Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!
WARNING! This posting may be hazardous to your closed mindedness! Your prejudice and bias may be at serious risk! Consider whether you can handle the truth before your read on…!
Blogs are wonderful ways of communicating with each other, and provide a vehicle for exchanging opinions, ideas, information, knowledge, commentary.
The author of this blog is not Maronite by tradition or by Tradition but a Roman Catholic, steeped in Franciscana, keenly interested in early Church history and Eastern Christian traditions. A linguist and philologist, he is culturally sensitive, critically observant, and integral in his commentary. He is currently completing the master’s degree in divinity. The opinions and observations presented in this blog are not naïve reflections based on sentimental or scrupulous piety; but the opinions and observations of an academician and one who actively does theology.
The author has been associated with St Ann Maronite Catholic parish as a friend and benefactor for more than 10 years, and is currently a parishioner.
In September 2010 the author applied to the parish of St Ann as pastoral life intern, in order to complete his second year of the required two years of supervised pastoral formation required for the M.Div degree (part of normal seminary training; see http://maroniteseminary.org/curriculum.html); While the experience and mentoring received at St Ann fell far short of the author’s reasonable expectations, it was not for lack of interest or investment of time, talent and treasure on the author’s part. But there is a positive side to this: this blog is a product of those experiences and the the insights acquired during that period of programmatic activity in St Ann parish. This blog, therefore, is a continuation of the author’s pastoral formation, albeit in a wholly unforseen manner, and represents important observations and commentary on an ethnic tradition that, for reasons that are obvious to the outsider, may have a questionable future. I sincerely hope that I am wrong.
As with so many national or ethnic parishes lost in a sea of diversity in shearing flux, and characteristic of cultural and sui iuris rites that survive substantially on memories of neighborhoods, traditions, bonds that were once strong and constructive within the confines of a specific culture and society but are now vague, ambiguous, ambivalent and irrelevant outside of the superficially open but dynamically exclusive social and cultural milieu of the extended tribal or clan parish model, the parish is struggling to maintain its identity and to survive at all as a community, and may be in what can fairly be described as the final agonies.
From my position in the back of the church one sees a sea of grey, a liturgy in a language near 2000 years dead, conversation in a language that nowadays arouses suspicion in the wider public, a faith community, however, that looks back on more than 100 years of presence in the neighborhood, a neighborhood that is now extinct, however.
Despite the best efforts of a handful of worker bees, the future is delusional; there is hope but no realism. Each new administrator is more culturally alien than the previous one; the parish clings and wrings its skeletal hands, and closes its eyes to the demands of a changing world, rallying behind clergy many of whom themselves cling to archaic and obsolete notions of pastoral practice that have a spectral presence in a far off land, but have no real meaning or relevance in the here and now, except for the phantom memories of past days of community.
The uncertainty and suspicion, the mistrust of anyone from the ‘outside’ became unmistakably obvious by the oft repeated question: What are you doing here? You’re not Maronite. The administrators and pastors past and present almost uniformly brought in from the outside, have been young, inexperienced, careerist–energetic but incompetent, immature, with no life experience–and take fullest advantage of the uncertainty and anxiety to secure their hold on the tiny community in a quasi-necromantic experiment.
From the author’s Archimedian point outside of the inner circle, apart from the mutual comisseration and chronic nostalgia, remote from the desperate attempts to breath life into the corpse, spared the subjective myopia the reality was painfully obvious; but the resistance was conspicuous as well.
There are myriad lessons to be learned from these observations and the reflections that issue from them. Where the parish administrator was incapable or unwilling of sharing trust, incompetent to mentor, too uncertain to entrust and empower, it was precisely that apastoral praxis that surprisingly provided the epitome pastoral formation experience.
As in the anatomical autopsy or the psychological autopsy, the pastoral autopsy has much to teach from the still warm cadaver of a once healthy and beautiful parish.
Not everyone visiting this blog will agree with these opinions; indeed, many will take abject offence. But the visitor is encouraged to put aside his or her visceral reactions. Here, blogging will be kept ethical and the common good will occupy a priority position. Some blogs allow anything to be posted and want the most wanton depravity so that the blog owner can accumulate hits; the idiotic notion being that the more visitors,the more important the blog. That’s a falacy, a perverse reasoning.
But several things are certain as death and taxes:
* Sticking one’s head in the sand and denying reality is terminal. The world leaves you behind and all you have is…sand in your hair.
* Integration, not isolation, keeps things viable. Admitting the only one interested in you is really…YOU. Your door may be physically open but if your heart is closed, Forget it! You have to open up, reach out, and be welcoming…to others.
* Poor preaching attracts no one and those already there get bored as hell. You have to have an excellent command of language to preach; if you don’t, you kill the audience. If you can’t put together an intelligible sentence, perhaps you should shut up. Silence may be a better preacher!
* If you go beyond your village you might find a world. If you don’t leave your own turf you may never learn how others are making it work and surviving.
* Don’t kill the messenger! If you open your ears and close your mouth, you might learn something. There may be a reason God gave us one mouth and two ears.
Shut up and listen! God might be trying to tell you something!
Christianity is a religion based on justice; justice is the hallmark of this blog. But in the guiding Gospel, it is hope that is writ large. And whereas justice requires freedom, this doesn’t mean that absolute freedom of speech is allowed or even possible; only responsible freedom of speech will pass moderation.
This blog is public and so it’s your blog, too. Make it yours by visiting it frequently, by posting your thoughts, by criticizing what you find here.
We may have a Maronite title but this blog is for anyone to comment on Catholicism, Roman or Eastern rite, Christianity in general, or anyone who wishes to share an opinion on any religion or faith. We are all God’s children and we all have a voice here.
God bless you!