From Your Pastors
This past month in our evening prayer we have been reading from Michael Casey’s book “Balaam’s Donkey: Random Ruminations for Every Day of the Year”. Casey is a Cistercian monk of Tarrawarra Abbey in Australia. The book is a collection of his homilies, gathered from nearly sixty years as a monk. The reflection for June 22, which we read this past Tuesday, was entitled “indefectibility”. We offer his thoughts as theyseem as apposite today as at any time in the long and complex history of the church. They certainly seemed timely to us as our table conversation seemed to reflect the passionate debates echoing throughout the US Catholic church today.
Casey indicates that his reflection was written after a papal election (he does not say which). He notes that “indefectibility” teaches us that a remnant of God’s people will persevere in faith until Christ returns, “and that whatever is truly essential to the church will remain intact. Obviously, there will be heated discussion about what is truly essential. For the moment, I would like to let that question pass.”
“Let me offer an unconventional image of ecclesial indefectibility. I see it as being like an old drunk returning home from the pub... Sometimes he sings. Sometimes he weeps. Occasionally he becomes aggressive toward bystanders. As he walks, he wobbles and wavers. Then he sits down in the gutter and rests. Afterward he stands up and remembers where he is going; he makes his uncertain way onward and finallyarrives home. There you have a metaphorical rendering of the church’s history. You can stop the film at any moment and focus on what is happening then and make a judgment, or you can watch the whole saga and say: ‘Whatever the ridiculous reverses of the journey, eventually he made it home.’”
If we attempt to sanitize the church’s long history, in the manner of authoritarian governments everywhere, we risk generating unrealistic expectations about the present.
The indefectibility of the church is testimony to the fidelity not of its members but of God. God never deserts his people. As individuals our record of fidelity is not great, but as a group we give witness to a certain homing instinct which pulls us back toward our correct course whenever we go too far astray. Like Saint Peter, our first leader, we are often unfaithful, but God remains steadfast and true. Foibles and failures abound in the church. What sets us apart is not our blameless behavior but our active memory of Jesus Christ and our hopeful vision of our way home...”
Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. (John 6:37-39)
Balaam’s Donkey: Random Ruminations for Every Day of the Year, Michael Casey OCSO, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 2019.
Fr. Mark Lane, c.o. and Fr. Michael Callaghan, c.o.