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What's It Going To Take To Change The Church?

I have never been attracted to saying the rosary. That said, I love rosary beads. There are five sets in my nightstand that I have acquired over the years. I appreciate the various stones and crosses used to produce these little works of art. Sometimes at night when I find it hard to sleep I’ll hold a rosary in my hand. The tactile experience of holding a rosary - feeling the stones warm as I grasp them, comforts me and helps me get back to sleep. So in some respects you might say that I do pray the rosary.

The rosary is just one small part of Catholic life. Catholicism is a treasure trove of symbols, art, music, stories, rituals, mysteries, pieties, and spiritualities. These sacred signs possess a powerful sense of meaning and place, even for some who otherwise are not religious.

Many people today are adopting various traditions and remixing them in ways that provide some meaning. For example, it would not be unusual to find both a statue of the Buddha and a Dia de los Muertos skull in a home in which no one practices either Buddhism or Christianity. Both symbols are capable of provoking profound feelings, even when there is no rational or conscious connection.

Despite the quagmire the institutional church is currently in, despite the empty pews and some outdated dogma, the symbols and connectivity inherent in Catholicism are far-reaching and deep-rooted. The core values and mysteries inherent in Catholicism remain imprinted on many who no longer practice the religion itself. Many who live their lives outside of the church continue to abide in its shadow by holding on to some of its values, prayers, celebrations, and symbols. Those of us who remain in the church often overlook the fact that religious experiences are occurring outside of the church in forms that are unfamiliar to us.

A place must be set at the table for the disaffiliated. We must seize the opportunity to reimagine our relationship with the part of our tribe who, although attuned to some of our customs and values, have chosen to live their lives outside of customary religious practices. They have many valid reasons for doing so. We need to listen to what they have to say.

The question before us today is not how are we going to get through this time but rather, how are we going to change to get through this time? The opportunity lies in what can be, not with what has been.

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