THIRD SESSION How to get from the Reality to the Vision: Adrian Egan CSsR
(Don’t work from a script so remembered here as best I can and given in bullet type form)
• Slightly disappointed that Padraig O Ceidigh, considering his association with Aer Aran, didn’t introduce this session by telling us there was ‘a free flight for everyone in the audience’! However, there’s a wonderful sense today that the Holy Spirit might just be taking us on a flight, a flight whereby our vision for the Church could become our reality.
• Privileged and blessed, as a Redemptorist, to have colleagues and confreres of the calibre of Frs Tony Flannery and Gerry Maloney. Privileged too to have the writings of Fr Sean Fagan as part of our curriculum when we were studying moral theology. Voices such as theirs, and that of people like Fr Owen O’Sullivan, are voices that should not be afraid to speak and articulate truths and questions that many of us share. Such voices should be welcomed in helping us promote dialogue, debate and growth and understanding. In terms of moving from reality to vision , insofar as we have a system of governance and a leadership that doesn’t facilitate the hearing of those voices, then that system is in need of reform and change.
• Inspiring in the earlier sessions today to hear too the voices of women such as Cathy Molloy and Aoife McGrath, and the other women who have contributed or spoken from the floor. Whatever about the issue of the ordination of women, voices such as these need to be spoken and heard in our churches when people gather to celebrate Eucharist and to hear the Word of God. And these voices should be spoken and heard whenever and wherever the leadership of the Church gathers, whether it be locally, nationally or internationally. Again, in terms of moving from reality to vision , insofar as we have a system of governance and a leadership that doesn’t facilitate the hearing of those voices, then that system is in need of reform and change.
• Many great theologians, philosophers, poets and writers being quoted today. I’d like to quote two more; Makem and Clancy! …. ‘All God’s creatures got a place in the choir; some sing low and some sing higher; some sing out loud on the telephone wire; some just clap their hands, or paws, or anything they’ve got now’! We believe that we are all marked with the sign of the Creator, that all of us do have ‘a place in the choir’ and a place in the Church. And there’s lots of ‘clapping of hands’ today. But we need to do more than just clap our hands. In order for the reality to become a vision we need to take this wonderful experience of ‘Church’ that we’re having here today, and bring it home with us, and ensure that people are able to have this experience in their local community and parish. People need to gather in twos or threes, tens or twenties, in their own home place, and have the kind of debate and conversations we’re having here today. All voices need to feel heard and listened to. And that needs to happen at parish, diocesan, national, and international levels. Each of us needs to do everything we can to try and ensure that happens.
• As a teenager, making my way home from school, I would sometimes call into the Redemptorist Church at Mount St. Alphonsus, Limerick. It’s a very beautiful place, very peaceful, and ever before I knew anything of theology, or studied the great mysteries of faith, I always felt there that I was in the presence of a God who knew me inside out, with all my faults, struggles and weaknesses, and who knew me better than I knew myself. And I always felt welcome in that presence. There was no need to hide, or pretend, or leave any part of myself outside the door. God knew me, accepted me, and loved me as I was. That experience was so strong for me that it has always stayed with me, and nothing or no-one can take it away from me. In moving from the experience to the vision we need to create a sense of a Church where all feel welcome; where there’s no need to hide, pretend or be afraid; where we feel welcome as we are, in all our humanity; where we can speak the truth of who we are without fear of being judged or being excluded. People were always welcome in the presence of Jesus; the Church should be the place where we come to meet Jesus; we should always feel welcome in the Church, and the Church needs to put flesh on that sense of welcome by its words and its actions.
• Finally, in thinking of all that is happening here today, and contemplating on how we move from the experience to the vision, I keep thinking of the story of the road to Emmaus. Two disciples walking away from Jerusalem, downcast. Joined by a stranger they start to talk, and remember, and listen and debate, maybe even argue about everything that has happened. And then they sit down and share a meal together. In doing so they recognise the presence of the risen Christ among them. And hearts begin to burn with a new passion and a new energy that draws us into the heart of the Church and the community. There’s our model for moving from the experience to the vision…. Talk, talk talk, – listen, listen, listen, – dialogue, dialogue, dialogue – share, share share – respect, respect, respect – dignity, dignity, dignity … and somewhere in the midst of it all our sense of desolation will turn to a new energy and passion for building the Kingdom among us again.
• Hearts are burning here among us today. Let us those burning hearts and bring what we find here home with us and work to make the vision a reality.