Wish list for the Church under a cool Pope
How can the Catholic Church become as cool as the Pope?
1. Make “grace” the focus and starting point.
I have often asked myself why my friends from the evangelical movement are so passionate about their faith. Why do they raise their hands in worship services? Why is their faith such that they seek out others and share the Gospel with them? Why is their fire for God ever so palpable?
I have realized it is because the message from the very beginning was all about grace – something which, in my opinion, directly addresses the deepest longings of people.
No matter who we are, we are imperfect. We are broken. We have something in our lives that we hide for fear of rejection and judgment. Yet the grace of God is such that He overlooks all of these, He meets us where we are, and He loves us to the point of death.
The image of God is not that of a parent whom you need to please through things you do to be loved. The image of a grace-focused message is that of a parent who loves you just because you are his child, inspite of all your imperfections and brokenness. This leads to a more genuine and personal relationship that starts from the inside, and one which leads the person to do good things not because he is forced but because overflows with love that he can’t help but share it with others.
One may argue that grace is found in Catechism of the Catholic Church. I agree. But this is not highlighted when this should be the starting point. This is not communicated well when this should be the foundation. Even Catholic songs in the Mass, generally, are mostly praises to God. But how do we praise God if in the first place we feel unworthy to do so? How do we sing “glory to God” when we feel God doesn’t love us because our lives are far from “holy”?
Focus on grace.
2. Make language simple.
My personal observation is, the Church is very scholastic. Worse, the Church even prides itself in being scholastic! Some priests are thrilled in arriving at very profound insights after a long theological discussion and reflection. I am not saying this is not important. In fact this is vital to the life of the Church. What my wish is that the moment you face the people, language must be simple. Language must be relatable.
Please simplify what “paschal mystery” means. Please put in understandable terms the concept of “transubstantiation.” Please refrain from using highfalutin theological phrases. It may sound smart but it is useless and counterproductive when we are not understood effectively.
I am aware that the Church has been there for a long time and that it is extremely rich in depth, meaning, and tradition that we have to use jargon to capture them.
But the goal is to simplify.
Other wise we run the risk of turning our Catholic faith turns into superstition and merely cultural tradition – a reality that is happening today. People do not understand. They just follow. And they eventually make up their own interpretation.
3. Make priests (or train them to be) more relatable.
Priests are, at the outset, already at a disadvantage. Their clothes, simply, are different. They are not “one of us.”
Also, they do not live “normal” lives. They do not have families. With the exception of some orders, e.g. the Jesuits, they are mostly just in seminaries and did not have “secular careers” that would have exposed them to the “normal life.”
All these make relating to them difficult. Because they have a “different world,” many feel that they don’t have any business meddling in peoples lives. One of my friends remarked, “Even if the priest has a doctorate in marriage counseling, why should I go to him for advice when he himself is not married? I would rather go to a pastor who has a family because he experienced it first-hand!”
The comment may or may not be valid. The point is, priests have to exert every effort to involve themselves in the lives of their flock. I am hopeful with what Pope Francis said: “shepherds must smell like sheep”; priests must “go to the peripheries”; “we should be a Church that is capable of warming hearts!”
4. Make preaching effective
Having attended a lot of evangelical services, to be honest, I ask myself, “Why on earth is Catholic preaching so far from this?” With due respect to the other parts of the Mass, the most that people get in terms of real spiritual nourishment is the homily – the other parts tend to be very formulaic and ritualistic (again because these are not properly explained to a level that is appreciated or understandable).
And when the homily is not properly delivered, then we have a serious problem.
Although not a priest, Bo Sanchez and his team are good standards for preaching that I believe most people will appreciate.
5. Make the Church cool
Finally, if there’s one thing that ties the items in my wish list together, it is my wish that the Catholic Church becomes cool. For unfortunately, that image that it has now is this: an old church with so many rituals and traditions that people, especially the young, can hardly relate to. The Church is seen as one of and for the older generations, not for the youth.
I recently brought a friend to a venue of one of the evangelical churches here in Manila and he exclaimed: “Ang galing, ang daming nagba-Bible study, at lahat mga bata at yuppies! At, mukhang hindi sila nirequire!” (Wow, so many people are attending the Bible study! And everyone's young! At it doesn't look like they were required!)
This is my wish list for the Catholic Church this Christmas. Although this is difficult to achieve and will definitely take a long time, I believe this is not just wishful thinking. This is not impossible.
My hope comes from seeing our new pope, Francis, who is starting to make things happen. Francis is changing the way things are done. He is modeling the way. And for that I am most grateful. For that, many others, and I remain Catholic. – Rappler.com
Jervis Bautista (not his real name), 26, comes from a Catholic family in the Visayas. He lives in Manila and has been exposed to Evangelical Christianity since 2004. He uses a pseudonym to protect his family and friends from religious scrutiny, and believes that faith and spirituality is a journey with the Holy Spirit. He is excited as to where he would be led by the Spirit.
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