Saturday, August 9, 2008

Ecumenical Dialogue

This week I traveled to Washington D.C. for a week of engaging conversations with some Roman Catholic Franciscans. The convener has been the Minister General of the Society of the Atonement, Br. Jim Puglisi, and there were representatives from the OFM’s and Capuchins as well as Sister Joyce, Minster General of my first order sisters in CSF, with Sr. Pamela Clare and Br. Cesar, SSF. There were 8 members all together. We were talking about ecumenism among Franciscans vis-à-vis our mission: the history of it, the way we teach new members about it, the spirituality behind it and how we can work together towards realizing even more connection between Anglican and Roman Catholic Franciscans.

I realized during the week that my whole ministry has been about making connections with people of different Christian traditions, in most cases trying to create momentum for helping the poor. Working together is not an “option”; it is absolutely necessary if we are to present the Christian Gospel with any kind of authority. But at the same time it is necessary to respect the differences among us. I had to let go of some resentments when they asked for blessings instead of receiving the Eucharist.

One of the greatest gifts God has given SSF, I realized again, is our small size. Our minority allows us a great freedom: freedom to try things, to change direction if we need to, freedom from always having to “get it right” and justify ourselves to a huge bureaucracy. But our freedom also has some pretty big responsibilities that come along with it: we are responsible for trying new things, imagining new ways to live, keeping our priorities on God, the Gospel and the people who come our way. And on loving each other; because we are so small it is possible to know every member of the order and to have a relationship with each brother, at least in prayer. That is how I understand part of my job: to know and love the brothers and sisters. Out of these relationships God will bring a new thing. We don’t need to know what it is, because if we did we might become fearful or anxious!

Growing in love for one another is of course what we did during this week. The difference between the first evening at dinner and tonight is remarkable. The first night the Anglicans sat at one end of the table, and the Roman Catholics sat at the other end. It was not intentional mind you, we simply sought out the people we knew and were comfortable with. Tonight we were all mixed together and the table was loud with laughter. The dining room crew was rattling their equipment to alert us to the late hour. Church unity doesn’t seem such a far fetched idea.

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