Thursday, May 11, 2006

Parish Life and New Movements

I'm sure that anyone who reads this blog reads Amy Welborn's first, so what am I doing linking to a post (here) she put up a few days ago? But this part really struck me:

It's a fascinating moment, comparable to the 12th and 13th centuries, which saw the flourishing of not only mendicant orders, but a variety of lay spiritualities, as well as the post-Reformation era.

But what's up with them? Why have they been encouraged so? Shouldn't the parish be the locus of lay religious life?

Well, yes, but one of the theories behind analysis of JPII's support for New Movements was that he sensed that in Europe at least, parish life was hopeless and dead, and even seriously off the rails spiritually and theologically. The only hope for spiritual revival among the laity in Europe would be from movements external to parishes.

In the US, there have been tensions between "new movements" and "regular" parish life, dating back to the days of the Charismatic Renewal, to be honest. The Legionaries of Christ in the present day are mentioned frequently as a source of problems in this regard. It can definitely be a problem.

And then some samplings from the comments:

I have mixed feelings about the role of the new movements in the American Church. I suppose any movement that has the ability to bring one closer to Christ in communion with His Church is a good thing, but I think the individuals who have separated themselves from the institutional church might be better served by working to improve the institutional Church.

And another:

At the same time, as I've been reading about Opus Dei lately, I've been wondering, 'Why does it have to exist? If it claims that its main purpose is to help the faithful strive after holiness in their daily lives in the middle of the world, shouldn't this be something that every parish should be doing?'

And another:

If a movement is merely a refuge, I say to hell with it. And, certainly, movements are not immune to the sin and weakness found everywhere in the Church. Instead, a movement is a way of fostering a shared way of life within the Church.

And interestingly, one comment directs us to this blog - see especially the series on 'Parish vs. Lay Movement" or the mission of a parish which were posted in February.

Now, after all that, my two cents. First, if the movement is inspired by God, then it has a purpose in the life of the Church-whether we can discern the purpose or not. (God's ways are not our ways....). Related: if the movement is inspired by man-then flee.

Maybe it is not apparent in the Northeast where I am from originally, but in the deep South you see a unique phenonmenon. Go through any town-big or small (and it really doesn't matter how small)-and count the Baptist Churches. You have the 1st Baptist Church of XX, the 2nd Baptist Church of XX, the reformed Baptist Church of XX---you get the idea. Here there are splits due to theology and sometimes (probably) spirituality of the pastor and congregation.

Yet in the Catholic Church different spiritualities do not (if they are from God) spawn different churches, but different movements within the Church. The Church recognizes that there are (within certain parameters) different possible journeys or paths to God because He made us individuals. The parish is the center of our normal Catholic community-but it can not always satisfy every individual spirituality. We are unified in the Eucharist and in our Faith. Those are constant. But within that, there are many legitimate ways to pray, to plan your life around God, etc.

So for my two cents, the parish and the movements must exist and cooperate side by side. The movements are usually a special call to a deeper prayer life-which then often blossems into a new apostolate. It is good that the Church 'allows' God to be in charge-to call individuals to live their vocations in unique ways instead of trying to box everyone in the same package. The parish cannot be fall prey to petty jealousy (as is often the case), but should embrace the new movements. The movements must recognize the central role of the parish and not set up shop in competition.

Certainly today, some people try to use a new an orthodox movement as a refuge. (I have read how some Roman Catholics have fled to Eastern Catholic parishes as a refuge from heterodox Roman parish-with not so good results. The Romans tried to "romanize" the Byzantines. Bad case of taking refuge outside your own vocation.) Sometimes going cross town, (or farther) is necessary to safeguard the faith of your children if craziness rules in the home parish. But such steps should be taken with care-realizing that God had put you in a certain place and time for a purpose.

I guess much more could be written...

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