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The companion cometh

By Fr. Wilson (articles ) | May 03, 2004

Father Richard John Neuhaus, in 'The Public Square' of FIRST THINGS, May 2004 (not yet online), notes appreciatively signs that the eschaton is, literally, right around the corner -- from his NYC office.

It is no little thing when one Sunday's church bulletin can reflect the innumerable wonders of renewal. A friend picked up the other day the bulletin of Saint Francis Xavier Church, which is around the corner on West 16th Street. It includes the parish mission statement: "We, the Church of Saint Francis Xavier, are a prophetic Roman Catholic community..." Not any old Roman Catholic Church, mind you, but a community, and a prophetic one at that. It goes on to say that "Jesus Christ is recognized as Companion in our journey and made present by..." Then follow all the wonderful things the community is and does to make the Companion present.

I used to dislike the old language about the priest "confecting" the presence of Christ in the Mass. In English, the word puts the focus on what the priest is doing rather than on what Christ is doing. But that is nothing compared to the amazing people of Saint Francis Xavier who confect the presence of the Companion by being their own deliriously wonderful selves -- "we commit ourselves to the spirit of inclusion and collaboration," "[we are] a community where injustice in all its forms is challenged, where the alienated and the marginalized find a home," and so forth. True, it is all about them, but then they really are very, very, good people.

They are even, it appears, bringing about the Second Coming. The mission statement concludes: "Standing together as a people of hope, we seek to realize the Reign of God." Forget what the Companion said about nobody knowing the day or the hour. The days and hours are clearly posted at Saint Francis Xavier. On the second Friday of the month is the meeting of "Catholic Lesbians." "Gay and Lesbian Catholics" is scheduled for the first and third Fridays (I suppose one has to go to the meetings to discover the difference between Catholic Lesbians and Lesbian Catholics). For some reason, no time is specified for "Love Makes a Family," a support group for gays and lesbians "dealing with family issues." But the first and third Wednesdays are for "Young Adult Gays and Lesbians." (Young being defined as 21-35, which seems somewhat discriminatory. Are the Jesuits at Saint Francis neglecting teenagers?).

The bulletin contains a reflection on the Companion's Sermon on the Mount, titled, "Grace is Energizing." The conclusion: "'Be who you are,' Jesus is saying. 'Be the person you are created to be.' 'Be fully yourself... Don't give away this power to be yourself, don't deny my grace to you. Instead, come home to yourselves.' It was quite a sermon, wasn't it?" Right. No wonder they crucified him. Telling people how simply wonderful they are is not easy, but a prophetic community is marked by the courage to pander.

There is also Bible Study at St Francis Xavier. A series is announced on the creation accounts in Genesis where people will be "discovering surprises and deep wisdom along the way." "For instance, did you know that the phrase describing Eve as Adam's 'helpmate' can more accurately be translated as 'someone to guide as his leader?'" No, I didn't know that, but then I studied Hebrew the old-fashioned way. At St Francis Xavier it's different: "We'll read the scriptural narratives in English and in the original Hebrew -- no previous experience necessary."

That way, there are a lot more surprises along the way

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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - May. 03, 2004 3:35 PM ET USA

    Pope Mahoney? There's a phrase to ruin my Monday. The end is nigh.

  • Posted by: - May. 03, 2004 11:03 AM ET USA

    This group bears watching. If Cardinal Mahoney becomes Pope someday this church may be placed on the fast track to "basilica" ranking.

  • Posted by: - May. 03, 2004 10:23 AM ET USA

    The hip, self-satisfied prophets at St. Francis Xavier need to take a look at Jeremiah 23. Maybe they can come up with a translation that is a little less ominous for this hapless Church.

  • Posted by: patriot6908 - May. 03, 2004 8:55 AM ET USA

    I know the wonders of our new communities or "families" of faith where all are welcomed, particularly those who are not heteosexual, conservative males. It's all part of the new interpretation of scripture made relevant for our time. All other interpretations are now passe'. Here, in Chicago, we have Catholic Theological Seminary where everyone learns to say, "daughters and sons' and "women and men" rather than the traditional form. For tradition, however, we do keep around a little Bach.

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