Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The lay auditors and the Synod: personal reflections

Like Elizabeth Scalia (read her post, and explore the links therein), I think that the contributions being made by the lay auditors at the Synod are of great interest.

I think what must be said first is that the contributions of the lay auditors have been totally faithful to Catholic teaching - there has been no expression of dissent. To suggest otherwise is to seriously misrepresent what is being said.

I link to the texts of four testimonies as published in the Vatican Press Office's daily bulletin: here, here, here and here.

Like one of these couples, I too have reflected on what exactly it was that my parents did that ensured that I and my brother and sister continued to live the Catholic faith when we left home. I have never been able to put my finger on any one strategy or programme that they undertook. One aspect, certainly, is that we left home with the idea of Sunday Mass as being just second nature. It certainly never occurred to me that it was something I should drop. I also remember my mother being somewhat annoyed when a parish priest thanked her for getting my brother and I out to serve Mass .... she did nothing of the sort as we headed off early to do so of our own initiative. With hindsight, what perhaps says more than anything else was the gift mother bought each of us just as the first of us was about the fly the nest - a statue of Our Lady of the Wayside. I can recall her saying how much trouble it had taken to find an attractive image, one that had a genuine beauty rather than the saccharine that can be found in some images of the Virgin Mary. And I only learnt years afterwards that it was my father's idea to use some money given to my parents for a family visit to Lourdes, again just before we started leaving home. (I now suspect that my father took part in one of the earliest, if not the first, International Military Pilgrimages to Lourdes.)

I also found interesting the observation of the couple with regard to a family welcoming a same sex couple at a family celebration. The lay faithful - and therefore families - live in the space between the Church, seen institutionally, and the world; or perhaps better, the live both in the Church and in the World. Is it for the parish, as institution, to welcome a same sex couple in this way? Or is it for families, as the parish lived in the world, to do so? It strikes me that the evangelising presence in charity, of which this is an example, pertains particularly to the mission of lay people who can undertake it with less risk of being seen to compromise Catholic teaching as a result. If we consider the situation of family members who marry outside of the Church in the same kind of way, then this experience of welcoming in charity must be the experience of many other families too.

I can also recognise the value in seeing marriage as a vocational choice, not just a social convention. Whilst I think the recent recovery, certainly in the UK, of the sense of the vocations to priesthood and religious life as having in a certain sense a "greater excellence" is a good development, nevertheless it is necessary to see marriage as a vocational choice too. For that reason it should be proposed to young people alongside those other vocations, precisely as a vocational choice. Its paradigm would not be that of the proposal by the man and the acceptance by the woman; rather it would be the shared discernment of a retreat.

I look forward to reading more testimonies from the lay auditors.

1 comment:

Deacon Augustine said...

You make some perceptive observations. I would say that there is nothing wrong with the parish welcoming people in irregular situations as long as both parties are clear about and respect the Church's law on reception of the sacraments. Even for those who cannot receive Communion, they are still part of the Catholic family and their presence at Holy Mass is important both for them and the wider community. I notice that especially among the recent arrivals from Eastern Europe, whole families only receive Communion infrequently which helps those who cannot receive "not to stand out."

You are absolutely right about the importance of marriage as a vocational choice. We have failed to teach the holiness and sacredness of marriage as a call from God, perhaps because we have stressed too much the value of celibacy understood in negative terms. Marriage is the highest call from God in the natural order and the sacrifice of celibacy derives its power and significance precisely from the goodness and holiness of what is being offered up to God. If we only see marriage as a "remedy" for those who cannot manage celibacy, then we are doomed to have a very negative conception of celibacy in turn.