I come to this story three months too late, but there it is, it’s still worth mentioning and celebrating. The story, The Dutch Plan: Will Innovation Save this Church? by Robert J. McClory, was published in the National Catholic Reporter . It provides an account of continued attempts of the Dominican diocese of Holland to bring meaningful, relevant worship to the real-life, living, breathing people of the 21st century.
The ‘church’ in Holland, as elsewhere, struggles to stay relevant and bring people in to celebrate the Spirit and grow Spiritually in their lives. Here we see that work in action, as four grand Dominicans have stepped forward, in an act of faith and courage, to propose a better system, which includes the far greater inclusion of the laity in the Eucharist and a declaration to the effect that church laws that permit only celibate men as priests is a “historically outdated philosophy of humankind and an antiquated view of sexuality.”
As I read this out I started cheering. Yes!! What has been known for years and years and years and now found here, included in a meaningful way, as dialogue within a powerful and important institutional system.
It’s about time, you know?
And even more important, there is action where there is talk. The article details the work of Fr. Jan Nieuwenhuis who has stood out on the ropes to create a relevant, thriving, worship-filled center that has directly and dynamically taken up the most relevant conversation in the halls of worship today: where do we go from here. And every Sunday, every day, they hash it out in an inspired faith environment. Not just Catholic-to-Catholic, but in a religious community where one of their two copastors is a Protestant.
How did this come about? The article also mentions the work of Edward Schillebeeckx whose book, Jesus, is currently my bedtime reading and I can attest to as a deeply engaging work of asking questions and looking for answers.
Jesus of Nazareth walked with human feet on the real soil of the Earth. His ministries, his first congregations, were of real people in the World. He did this to show us something important, that faith, resurrection, life, as embodied in (Christian) faith does not belong to prelates and kings. Though we count on the authorities in the church to lead and guide us, religion, consecration, spiritual growth, and everlasting life, in fact does not belong to them nor can a practice become sacred or relevant simply at their mandate.
But Fr. Nieuwenhuis says it best, to quote an excerpt from the article, the voice of Neiuwehuis and his congregation:
“ ‘We separated some 400 years ago,” said an usher. Now, God willing we’re getting back together again.’
Asked if we had participated in a real Mass with a real consecration, Nieuwenhuis said, ‘Of course, but actually it is we who are consecrated, we who are sent forth to break our lives for others.’ ”
Okay, wow. I just have to sit back and really let that sink in. What work is there more miraculous than this?
Praise be to God!