To evangelise or not to evangelise

A couple of interesting comments came up from my post last week. Some commenters felt pretty strongly that rather than admiring my friend's steadfast commitment to her faith, I should be trying to evangelise her and make her see the "error of her ways".

Religion has always fascinated me. There is nothing I love more than meeting someone of a different faith and delving into what they believe and how they celebrate. So when I get together with my friend the conversation almost always ends up (through my leading) being about faith and what we hold similiar and different. My friend visits the Morman Temple in Hamilton each school holidays and I'm often curious about what she does there and what it's like inside. She also often visits Salt Lake City and I'll ask her about that. Sometimes I ask her about pictures she has hanging in her house. For me it has the same kind of feeling as a history lesson, history also being an area I'm fascinated with. It's just interesting.

I think the reason that this has been an enduring  friendship (of 13 years now) is that we both have equal respect and admiration for each other's faith. She doesn't try and evangelise me and I don't try and evangelise her. When I first met her I did worry that she might try and give me the hard-sell – Mormons are known for wanting to spread their faith and taking active steps to do so. But that has never been the case. She is equally interested in Catholicism as I am in LDS – she recently attended a Catholic wedding and had lots of questions for me about the church and the ceremony, all asked in a curious and respectful way. I have never said anything disrespectful or even doubting about her beliefs and she has never disrespected my beliefs or called them into question. It's a mutual thing.

The other thing is that having this friend in my life has, in many ways, deepened my faith. As much as we hold different, there are many things we hold in common – the strongest of which being our belief in Jesus as the Son of God and the Bible as the Word of Life. My friend will often quote New Testament stories to me to help me with problems or issues I'm struggling with and I am able to do the same for her. She also encourages me to pray about things. It is nice to have a friend who I can speak with openly about what I believe.

So, I won't be trying to bring my friend to Catholicism. I will continue to live my life as a Catholic so that she (and everyone else I meet) can see the gift my faith is to me while respecting and yes, even admiring, her commitment and the way she lives her life.

Til Death Do Us Part

I've blogged here before about my Mormon friend and how much I admire her commitment to her faith - the fact that she doesn't work or spend money on a Sunday, the way that she fasts once a week, the way she abstains from alcohol, the emphasis she gives to prayer time and to reading the BIble.

Now, I'm not going to be joining the Mormon faith any time soon but I recently discovered something else that I love about their faith.

When Mormons get married they don't say "til death do us part", they say "for time and all eternity". They believe that you will still be married after your death (which, incidentally is where polygamy came from – after your spouse dies, if you remarry, in the Mormon faith you are, in theory, a polygamist because even though your spouse has died, they are still your spouse).

For time and all eternity. I think that's beautiful. Why don't we promise this in the Catholic world? With our belief in the resurrection and communion of saints, and that we can still ask those who have died to pray for us, how does it follow that our links to those who have died are broken by death?

Jokes

What's with this new trend of priests telling jokes before they start their sermon? These jokes usually have some very tenuous link to the message of the sermon but I don't think their purpose is to deepen our understanding, in fact, I'm not sure what the purpose is.

Is it to hook us in, to gain our attention? Is it to add a bit of levity to proceedings?

I quite like it when a priest shares a personal story – something that has happened to him that week or something that has happened during his life, that relates to his own faith journey or understanding of the day's Gospel. But the jokes I could take or leave… mostly they aren't even that funny.

But the oldies certainly like them don't they? Our older parishioners sometimes laugh until they cry over these jokes. Easy crowd to please I guess.

Redundant?

I was watching (well, actually being distracted by) the altar servers at Mass on Sunday and the thought popped into my head, "why do we even have altar servers any more"??? 

And I don't mean that question to sound like I am ignorant of the role they play and the reasons for it – I get that they are helping the priest, that it can be utilised as a ministry for young people, etc, etc. I'm meaning more practically, are they actually required in order for the Mass to be all that it can be?

My experience is that they are often a distraction to the liturgy, or are used as a way of giving children a job to do as "Father's little helpers". Not that there's anything wrong Father having some help, I just wonder though whether the role  has become superfluous. 

I'm approaching this issue very broadly I know, and that a deeper examination of the role of altar servers could be given. But in this post, I am just highlighting how I feel about the current reality of how the ministry of altar serving "looks", not the theological purpose of it. 

What do you think? Time to rethink the role of altar servers? Or is there still a place for them? 

Very interesting indeed

In the latest NZ Catholic there are statements from the main political parties. It makes for very interesting reading indeed.

The nine major NZ political parties were asked to submit statements that met the following conditions:

  • no longer than 300 words
  • explain why the readers of NZ Catholic should vote for their party
  • written by a candidate who is Catholic or of another Christian denomination (if this is not possible statements would still be accepted from the party)
  • the religious affliation of the writer should be submitted for publication

Of the nine parties contacted, seven replied. There was no reply from NZ First or Labour. Disappointing. They have certainly missed an opportunity.

I've scanned each party's submission, specifically looking for references to Christian or Catholic teaching and this is what I see…

GREEN PARTY

The Greens chose Mojo Mathers to submit for them. She identifies herself as Christian and says she believes "in the Christianity that teaches love and compassion towards each other, espeially for our most vulnerable. I believe in the Christianity that demands we live with justice between one another, not growing inequality. Finally I believe in the Christianity that teaches awe and deep respect for the natural world – a faith that says tread sacredly through nature because God walked here first, incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ." She is the only candidate to mention Jesus by name.

