Iuvenescit Ecclesia made simple

brothers-835169_960_720Much time and vast amounts of server space and printer’s ink have been devoted to an analysis of Iuvenescit Ecclesia, the letter issued in early June to the Bishops of the Catholic Church.

We Catholic are skilled complicators, so the subtitle of the letter says it is “Regarding the Relationship Between Hierarchical and Charismatic Gifts in the Life and the Mission of the Church.”

Sounds complicated – but doesn’t have to be.  So, here is the non-theologian’s take on it:

  • The “Hierarchical” refers to what I would call the institutional church, the dioceses and parishes that are defined having authority in a particular geography.
  • The “Charismatic” refers to the congregations and movements that are joined by a particular spiritualism and tend to wander around various geographical authorities.
  • There is tension between these two.
  • The Vatican suggests that since they are all in the Catholic Church and trying to save souls, they should get along and not squabble.

This reminds me of a scene from my boyhood, which I recall with mixed feelings.

My dad loved to drive.  It being the 1950s and 1960s, his love of driving led to summer vacations spent in the car. There was an advertising slogan – “See the USA in your Chevrolet” – that he apparently took to heart.

We drove from Ohio to Florida and back.  To Washington DC and back.  To Oregon and back.  To Quebec and back.  To Boston and back.

My younger brother and I spent a couple weeks every summer sitting together in the back seat of the car trying not to get into trouble with mom, dad or each other.  Boys being boys, we sometimes failed.  Failure tended to generate a rather severe commentary from the front seat.

I recall an especially creative spat between my brother and me that produced my mom’s comment:  You boys really should fight – one of these days the rest of the family will be gone and you’ll just have each other.  And there will never be anyone who is closer to you than each other.

The message from the Vatican to the hierarchical and charismatic is much the same:  you are brothers and ought to stop fighting; you are closer to each other than to anyone else.

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