Bishops are not renowned for making critical remarks about the Church, more so when they direct this criticism even towards themselves. Consequently when Bishop Mario Grech recently delivered a homily saying that the putrid stench of death emanates from that which we call the Mystical Body, people’s attention was grabbed.
He upped the ante by adding that a massive blood transfusion is needed to instil some life into the moribund. The people who listened with attention asked whether this transfusion will achieve its purpose by a drastic change in tactics and initiatives or will it succeed if there are radical changes in the higher echelons of those holding ecclesiastical office?
In the Church, Grech said, there is a feeling of tiredness and sloth which is so bad it is accompanied by the smell of death! He included himself among those suffering from this feeling.
In one or two other places, the bishop, in a way that gives more credibility to his statements, points his finger at himself before pointing it towards others.
Besides, he adds, the Church sometimes gives the impression that it reaches unacceptable compromises with contemporary culture while religion is relegated to a “tradition of our fathers”. A particularly strong point metaphorically states we seem to be diluting too much the blood of Christ, making it ineffective to renew us.
Grech proposes that a massive blood transfusion could give the much needed vibrancy and a new lease of life. Before tackling the issue of leadership let me agree with the bishop that the needed blood transfusion should take the form of more creativity; yesterday’s solutions should not keep on being proposed for today’s problems. He mentions the liturgy and the lack of creativity therein. Who can disagree with that position?
After every Mass census that used to be commissioned, the Church authorities always promised they would be doing something so that Sunday Mass would be both an edifying and enjoyable experience. Has anyone noticed any initiative worth mentioning in this regard?
Mass on Sunday is still by far the most patronised Church activity. But does anyone (my mea culpa added in too) invest in this celebration, which is pivotal to the life of the Church, spiritual nourishment of Christians, evangelising moment par excellence and the bloodline of the Christian involvement in the secular world, as much time as it deserves?
This lack of time investment is evident in sloppy homilies, mediocre reading of the Word of God, lack of sense of community and hardly any feeling of a joyful celebration. During his homily, Grech repeated a criticism he had publicly levelled a year or two ago: some liturgical celebrations are more akin to theatrical presentations than an experience of the sacred. The situation is still the same today. It tends to get worse since among some of the newly ordained, triumphalism reigns unbridled.
Whenever I celebrated Mass for neo-Catechumen communities it was always a celebration of joy; a joy that is incredibly absent from our parish Sunday celebrations.
I am not saying that Sunday Masses should follow the pattern used by the neo-Catechumens or the charismatics for that matter.
But perhaps it is about time that we consider the adoption of different styles of Mass adapted to one’s level of commitment and need. This would be a worthwhile blood transfusion.
We need more creativity, reflecting the needs of particular groups and cultures, not more restrictions, as evidenced by the Vatican’s promised restrictions on the sign of the giving of the peace.
The attempt to restore our parish feasts was a regrettable debacle. Lack of an assertive leadership is partly to blame for the misfortune. There is an initiative which the Church could take to bring about more Christian spirit to our feasts.
It could take a pastoral policy decision that each parish should donate to charitable projects within and outside of the parish as much money as is spent on the parish feast.
The same policy should be adopted whenever a new ‘opra’ or similar material project is proposed for any parish church. Charity is at the core of being a Christian. We can never give enough, as we can never be Christians enough.
More and more pastoral operators are every day realising that the leadership situation in the Archdiocese of Malta is worse than that experienced by the PN after the 1976 election
More creativity is also needed in parish management. So many decades after Vatican II there are still too many parishes where the parish priest lords it over the lay people and, in several cases, priests who are considered to be adjuncts that help but are not true collaborators. The parish budget could help us move in the direction of more co-responsibility. It should be approved by a parish assembly. Instead of being an accounting exercise it should be a very important pastoral instrument outlining the main pastoral initiatives that the parish would embark on that year.
The parish budget should have three main three headings: diakonia (works of charity helping the vulnerable, particularly the new poor), the liturgy (the celebrations that enable us to live our hope in the Kingdom to come) and the catechetical/evangelisation dimension (the initiatives and project which enlighten our beliefs).
These are just a few examples. Other more radical initiatives are needed to administer the massive blood transfusion that the Church needs. Is there enough courage, determination and leadership to do so?
All this brings me to the elephant in the room which all those I have talked to in the Church readily admit to in private to its existence, only to remain totally silent about it in public or, worse still, deny its existence.
More and more pastoral operators are every day realising more clearly that the leadership situation in the Archdiocese of Malta is worse than that experienced by the Nationalist Party after the 1976 election.
The number of those who believe that unless this situation is tackled, problems will continue to compound, is on the increase.
I have postponed writing this so clearly for quite some time.
Today the situation is such that writing about it has become a matter of conscience.
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