In September 2016, Jamie Manson of NCR spoke to Catholics, including Catholic activists, in Colorado. Below are notes/highlights from her talk.
Catholikos (the Greek word from which Catholic is derived) means being oriented to the whole, seeking to make things whole, trying to view the whole cosmic picture.
Christianity started as a cosmic religion that sought wholeness. Jesus is the wholemaker and calls everyone to create wholeness where things are fragmented.
When Christianity became dominated by Empire and began to ally itself with power, this word started to be translated as universalis – moving together, conformity, moving together toward one thing. This – being conformist, legalistic, orthodox, or being allied with power and empire or corrupting power — is different than moving toward wholeness.
The gospel says you/we actually encounter the living God in the margins. This is where God lives or dwells – in the world. This tells us a lot about God and who God is and why God is not in the center, power, authority. When our hearts are broken, they are also broken open, and we can make new beginnings.
She presented a question to those assembled: Where are you finding sacrament. What does Catholic mean to you?
The Jesuits are known for their mottos of “finding God in all things” and “Men and women for others” — an orientation to good and that great truth and trying to get there, around radical love, for all of us to pursue.
We remember the definition we were taught of Sacrament, growing up: an outward sign, instituted by Christ (us acting in accord/alignment), to give grace.
God is everywhere, according to the Baltimore catechism. We are not in charge of God or saying where God is not. God dwells in everyone. Everyone has dignity and deserves to be treated with dignity. Everyone is the beloved child of God regardless where they are in their life. As church, we need to be/show and represent God’s justice, vision and generosity, with radical openness (to being wounded), radical vulnerability.
Asked about/in a discussion of the church and youth…
Much of the world, in many communities, the communal model remains. The individual sacrifices themselves for the good of the larger group, family, or community. Gender is often determinative.
Over the last 50 years/since the 60s there has been a radical shift from a communal model to individualistic model of society, with a new feeling of wanting to be in control of your own destiny.
Gen X and Millennials are the first generations to be born in a purely individualistic culture. The sense of living in a large village with your family is uncommon in the US outside of immigrant or Latino communities.
There has been an impact of this individualism and loss of community on religion. Religion relied on community and communities relied on religion for rites of passage, to teach the moral code. The relevance of religion has really declined, in giving us our morality or teaching the faith. Bishops et al. don’t have the influence that they used to, There has been a crisis of power in the hierarchy, and their lack of confidence or feeling about their influence may have contributed to them getting more and more reactionary.
Youth choose/think about ethical and moral ideas, have more options than many used to, for their time, attention, and money – extraordinary amount of choice, including mega-churches with coffee shops and rock concerts on Sunday. Our Catholic church has taken them and that it will always have people, for granted.
Even though young adults have incredible choices, they often feel deprivation from not having a built-in village or community. There is a hunger for community and spirituality that is new and deeper and hungrier with this generation. These more traditional religions are not answering this. Multiple generations are being sent away hungry, but it’s not like the younger generation doesn’t want religion. We don’t communicate like we used to, sit around and talk. The lack of wanting to use words, to look in the face, talk and be seen and heard, is missing for them.
The irony is these are things church is supposed to give: feeding, nourishing. A lot of young adults want to be connected to some tradition. They feel rootless and have a sense of things being constantly in flux.
A Georgetown study found about 10% fall into a highly orthodox category; what about the rest? All those who want a sense of their history, want spirituality and aren’t finding a home? We don’t have much on offer.
At our church we asked some young adults what they wanted – they said: could you rent us a room at the center on Sundays for 2 hours, buy us a pizza (and that’s it—not direct them). They just wanted to sit and talk about their faith with others. Have a meal, look each other in the eye, and just talk. Once a month, and then everyone would go to mass together. They all are extremely close friends. We maintain our connections.
Sharing a meal and being present to one another is Eucharistic. Religions die when/if their rituals become irrelevant. Anything we can do to make the rituals relevant again is going to be good. Feeding, talking, sharing our stories – can relate to big S Sacraments. Meeting young people where they are, helping connect them to great traditions, giving those traditions new life, is all good, re-telling / remembering Jesus’ radicality, speaking truth to power, especially John’s gospel and the many ways Jesus lifts up women. Women (a disproportionate number of those attending, though many men attended too!) can be a force for change, coming back to being oriented to the whole, seeking to make things whole, trying to view the whole cosmic picture.