MAORI PARTY

Te Ururoa Flavell submitted on behalf of the Maori Party. He doesn't identify that belongs to any Christian faith and he doesn't mention Christianity or Catholicism in his submission. It is about what the Maori Party have achieved and what they still wish to achieve for Maori, but there is no Christian "slant" anywhere.

UNITED FUTURE

Peter Dunne writes on behalf of United Future. Again, he doesn't mention his own Christian background or reference Christianity in any way. Most of his submission is about "family" – "the family is the primary unit for a sustainable society".  He also says that they are a party "that stands up for our values". But, no specific mention of Christian beliefs guiding what they do.

NATIONAL

Simon O'Connor writes for the National Party. He references Catholicism specifically – "[a vote for National is] a vote in alignment with a full understanding of Catholic social teaching". He then goes on to talk about several aspects of Catholic Social Teaching (common good, care for the environment, community support, human potential and dignity) and the specific things National has accomplished in these areas. Very, very clever.

CONSERVATIVE PARTY

Mr Colin Craig himself wrote on behalf of the Conservatives. Surprisingly, there is no mention of Mr Craig's Christian beliefs, or indeed Christianity at all. The only small reference is to "chruch teachings" that "absolutely without doubt a society that does not support the natural family is a society that will decline". He also reminds us that they were the only party to campaign against same-sex marriage and that it was "our priviledge to do so".

ACT

Ian Cummings submitted on behalf of the Act Party. His is perhaps the most overtly Christian submission. He begins by saying, "As a Christian and budding politician, I take the claims of Our Lord seriously" and goes on to tell us that he brings a "distinctly Christian flavour" to Act. He also says that when he went to the Act Board to ask for a place on the party list he made his positions on abortion and welfare very clear and was delighted to still be accepted as a list candidate – number nine. He writes, "Catholics make up 10 per cent of the population, so we can make a huge difference this election. We can make this election a game changer." 

MANA

The Mana Party was represented by Hone Harawera, who celverly quotes Pope Francis in his second paragraph: "Pope Francis once said that 'the goal of economics and politics is to serve humanity, beginning with the poorest and most vulnerable wherever they may be.'" He goes on to talk about how Mana would make this a reality. He references Ash Wednesday and Caritas. He finishes by saying, "It is true that no political party can claim to represent all the Church's teachings, and in this light I'm grateful for the opportunity to share some of Mana's values with NZ Catholic. God bless.

 

So there you have it – my personal round-up of what the seven parties who responded had to say through a Christian lense. Don't say I don't do anything for you.

Silence is Golden

As I mentioned in my blog last week, Fr Gerard gave an awesome sermon based on the first reading of that Sunday which was from the book of Kings – many of you will know it, it's one of my favourite passages. In this passage Elijah is told to wait on a mountain-side for God to pass by. Elijah sees a great wind, an earthquake and fire, but God is not in any of those things. Finally comes a gentle breeze and that is the presence of God.

Fr Gerard reminded us about God's presence in stillness. It is in peace, stillness and silence that we truly encounter God. He went on to say that in today's Church we should be less worried about the shortage of priests and more worried about the shortage of silence – that this shortage of silence is the true crisis of our times.

It got me thinking that silence is probably the reason I love week-day Masses so much. I love the stillness that comes with a Mass that is only attended by a few. I love the space to breathe and think and pray that comes with the lack of music. I love the peaceful feeling that is a Mass celebrated with quiet reverence rather than lots of bells and whistles. One of the most moving Masses I've attended was a 7pm Mass on a Wednesday night in the middle of winter (so it was pitch black outside) and there were only three of us in the congregation. It was perfectly quiet, it was intimate and there was an air of something very special taking place in front of us. Which of course there was!

The thing is though, that I don't enjoy this same silence in my personal life. In fact I avoid silence whenever I can. When I'm in the car my radio is going, at home it's either the TV or radio, my iPod is in my ears when I'm out walking, at work I'm surrounded by people all day. Even when I go to bed at night I fill my mind with a book until I'm too tired to stay awake. I'm not really sure why this is. I'm a thinker and a worrier so possibly it's my way of avoiding getting too trapped in my own head. 

Personally, I'd love to see more silence in our Sunday celebrations. Particularly at communion time and before Mass. I'm sure there are many of you out there who agree.

May I put my snout in the trough?

Marty's been wondering about something for a little while.

As Marty's sure you all know, some of what we give in the plate each Sunday goes toward the maintenance of the priests of our parishes and dioceses. This is only right and proper.

However, is this giving to our priests being compromised with the advent of the permanent diaconate? The 1983 Code of Canon Law reminds us that Deacons are clerics (after Paul VIs destruction of the minor orders).

Given that Clergy Trust Funds are for clergy, surely this means that permanent deacons now have access to monies that have been given for the upkeep of our priests? Is this fair?

Sure, I accept that permanent deacons are clerics. I do not accept that it is morally appropriate for all of them to be given money out of the clergy trust funds.

Why?

Simply this: I'm sure you're all aware that most permanent deacons are elderly. Most, if not all, have worked all their lives and ought to have retirement savings plans in place. Most will have children to support them in their old age. Priests have no such support.

Some permanent deacons are extremely wealthy.

How many permanent deacons have been ordained in the last 10 years? How would the possibility of their access to clergy funds affect priests who truly deserve it?

Marty would be ashamed if his father were to become a permanent deacon, then get his snout in the clergy fund trough.

What do you guys think? Should permanent deacons have access to money which has been given for the support of priests?