I was struck long ago by a monk describing a community meeting for some matter of import. It might have been the election of the next abbot. After prayer at some length, each brother took a turn speaking. The monastery began with hearing the voice of the newest postulant, and the men proceeded in turn in order of longevity in the community. The elders spoke last. Each person spoke of the matter at hand from the heart and the quality of listening was maintained. Young monks listened carefully as their elders expressed themselves. Older men waited patiently for their turn.
Next in Pope Francis’ address to the Diocese of Rome, a stressed point that by Baptism, each person has been anointed as a prophet. And so we listen. A community of prophets must, of course, model what it would want its audience to do.
The sensus fidei gives everyone a share in the dignity of the prophetic office of Christ (cf. Lumen Gentium, 34-35), so that they can discern the paths of the Gospel in the present time. It is the “sense of smell” proper to the sheep, but let us be careful: in the history of salvation, we are all sheep with regard to the Shepherd who is the Lord. The image (of sheep) helps us understand the two dimensions that contribute to this “sense of smell”. One is individual and the other communitarian: we are sheep, yet we are also members of the flock, which in this case means the Church. These days, in the Office of Readings, we are reading from Augustine’s sermon on pastors, where he tells us, “with you I am a sheep; for you I am a shepherd”. These two aspects, individual and ecclesial, are inseparable: there can be no sensus fidei without sharing in the life of the Church, which is more than mere Catholic activism; it must above all be that “sense” that is nourished by the “mind of Christ” (Phil 2:5).
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