The topic of dialogue popped up, as it has here and there on the internet recently. I was reading the Holy Father’s address to a congress of Italian Catholics in Florence. A few things struck me. First, the inevitable conflict that happens when partners approach from distant directions or perspectives:
Discuss together, I dare say get angry together, think of the best solutions for all. Many times a meeting is involved in conflict. There is conflict in dialogue: it is logical and foreseeable that it be so. And we must not fear it or ignore it, but accept it. We must accept “to accept to endure the conflict, to resolve it and to transform it into a ring of connection of a new process” (Evangelii Gaudium, 227).
Depending on the people, conflict is either a good thing or bad thing. It seems to be a de rigeur part of internet communities. Without the ameliorating influence of faces and gestures, all we have are words. And words can be harsh.
Even within the Church …
May the Church be ferment of dialogue, of encounter and of unity. Moreover, our formulations of faith themselves are the fruit of dialogue and encounter between cultures, and different communities and entities. We must not be afraid of dialogue: in fact it is precisely confrontation and criticism that help us to keep theology from being transformed into ideology.
Do we recognize the history of various encounters that, over the centuries, have contributed to the articulation of Christian faith?
My frustration with the blogosphere, a frustration I notice I am fully a part, is that we take advantage of so few opportunities to do things together. Even blogging consortiums strike me as each having their own little silo. It’s a hyperspace skyline, but the structures, in real space are hundreds or thousands of miles apart.
In addition, remember that the best way to dialogue is not to talk and argue, but to do something together, to build together, to make plans but not on our own, between Catholics, but together with all those who have good will – and without the fear of carrying out the necessary exodus to every genuine dialogue. Otherwise it is not possible to understand the other’s reasons, or to understand in depth that a brother (or sister)counts more than the positions that we judge far from our own though genuine certainties. He is a brother. (She is a sister.)
One of my professors in the 80’s remarked that ecumenical dialogue’s greatest fruits are not in the ivory towers of theological dialogue, but in the trenches where people of good will from various backgrounds have rololed up sleeves and worked together. I also think of Pope Benedict’s remark that some marriages are laboratories for ecumenism. My favorite thought from his papacy: that a couple and their children can live together in a realm of experimentation, discovery, and delight.
Dialogue strikes me as giving a similar opportunity. It is a laboratory to search and seek out the living God in our midst. It is not just surface chatter and pious niceties. Nor is it a sell-out. Far from it. At its deepest root, it is an imitation of the Lord himself.