A Contemplative Ministry

I’m grateful for Rock’s providing us the text of Archbishop Rowan Williams’ remarks at the synod. I appreciate the strong theme of contemplation as a remedy for the dangers of being so narcissistic as we strive to do the mission of Jesus Christ. This thought begins an unfolding theme in the address:

To be contemplative as Christ is contemplative is to be open to all the fullness that the Father wishes to pour into our hearts.  With our minds made still and ready to receive, with our self-generated fantasies about God and ourselves reduced to silence, we are at last at the point where we may begin to grow.  And the face we need to show to our world is the face of a humanity in endless growth towards love, a humanity so delighted and engaged by the glory of what we look towards that we are prepared to embark on a journey without end to find our way more deeply into it, into the heart of the trinitarian life.  St Paul speaks (in II Cor 3.18) of how ‘with our unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord’, we are transfigured with a greater and greater radiance.  That is the face we seek to show to our fellow-human beings.

Read the whole address. I recommend it. There’s much more there.

As I strive for more contemplation and less of myself, I see the archbishop’s reflection as fitting for anyone in ministry. I don’t know how much was poking at the Catholic bishops present, but I see much that applies to me, and to the ministries in which I serve that are liturgical as well as evangelical.

Contemplation should move us from old ways of thinking: how we see ourselves and our place in the world. Contemplation also urges us to new ways of relationships. Instead of people who cling to others for what they can do for me, we become people who cultivate relationships based on what they can do for God. The evangelical mindset would have us ponder each person and wonder: how will they take their part in the Great Commission, in the mind and intent of Christ?

This is difficult, and wholly countercultural, even within the Church. Yet people are watching. Do they see believers using each other just like people in the world use others? Or do they see this substrate of contemplation penetrate our relationships and ministries, not just as a tool for individuals to “get ahead” with God? But as a discipline in which we strive to imitate Christ, and to acknowledge the interior opportunities for growth, change, and even metanoia?

Speaking for myself, I have to consider how I view parishioners. Cogs in a liturgical machine? Souls to be opened by God? People aligning with my mission and ministry? Brothers and sisters each with their own calling? More and more, I sense the truer and deeper path in parish ministry, at least the way I see it, is less as an orchestrator of tasks and more a facilitator of the interior life, urging people to go deep into Christ and come forth with their own great mission in the Lord.

What do you think about Dr Williams’ address, or the impact this view on contemplation may have on parish spirituality and life? Or the bishops in Rome?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in bishops, Church News, evangelization, Parish Life, spirituality. Bookmark the permalink.

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