By Basilian Father Chris Valka
One in a series
Recently, a parishioner offered her gratitude for my work in her parish because, as she said, “It is the first time I ever felt like I belonged to something big enough to hold my faith.” As we spoke, she went on to say that she has always felt a disconnect with the rest of the church. Though she understands the theology and tradition of the Mass and our prayers that unite us together, she has longed for hear about the “big picture” — how the Gospel affects other parts of the world, what teachings are in progress, and the stories of faith beyond her own experience.
Though some people find this appeal of the universal church unsettling, it made perfect sense to me. Other forms of information and sociology have embraced our universal and global connectedness through various forms of technology and media. Why should people expect any different from their priests and parishes?
Almost one year ago, I was asked to help coordinate the Vocation Expo at World Youth Day in Sydney. One of the many features of that exhibit that struck me was the attraction of young people to religious orders and movements that spoke of their relationship with the “universal church.” After a while, I began to understand why this connection was so important. Quite simply, the church offers stability and longevity. Amidst so much change and diversity, the church has room for everything — it is the center of every polarity. Furthermore, when our particular charisms are placed in line with the streams of the church, their effects are amplified. We not only launch our ideas with momentum, but they progress with greater traction. In the church, we have a container big enough for our imaginations.
In the Scriptures, Christ breaks through the old notions that God resides only in the temple in order for God to be greater than their experience of temple worship. The same is true with Catholics today who need to know that God’s presence is more comprehensive than what is found in Sunday Mass.
So the challenge for all of us, all ministers and priests, is quite simple (if I may be so bold) — reference the instances of faith seen and heard around the world. Read the weekly statements from Rome and the U.S. bishops and pass them on to others. True, not all are appropriate, but I have been surprised at the excitement and willingness of so many to discuss the issues and learn from them.
Father Chris Valka, CSB, was ordained a priest for the Congregation of St. Basil in May and will be teaching at Detroit Catholic Central High School in Michigan beginning in late summer.