Divisions among laity, and between laity and clergy, have seemingly become indelible characteristics of the post-Vatican II era. Perhaps this is understandable as people accept change differently, with varied speeds and emotional reactions. This is especially the case when it comes to matters as personal as spirit, faith and church.
We've reported many times in recent years the layers of suspicion and acrimony with which lay initiatives have been received by local bishops. The resultant conflicts have for all too long been dispiriting. Our collective aim as church is to build spirit by imaging the spirit, and to come together to better place ourselves at the service of a hurting humanity.
While we are all too aware of our failings, it is especially uplifting to witness the works of a small but energetic group of Catholics who are witnessing the gospel as they endeavor to nurture it in their parishes.
Sure, the final fruits of the recent San Francisco lay convocation won't be measurable for some time. That said, the gathering has already borne fruit because of the spirit in which the organizers planned and carried out their activities. From the start, they were unflinchingly respectful of people's different views and inclusive in their conduct.
These lay organizers somehow understood that while they could never be assured of the outcome of their efforts, they could control the means by which they carried them out.
They didn't approach the task as a group of angry people wanting to "get the other side." Instead they tried to model the nonviolence of Jesus as taught by Pace e Bene and the Marshall Rosenberg's Center for Nonviolent Communication. Lead organizer Lisa Striebing said it well: "We sought respectful conversation with people. Holy conversation, if you will."
The San Francisco lay synod story, then, is as much a celebration of means as it is of ends. Both Pace e Bene and the Center for Nonviolent Communication teach personal and social transformation through active nonviolent practices.
Pace e Bene was formed in 1989 by a small group of Franciscans, among others, with a mission to teach practical nonviolence. Transformational communication, Pace e Bene maintains, takes place through a four-step process: centering oneself, articulating one's piece of truth, receiving another's piece of the truth and agreeing on a new way. The Center for Nonviolent Communication holds that when it comes to transformational communication, "first and foremost, compassionate connection, rather than being tied to a specific outcome" is to be the goal. In both instances, we see human dignity and human respect where they belong: as the centerpieces of Christian dialogue.
Speaking about the practices of nonviolent communication, Striebing explains: "In this kind of conversation, one doesn't back down from stating his or her own feelings and needs, but one also listens carefully - and with an open heart - to the feelings and needs of the other party."
The San Francisco lay organizers, echoing Striebing, made inclusiveness and compassionate listening hallmarks of their work. And it appeared to be contagious.
They contacted all sorts of Catholics, inviting conservatives and progressives alike. They reached out to clergy at all levels, making especially certain that their local bishop knew and understood their intentions. They asked for episcopal blessings, not permissions. Those permissions, were they needed, were already in their baptismal rights.
After bringing San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer well into the loop, he surprised them a bit by offering them the use of the San Francisco cathedral. Archbishop Niederauer later joined in their discussions and wrote a column about the convocation in the archdiocesan newspaper.
In this time of social and religious division, we are reminded in deeds as well as in words that Jesus' teachings of nonviolence and compassionate living are core to the Christian faith. The San Francisco synod organizers deserve credit and our support. Perhaps the best way we can honor them is to make them examples as we move forward taking on greater leadership roles, as lay leaders, in our church.
Finally, let's hope, at least in this instance, that Professor Potter was right.
More Catholic PRWire
Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718
A Recession Antidote
Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell
Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell
Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Franchising to Evangelize
Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Three words to a deeper faith
Relections for Lent 2009
Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell
World Food Program Director on Lent
Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Glimpse of Me
The 3 stages of life
Sex and the Married Woman
A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Modernity & Morality
Just a Minute
Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Edging God Out
Burying a St. Joseph Statue
George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell
Easter... A Way of Life
Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
by Catholic Online
- Daily Readings for Saturday, April 21, 2018
- California bill that could BAN THE BIBLE advances
- Has California just voted to ban the BIBLE? HD Video
- Daily Reading for Monday, April 23rd, 2018 HD Video
- Death threats for opposing gay marriage? Florist appeals to Supreme Court
- Five things Catholics can do to promote international religious freedom
- St. Anselm: Saint of the Day for Saturday, April 21, 2018
- Daily Reading for Sunday, April 22nd, 2018 HD
- Global Warming threatening Europe with colder weather HD
- The Memorare HD
- God Alone Suffices HD
Learn about Catholic world
Inform - Inspire - Ignite
Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained
Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need
Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online
Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye
Today's bible reading
Products and services we offer
Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books
The California Network
Inspiring streaming service
Learn the Catholic way
Teacher lesson plans & resources
Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education