Friday, January 25, 2013

New wine .. old wineskins

You know, it concerns me greatly and it is a source of deep, personal disappointment that in the Australian Church, there is, generally speaking, a huge, monolithic resistance to 'the new'. And this is exceedingly strange considering 'the old' is failing us badly.

Everywhere there is depletion ... from Mass attendance to catechetical understanding ... and yet we go on, ministering entirely as though nothing were amiss.

Every now and then, at a priests' gathering, unexpectedly, one or other priest will give the most lucid and even poignant expression to how badly things are really going. All heads turn, there are even a few nods of agreement, and then a strange silence until someone asks how the cricket is going or who will be the next bishop of this or that diocese. So strange! It's like the Church is not our responsibility.

I was trained to teach French and English to secondary students. We were trained to teach, evaluate and, if necessary, reteach. If our methods didn't work we had to hunt around for new ones, new ways. We called this 'professionalism'. The only failure was to stop seeking the best way to get through to the kids.

In the Church today there seems to be not only a great reluctance to admit to the reality that we are rapidly dying, but also to the possibility that we, through 'new methods, new ardour, new expressions' (Pope Paul VI - Evangelii Nuntiandi) have a responsibility to do something about it.

We all seem to be waiting for someone to come and fix it for us but, and here's the rub, it must not be one of us!

Even the deluge of talk about the 'new evangelisation' remains nothing more than talk - and, as we all know, talk costs nothing. And if ever a substantial, practical, challenging suggestion should make its way into the conversation it is soon dealt a fatal blow with the sharp point of a clever gibe, or the solemn warning 'But we'll lose people.'

Perhaps saddest of all is when a new idea, a new method, a new expression 'new wine' is proposed and then poured it into an old wine skin  - to guarantee its failure.