Called By God in Kansas City: Bishops, Religious, Clergy

One of my readers asked for a comment on Rock’s post on a Kansas City’s Nun’s Story. I knew we had other breaking local news, too, so let me commit a possible faux pas by combining this link with another for my newest parish priest colleague, and a few thoughts on religious life and vocations. And bishops, too.

The Catholic Key gives you more of the full story of the invitation of these women Benedictines. But for the life of me, I can’t imagine why this would register on the NCR’s radar at all, much less be cause for leaping from mansioned windows.

Like Rock, I think the local Church benefits from the presence and the apostolate of religious orders, especially contemplative ones. There are a lot of things a body new to church administration could learn from the leadership traditions of St Benedict (for one example).

There, we can read that the abbot is advised to adjust and adapt himself to everyone — to one gentleness of speech, to another by reproofs, and to still another by entreaties, to each one according to his bent and understanding — that he not only suffer no loss in his flock, but may rejoice in the increase of a worthy fold.”

A fair bit afield from the SCGS* ecclesiology championed by some Catholics these days.

That said, I don’t think it’s totally accurate to attribute the phrase “predictable hatchet-piece” to the NCR’s recent reporting on Bishop Finn. If imbalanced, it was not by editorial design. I agree with Rock and many others that my bishop is a genuinely holy and sincere and idealistic man. But where one man speaking for a diocese might come off well in theory or ecclesiology, in practice it makes things seem a bit tilted to have several folks criticizing the bishop and nobody speaking in favor of him. Since I doubt the NCR is regular breakfast reading in the bishop’s kitchen, it probably doesn’t matter much. Lots of people have said favorable things about him. For all the brouhaha about whining and wining and all, I think he’s an improvement in many ways from his predecessor–and my regular readers should recall I’ve put the specifics of that in print.

Our parish is getting one of the new priests. I’m looking forward to working with Father Steven Rogers, who is nicely profiled in this week’s diocesan paper. Conversion stories have long been a fascination and a personal taste of mine. I have a rather unusual one myself. And at the risk of lurching head-first into touchy-feely-dom, I think it’s extremely valuable for Christians to be able to recall and tell their own stories of coming to the faith. Kids need to hear parents tell it. Friends need to hear it. If one can peel oneself away from the Catechism long enough, it’s even appropriate for RCIA or other faith-sharing circles.

There’s something deliciously Benedictine about Rogers’ story from about a decade ago:

During the summer of 1995, the furniture company was about to be sold, and Deacon Rogers said his job security was up in the air. He told a friend, Susan Dinges, that he was going to take a week’s vacation away from everything at the Lake of the Ozarks.

Dinges, who also wasn’t Catholic, had another idea, he recalled.

“She said, ‘I want you to go to Conception Abbey. It’s quiet up there and remote. You can read and rest,'” he said.

Deacon Rogers said he booked himself for a week-long spiritual retreat where he met one of the Benedictine monks, Father Hugh Tasch.

“We talked about anything and everything I wanted to talk about – art, architecture, the Renaissance,” Deacon Rogers said.

Never once did Father Hugh try to “convert” him. But he did tell Deacon Rogers that the future priest was a Renaissance man filled with a wide array of talent and drive. “You will be a leader,” the monk told the young man, “but first you have to get focused and organized.”

“He left it at that, and bid me farewell,” Deacon Rogers said.

God adjusts and adapts to our unique individual circumstances. As Catholics, we offer the Creator not one cookie-cutter result, but a dizzying set of variations on a single theme. The Church is far wider, more incomparably vast than any single Catholic would or could identify. The challenge for many of us is finding that focus. Hopefully it’s not an aspect that leads us to measure others by our own standards. Or that it’s not an adventure in religious narcissism: the me-and-God indulgence all too common in our American culture.

The longer I’m a Catholic, the more exposure I have to new people, new stories. It’s well worth taking some time to tell and listen to these stories.

* Small Church, Getting Smaller

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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