By Janet Hauter & Clyde Chistopherson June 1, 2016
Something happened as I began to write this column for the American Catholic Council newsletter recently. As I just wrote top of mind sentences to see what message was locked inside me, I came to a real stop (see the line in this document) and decided to leave my work and focus on something else to see if my writer’s block would lift. As I returned to my computer, I decided to check email before diving back in. I read an email from Clyde Christofferson responding to an existing dialogue and I was struck by the fact that Clyde addressed his audience with nearly identical issues. Can there be any doubt that the Holy Spirit is orchestrating this new direction?
By Janet Hauter and Clyde Christofferson
I expect there may be a lot of criticism for what I am going to say but it is Pope Francis that stimulated these thoughts. OK, here goes…I am eager to hear your reaction so email me please! (JWHauter.email@example.com)
What if…the rules, the laws of the Church, were necessary when the people were illiterate and needed guidance and direction to avoid social chaos long ago? Placing God’s name on these laws was a powerful force for an ordered society.
What if…some governance (leadership) was needed simply to provide order out of chaos? The bishop is designated to bring a region into an ordered state by teaching and governing the whole.
What if…through Pope Francis, the ideal model of Church was a loving body of faithful people dedicated to journey together, to build community, to learn as much about their faith as possible by developing deeper, more intimate relationships with others, their families, their struggles, their dreams and ambitions?
What if…we stopped entering the institution’s prototype targeted at church teaching, rules, behavior, values as the institution uses on us? They teach; we plead. What progress have we made trapped in a hierarchical prototype Jesus never intended?
What if…the People of God stopped being angry at the clerical culture for what they did and didn’t do and looked inside at the root cause of the anger?
What if…we no longer chose to be victims and chose to center our work on personal and local community reform exactly as Jesus did?
What if…we ceased focusing our attention on the rules and regulations that always come with a punitive whack?
What if…being a Catholic Christian is both more AND less what we were once taught and abided by?
What if…we freed ourselves from the bondage, the slavery, of following man-made rules and learned what was truly right for us to be in communion with God?
What if…the People of God grew into adult Catholics (most of our education on the faith stopped when we were pre-pubescent)—less dependent upon rules but re-defined our lives as blessed, graced and free to make decisions and solve problems because we are beloved, made in God’s image and more powerful (positive meaning) than we ever dreamed possible?
What if…we looked in the mirror one day and saw God’s creation and rejoiced in it recognizing that we were endowed with an array of gifts designed to contribute to the common good in wondrous ways that could never have been imagined and we chose to actualize them?
What if…our mission in life was that we were put on this earth as a lump of clay but our invitation was to return to God a masterpiece?
What if…we trusted our consciences to guide our values, actions, dreams and desires and let go of “Catholic guilt and fear” in our DNA?
What if…”Catholic guilt and fear” is smoke that has lost its connection to the fire? We are trained as children around many issues that develop the brain leading to nervous system responses.
What if… there is a similar functionality on the spiritual domain?
What if… the institutional Church focused on cultivating the Spirit within each of us? Currently that’s impossible because the people are distracted by an invasive concept of doctrine (Luke 11:46, which Francis cites repeatedly) that preempts what should be a journey toward greater responsiveness to the Spirit within.
What if…our focus becomes an internal journey of the Spirit within rather than community struggles/judgments about a litany of “thou shalt nots” outside of us?
What if…we were created to naturally choose to be more response to the Spirit within and that “instinct” was dampened by rules that took away our inclination to think for ourselves?
What if…the institutional Church stepped back and allowed the Spirit’s plan to flourish?
What if…the institution is prepared to support adult communities in creation of their own rules of engagement to suit the cultures and mores of those being served?
What if…the institution recognized a new Church becoming…in Intentional Eucharistic Communities and blessed them as legitimate, holy in their own right and a journey the People of God have chosen that replicates the formation of our early Church (see the book of Acts)?
What if…we built the “Church” of the future first in our hearts and minds through our families (the smallest cell of Church), our faith communities and our circles of influence?
What if…WE developed the courage to move forward in faith, a faith that is grounded in love alone allowing others to say of us “See how they love one another!”
What if…our lives exploded into an altruistic (agape) love and served the “field hospital” needs of those around us with joy?
What if…we became the saints we were destined to be?
What if…our world began to change for the better after we chose to be liberated from a domination system and structure?
What if…more and more people began to think this way? What would happen?
What if…Pope Francis is analogous to being a pebble in a pond starting a ripple effect that cannot be stopped?
What if…WE became that pebble in our local pond?
What if…statues in Church maintained the crucifix message but focused more on the Resurrection story demonstrating that we all must journey through the Paschal Mystery to learn that the only way through it is through it?
What if…all churches were converted to serve the homeless and people in need on their grounds living the “field hospital” paradigm for those in need? Pope Francis continually indicates that people are the priority.
What if…our bishops and priests lived among us rather than in exclusive mansions that bear no resemblance to the lives we lead?
What if…we elected our bishops from the People of God by a consensus model as was done in the early Church so that our leadership is more grounded in the real world?
What if…we were a Church of possibilities where Christian action is grounded in love and where nothing could extinguish that fire while ancient inclinations to a state of dependency for our own salvation becomes smoke from a dying ember?
What if…true dialogue between all those related to us or know became a normative communication style for us to reach out to Catholics who prefer the status quo and refuse to taste the sweet milk of freedom, Catholic adulthood and experience the true joy of the Gospel.