Sunday, December 5, 2010

Point to Ponder #9: Getting Out of the House

After Blessed Pope John XXIII announced his decision to convene the Second Vatican Council, he directed Cardinal Tardini, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, to send a letter to all the bishops of the world, the heads of all religious orders, and the deans of all Catholic schools of Theology.  The letter invited all of them to submit items for inclusion on the Council's agenda.  Eventually, nearly 9,000 recommendations and proposals were received!

The problem became: How to organize all of this material so that the bishops could discuss and debate everything systematically?  Cardinal Suenens of Belgium came up with part of a solution and persuaded Pope John to implement it: Divide all of the issues into two broad categories, those dealing with internal matters about the nature and structure of the church (ad intra) and those related to external perspectives about how that church relates to entities outside of itself (ad extra).  All of the Council's documents can be grouped into ad intra and ad extra.  For example, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen gentium) is ad intra and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et spes) is ad extra.

I mention all of this because these categories can be helpful in our own reflections.  Many times in ministry, we can find ourselves so focused on the ad intra issues such as diocesan and parish "politics" that we lose sight of our responsibilities ad extra such as caring for all those in need in our communities, even when they're not members of our parish or even of our church.  Furthermore, we might find ourselves not attending to even more strategic issues ad extra which are contributing to the needs of people: WHY are people hungry, homeless, lonely, or in some other kind of need?  What needs to be done to address the causes of such problems, not simply to address the immediate needs themslelves.

So this point of reflection encourages us to "get out of the house": to expand our focus from strictly "in house" concerns to encompass a more global point of view.  How well do I minister EVERYWHERE?  Or do I just minister "in house"?  We're ordained to serve everywhere, including the work place and market place.  Or have I just become "churchy" in my service?

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