Wednesday, September 24, 2014


The author of “How Google Works” was interviewed on the radio yesterday.  The book tells about how Google stays on top of the market by constantly reinventing itself.  He gave several examples (only one can I remember – sorry!) of businesses and institutions that failed to be innovative and suffered because of it.  The one I remember is the post office.  Had they be been innovative and adaptive, according to the person who wrote the book, they would have realized that parcels are still unable to be sent person to person over the internet and would have switched from letters to focusing on packages along the lines of UPS and would have fared much better.


This seems like a perfectly reasonable assumption and there are truths about it.  We might even look back and think, “Of course!  Had they only . . .”  But it is one thing to look back and think, “If they’d only changed this one thing” as opposed to being on the other end, “What is the thing we have to change to deal with this unknown future?”

The Church suffers from the same thing.  It seems to have a general sense that it constantly needs to change in order to stay relevant in people’s lives, but it suffers from knowing exactly WHAT to change.  So we have tried all kinds of things.  Change the music, change the seating, change the words of the Mass, add dancing, change the teaching, change the preaching, change . . . well, you get the point.
I would contend that we have far too often changed the wrong thing.  The post office still needs to deliver things.  If it suddenly decided to start raising horses like it did during the pony express, it might be a really great gimmick, make all the press, even call us out of our homes to watch a parade of them go by, but it wouldn’t really help the bottom line of the post office.  The right thing has to be changed.
It is not necessarily the music or the vestments or the perfect seating arrangements that will make things better in the Church (though they can help) and it won’t even be changing our teachings.  Rather, it will be emphasizing those teaching that speak to people’s hearts in a particular age.  In what areas do our youth’s hearts ache today?  There is an angle of our beliefs already in our books and in our hearts that can speak to that.  You won’t speak to it simply by playing music louder and the priest wearing jeans at Mass.  But after showing them how the faith speaks to their hearts, you can then open the rest of the world to them.

1 comment:

Chris P. said...

I think about this a lot.

I've found, particularly over the past 3 years or so, that being in church, partaking in/of the sacraments, and experiencing this community is one great joys I can have. But in meditating and praying.. I come to the thought often of, "well, what's the point of that?"

And that can sound silly - I mean I absolutely KNOW what the point of it is - but after the thinking about it and praying about it - the point of it is to be happy. To be joyful. That's what this is all about. To be out, in the world, being full of joy and smiles and jokes and laughter and fun, and having the joy of the church and Christ as the fuel that propels it.

This will likely make Protestant literal-ists cringe, but there's SO much in the Bible that isn't there... but is STILL meant to be understood. St. Joseph in particular, to me, stands out so starkly as someone who so clearly is being a GREAT father without being mentioned much at all. We're Catholic, and we love our Queen of Heaven, but someone is there working with Mary and young Jesus, supporting, providing, evading Herod.. all sorts of stuff. It's not said because it's not part of the narrative, but is so clearly what we're called to do.

And we think of Jesus, and his humanity - which is so easy to forget sometimes. But he's fully, 100% human (and 100% divine, of course). And as we read of him and his teachings, we have to remember that he wasn't walking around glowing with angel wings and a halo (most of the time, I mean today is Luminous mysteries day, and he clearly did glow on Transfiguration day) but most of the time he was walking around like you and me.

The parables and the miracles make the scripture - but there's no way he developed a 2100 year following walking around talking only in parables and telling people he forgave them. He was human. He smiled. He was warm. He was comforting and loving. He was funny. He was full of joy. He had a magnetic personality. He was a good guy to be around. Does it say this.. well, no - but it HAS to be true. This is how humans communicate and he was fully human. He was always fully human and fully divine. He didn't turn it off and on and say, "Oh hang on guys, I have to be God now." He was always both. And as both, he had to embody the best qualities of being human.

So... to the point... when we're called to be like Jesus - we're called to be loving and caring - but we're called to be joyful and smile a lot. The Church can only do so much to be inviting and warm - at some point it's on the laity to surprise people sometimes, and for people to look at us and say, "Wait a minute. YOU go to daily mass?" It's on us to defy people's expectations of what being Catholic means.

The first time I had a cigar and adult beverage at my Tuesday night golf league and then confused the heck out of everyone by leaving to go to Benediction, I realized how powerful it was to flip the script on what people thought going to church meant.