Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Tenth Challenge: Building on the Strengths of the Church

By Paula Ruddy

Concluding our special Countdown to Synod 2010 series . . .

In Church: Living Communion, Paul Lakeland ends his list of challenges with a beginning. Recognizing the problems that we as the contemporary Church have, we then need to go on and reaffirm our strengths and build on them.

Those of us who are intensely aware of the problems need this advice. We can tend toward negativity, not a healthy mindset for us or for the mission of the Church.

What are the strengths we can build on? Paul lists five key strengths of the Roman Catholic Church.

First is its liturgical life. The Eucharist is the heart of Catholic spirituality. Paul says: “We have to find the way in which we can ensure that whatever happens to the Church, we will always find the Eucharist at its center.” (p. 117)

Second, the ministry of lay people which is growing and will soon outnumber the total of active priests is a sign of vitality in the Church.

Third is the global reach of the Church and the pluralism of cultures within it, its catholicity. The value of power is in getting work done. Individual congregations can be powerful centers of energy for the individuals in them and in their own locale, but in consolidation of resources and in collaborative structures there is an increase of power. Of course, this can lead to over-centralized domination, but power used for the benefit of human development is a good thing. It is up to the members of the Church to see to it that power is used for the mission of the Church.

Fourth the strength particularly the possession of the U.S. Church “can be of most value to the worldwide community of faith.” It is the culture of democratic values. “We have a say in choosing our leaders, we do expect them to listen to us, and we do hold them accountable. These strengths of a democratic society are expectations that people do not entirely lay aside when they put on their religious faces. And so the challenge will be to figure out how the best of our democratic traditions can play a part in the Church without us becoming a people of committees, factions, and procedures.” (p. 118)

The fifth and final strength Paul cites is hope. “Our religious faith is in fact best understood as ‘fidelity to hope,’ and our hope as Christians is in the saving message of the Gospel, that Jesus Christ is the revelation of God in history and the Savior of the whole of humanity.” (p. 118)

That completes our countdown. PCV thanks Paul Lakeland for the inspiration. The Synod of the Baptized is Saturday, the 18th, and we have 500 faithful, hopeful people coming to hear Paul and to gear up for the heavy lifting required to build on the strengths of the Roman Catholic Church.

See also the previous PCV posts
The First Challenge: Identity and Commitment
The Second Challenge: Ministry - Ordained and Lay
The Third Challenge: The Roles of Women in the Church
The Fourth Challenge: Church Teaching and Individual Conscience
The Fifth Challenge: The Religious Formation of the Young
The Sixth Challenge: The Scandal of Sexual Abuse
The Seventh Challenge: Ecumenism
The Eighth Challenge: Religious Pluralism
The Ninth Challenge: The Church and Political Life

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