Snowy February. The Council of the Baptized Open Forum on Tuesday, February 12, was diminished in numbers, but it was rich in Spirit. Sr. Catherine Michaud, C.S.J., whose doctoral work was on the pneumatology of Vatican Council II, led the discussion.
"Pneumatology"--the study of the Holy Spirit, God's action in the world, like the breath of wind that blows where it will. You knew that.
Catherine gave us a list of 15 "pillars" she derived from taking all the references to the Holy Spirit in the 16 documents of Vatican II, sorting and condensing the teachings into points that could have an impact on Catholic practice. Just what we needed! And
here is the list
for you to look over and think about.
On Tuesday, March 12, Catherine will continue to discuss this list of pillars with us at the March Open Forum. Come join us. We talked about 1-8, and will talk about 9-15 on March 12. We hold the Open Forum at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 700 S. Snelling in St. Paul, 7:00 p.m.
Here is a question that arises out of the insight of the #8 pillar: Do you sometimes hear people talk about the external institutional elements of the Church with exaggerated reverence as if they had been directly willed by God from the creation of the world and are, like God, immutable? Are all the visible, external features of the institution "sacred" in that sense? If not, can they be changed if they are not serving the people of God?
First look at the teaching of Vatican II: "The institution's forms of profession of faith, ministry, and sacramental economy serve primarily to make the communio that defines the Church visible. Only secondarily do these external features contribute to the identity of the Church." Pillar 8
The work of the Spirit brings a people together in community, and the people in concert with the Spirit create the institutional support system through which the community grows toward God. See Richard P. Mc Brien,
The Church: The Evolution of Catholicism, 2008, p. 89. "The fact that the chapter on the hierarchical structure of the Church [in
Lumen Gentium] follows the chapter on the People of God is . . . highly significant. This reverses the priorities and modifies the perspective of pre-Vatican II Catholic ecclesiology. The Church is primarily a people in whom God is present and through whom God acts on behalf of all humanity." That is what we preach.
What do you think are some external institutional features that could be adjusted to serve the growth of the community? Adjusting external features is what we have been calling "church reform". Reform is about humans making reasonable, wise, Spirit-guided decisions about how the institutional framework can best support the growth of the community in the life of the Spirit. "Majority rule" doesn't govern it; dialogic communication does. It shouldn't be as difficult as rocket science, and it has eternal consequences.
We have news about one reform in the works, one we hope will support growth in our community: the Archbishop's initiative to have a Lay Advisory Board and Lay Deanery Councils recognizes the presence of the Holy Spirit working through all the people of God in the Archdiocese. Here is the latest update from Fr. Michael Tix on that initiative:
"Work is progressing on the Lay Advisory Board. Much of our work right now has been follow-up to allow the greatest participation of people. I think that we now have 150 parish reps. These reps will be asked to participate in an inservice in March to learn more of their roles and responsibilities. Our goal is to have the first Lay Advisory Board meeting on Wednesday, March 27th. Since things are in this organizing phase at this moment, the plan for a next Catholic Spirit update will coincide with the inservice meetings."
If you are the representative chosen from your parish, you have our thanks for being willing to serve. Let us know if we can be of any help.