of value to them, and that remain so.

I may be the only one unfamiliar with the Litany of Loreto that Gerelyn mentions, but here's a link: http://campus.udayton.edu/mary/prayers/loreto.html

I would say devotion to St. Mary the Virgin, as she is known in the Episcopal Church, has changed over the years. There are many parish churches devoted to her, and the Hail Mary was included in the 1928 BCP and prayed pn the Annunciation and Immaculate Conception. It is nowhere to be found in the revised edition introduced in the 1970s. Marian feast days are observed only in Anglo-Catholic or maybe some extremely spiky congregations. 

I like Bob S's notion that the depictions of the Virgin reflect those who venerate her. I think, in the same way, each of us finds some aspect of her of that speaks to us. Gerelyn sees her as a person who danced at a wedding. I see her as someone who knows what it is to lose a child. I'm darned if I can find an image of an elderly BVM, though she seems older in some of the Dormition icons from the Eastern tradition. The older I get, the more I think of her as an older woman whose life went on after Christ's death.

 

Jean, I am also fascinated by the thought of Mary "..as an older woman whose life went on after Christ's death." Tradition has it that she lived into her sixties, which back then qualified as old age.  I have read about the shrine of Mary's house in Ephesus , where supposedly she spent at least part of her elder years. It is said to be very peaceful and serene, with olive trees and a garden, hopefully it also was when she lived there. It is a place of pilgrimage for Muslim women as well as Christians. I hope she is interceding in heaven for the peace of the strife-torn Middle East.