Friday, May 14, 2010

Jamie Manson: Grace in the Church's Margins

[NCR’s Jamie Manson spoke at a VOTF meeting in Norwalk, CT on May 13th.  This posting is a summary of Manson’s talk, "Being Bread for One Another in a Church in Famine," written by Jamie Dance, Co-Chair, VOTF Bridgeport]

Jamie is asked repeatedly why she remains a Catholic. She explains that she understands that she is marginalized by the Church because of things outside her control- her gender and her sexual orientation. However, for Jamie, there are three reasons for her resolution: 1) the social justice doctrine of the Catholic Church where the most radiant images of God are found in working among people in despair 2) the mystical and spiritual tradition of retreat and prayer that is centering, repetitive, and contemplative, finding the sacred in everyday life and 3) the sacramental tradition, where one may find infinite meaning in the finite things of life, and thus experience God in the world.

It is this last element that Jamie sees as a sad irony.
What most people hunger for- prayer, justice and finding the sacred in everyday reality- is what people in the Church are most deprived of as they struggle. This notion of a sacramental world view, seeing holiness everywhere, is part of the Catholic Imagination, and needs to be explored more. Jamie says that we need to be bread for one another in this famine, feeding physically and spiritually those in need.

The next generation is hungry for a moral center in the institutional Church where there is a burn out in integrity and accountability, and justice is lacking.  We need to talk about what is important for the Catholic faith and rediscover the notion of the sacred in all of life, not just in the trappings of a Church that attempts to control access to God through rules and regulations. Critical voices in the world today judge that the Church sees itself as above reproach.

The real issue in all healthy relationships is the difference between submission and surrender. Jamie points out that the Church demands absolute submission, and God asks us to surrender to the Beloved, so that we may live a more abundant life in Christ. But a stifled, broken and controlling Church demands that we let go of our intellect and our freedom, and subsist in an inauthentic and harmful relationship with God. This is the most painful aspect of being Catholic today, since it contradicts the relevant elements of our tradition, of “faith seeking understanding.” (St. Anselm)

What are our alternatives? Change can come from both in and outside the Church, but Jamie sees that the fruits of labor outside are more productive. She advises that we look for ways in which we already are bread for one another, and think about the kind of Church we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren.  Christian outreach to those hungry, imprisoned, or in pain is where Holy is, and where we encounter God.