Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I spend a lot of time in meetings! So I know that something can happen in the process of a meeting, in the give-and-take of speaking and listening. When there’s a genuine openness to each other, a deeper creativity opens up. People see possibilities that they didn’t see before.
That kind of creativity seems to be rooted in the Holy Spirit. (It’s why we sing “Veni Creator Spiritus” — Come, Creator Spirit.) We don’t think often enough, or deeply enough, about the creative role of the Holy Spirit in guiding processes. We should!
I think we’ve needed and experienced the creativity of the Holy Spirit in the All Things New pastoral planning process. We could have focused only on outcomes, and we could have reached outcomes quickly, without engaging in a deliberate and community-wide process of listening. But we didn’t. We tried to make room for the creativity of the Holy Spirit by engaging in a deliberate process that was open to change.
The process wasn’t perfect; no human process is! But we spoke, listened and revised repeatedly over almost two years, and I believe that allowed us to be attentive to the creativity of the Holy Spirit in a deeper way.
That’s important because I believe we’re going to need that same openness to the Holy Spirit as we move forward! We’re going to need to allow the Holy Spirit to work in the speaking, listening and revising of parish plans in the coming years.
That deliberate focus — on the role of the Holy Spirit in the process of speaking and listening that’s at the heart of human relations — is a big part of the “synodality” that Pope Francis is focused on these days. We’ve been living that kind of synodality for the past two years! We’re going to continue to need it in the coming years.
This week we celebrate the relatively new feast of Mary, Mother of the Church (May 29) as well as the feast of the Visitation (May 31).
It’s interesting to think about the contrast between Eve and Mary in biblical terms. Eve became “the mother of all the living,” but she brought her children into the realm of sin. Mary became the new mother of all the living at the foot of the cross, and at Pentecost; she brought her children into the realm of Jesus’ redemption.
It’s also interesting to think about Eve and Mary in spiritual terms. St. Paul says we know the works of the flesh (envy, dissension, factions, outbursts of fury, etc.) and the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, patience, gentleness, etc.) from within our own experience (see Galatians 5). I think we could say that we also know what it means to be children of Eve and what it means to be children of Mary in our own experience. As children of Eve, we’re prone to selfishness, grasping, suspicion and resentment. As children of Mary, we’re invited to trust rather than suspicion, to forgiveness rather than resentment, to gentleness rather than harshness (even in disagreement) and to steadfastness and surrender rather than despair at the foot of our crosses.
As we move forward with our All Things New plans, I think it will be good to reflect on the ways in which we’re behaving as children of Eve and the ways in which we can “honor our Mother” by behaving more like children of Mary.