Walking in the Wide Church and Staying Within the Guard Rails

One of the struggles we have in the Church today is that we are often divided within over liturgy and what to emphasize. As a priest I am called to pastor people with a wide variety of liturgical preferences, political views, and opinions on social and ecclesial issues. Liturgically, I celebrate a lively Gospel Mass, the Traditional Latin Mass, and also have pastoral duties related to the Maronite  Liturgy, and the Geez Rite and the  Neocatechumenal liturgies. This evening  I had a traditional Latin low Mass, at the altar, followed by Eucharistic Adoration. By Sunday, the same Church will echo with Gospel music.

Three weeks ago I led a march to an abortion clinic where we prayed for over an hour. Two  weeks ago I was at the pro-life march here in DC and witnessing to the Pro-Choice demonstrators, seeking their conversion. Earlier this week I was also meeting with our local organizer in the Washington Interfaith Network  (WIN) as we plan to engage our neighbors and City Council on matters of affordable housing, jobs, and improvements in our local public housing development.

As a priest I stand with the poor and the rich. I minster to Republicans and Democrats. I have done several bi-partisan and interfaith Bible studies on Capitol Hill and also conducted Bible Study for 5 years in the White House during the George (W)  Bush’s Administration.

I often laugh when people try to label me or figure me out. I am against abortion so they call me a Republican. I am troubled by the death penalty (along with the Pope and Bishops) and they call me a Democrat. I am against Gay “marriage” and they call me a Republican. I advocate for the poor, love immigrants  and work with the Interfaith Network and they call me a Democrat. I say the Latin Mass and they say I am a conservative. I rejoice at a Gospel Mass and they say I’m off the hook. And all this time I was just trying to be a Catholic and a disciple.

The Church is wide. I think of the Christian journey as a trip up the King’s Highway. Now on this road there are a good number of lanes. The Church permits us to drive in any or all the lanes, but sets up guard rails beyond which we must not go. Hence there is legitimate diversity on the King’s Highway. An old song  also says, King Jesus has a garden full of diverse flowers.

It often grieves me when I see the children of the Church squabble over what the Church allows. One may have preferences, and I respect that, but why seek to have everyone conform to my preferences when and where the Church allows diversity? Consider the social and moral issues of the Church. On one wing we have tend to have those who are concerned about abortion and the moral issues of our day: sexuality, stem cell research, euthanasia etc. On the other wing are those concerned with social issues like poverty, injustice, immigrants rights etc. But in the end, all these issues are important and the Church needs two wings to fly. It is fine that one may choose to work in one specific area. But hostility to those who work in other areas is strange. We ought to be glad that Jesus has ALL the bases covered.

I know that my little essay will not end the debates over priorities and emphases, tastes, and preferences. But  I am a priest called to serve all God’s people. I walk in the wide Church and and am willing to drive in every lane. Just don’t ask me to go beyond the guard rails set by the Church.

With that in mind, I’d like to share two videos of your truly as I walk the wide Church.

The first video is an interview of me conducted by the USCCB in regard to my organizing work. Now some of you may have concerns about Saul Alinski. But I can assure he never comes up in conversations and I have never been asked to read Rules for Radicals, nor have I read it. Most of our DC parishes are members of the Washington Interfaith Network and our Pastors work with organizers because WIN does effective job in bringing about creative change in line with Catholic Social teaching. We’re staying in the guard rails here!

The second video is a PBS interview featuring my work with the Traditional Latin Mass. Now some will say that I want to “impose” the old Mass and do all that Latin stuff! No, I only do what the Church permits and I choose to serve some of her children who love the older forms. No imposition here, just celebration in the ancient forms, just living  and letting live. Just walking the wide road and staying inside  the guard rails.

Two videos from very different lanes but all within the guard rails!

It’s a wide world and a wide Church.