There’s a fascinating conversation over at my Facebook page that I wanted to moved over here so that other people could play.
The money quote:
“Those who have come into genuine contact with Christ cannot keep him for themselves, they must proclaim him.”
Novo Millennio Ineunte, 40
Sherry’s question: Does this statement of Pope John Paul II mean that if we have no desire to proclaim Christ, that we haven't yet experienced "genuine contact"? Or are there other dynamics at work?
Over the years, I’ve heard variations on a few typical answers (this isn't a response to any particular commenter on this post)
Answer 1: Silence runs deep
Many lay Catholics have a profound but hidden and almost completely non-verbal spiritual life. (And a common corollary, people who talk easily and a lot about their faith are shallow, e.g. like Protestants)
Answer 2: St. Francis said “Preach the Gospel always. If necessary, use words.”
Lay Catholics preach effectively without words through their lives of faithfulness, honesty, and acts of compassion and justice.
Answer 3: Nobody here but us Carmelites.
Some of us are gifted to pray, not talk. It is just as powerful a witness (and really more profound) to pray in a hidden place where no one sees you.
Answer 4: The English made us do it.
The Irish experience of oppression by the English Protestants made Irish immigrants to the US reluctant to talk about their faith. And the prejudice they experienced as immigrants just reinforced that. Our history is our destiny.
Answer 5: We are powerless to do anything because of resistance and lack of support by priests
Everytime I try to start something, Father shuts it down or refuses to support it. What can a lay person do?
And something new that has emerged out of our conversation:
Answer 6: I'm afraid of the reactions of other Catholics. Other Catholics will get uncomfortable or mad if I talk about my faith.
"I know Catholics with hidden spiritual lives. Some of them I knew for 5 or 10 years and it wasn't until after I converted that I found out they had any personal spiritual lives.
When I ask, why don't you talk about this with anyone, they don't say anything about priests shutting them down.
They say they are worried about looking weird in front of Catholic family and friends, or worried about bad reactions from other lay people who are involved in parish ministries. Adults in their early 30s, raised Catholic, tell me that their parents would not understand. I think their fears are well founded in some cases." For more on this answer and the discussion about it, go here.
I have moved some of the comments over so you can see what people are saying below. What do you think?