This is my second comment on the 1999 papal exhortation titled The Church in America.
This teaching from St. John Paul II presents a beautiful ideal, but it is far from being realized. It seems to me, a man who sits in the pews, that it might be helpful to have greater clarity and emphasis on the ultimate purpose of the parish. That is, what is the real purpose of the parish? Isn’t it to help individual persons grow in Christian holiness?
It is certainly true that one way in which the parish leadership assists its members to grow in holiness is to encourage community among parish members and to encourage service to others, whether parish members or not, as indicated in section 41 of The Church in America. Let’s call that the Matthew 25 Last Judgment and humanitarian aspect of parish life.
But that’s not all. What about the call of Jesus as he started his public ministry? “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). Or, in a few more words: Have a change of heart. Wherever necessary, have a change in behavior. You can’t serve God and mammon. Don’t worry about what to eat and drink. Seek first the kingdom of God and trust Him to take care of the rest of it.
Is this the way it is? We are supposed to be a Eucharistic community, but some statistics indicate that a very large percent of Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence. We have very clear teaching against all unnatural forms of birth control and in favor of generosity in having children, but the statistics show that only a very small percent of fertile-age couples accept these teachings. If they were followed, we would anticipate lots of babies and larger families. Our seminary problems would chiefly be having enough space and faculty to handle the crowd.
Next week: Why isn’t it happening?
John F. Kippley, August 10, 2014
See also Sheila’s blog at www.nfpandmore.org/wordpress .
P. S. My effort to explain and uphold Humanae Vitae via the covenant theology of sexuality is published by Ignatius Press as Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality. This is the book that, in a previous edition, helped Scott and Kimberly Hahn, while still Protestants, to accept Catholic teaching on birth control. During its summer sale, Ignatius is offering it for only $6.00, but only through August.