Brokenness as a place of becoming…

Simon and I did a talk at Greenbelt festival about community, based on some of our experiences in Aoradh. We spoke a lot about the challenge, the exposure and the pain of community- how it was impossible to move closer to one another without also being wounded, hurt and (hopefully) changed.

If I were to pick one man to discuss this with in more detail, it would be John Vanier, founder of the L’Arche communities. He speaks and writes with such gentle integrity about his own experience of being broken. I was reminded of this recently when reading a short review of one of Vanier’s books From Brokenness to Community.

When we follow Jesus, writes Vanier, we are called to reject certain aspects of the world. We accept loss of wealth and status and comfort. We embrace downward mobility and climb back down the world’s ladder of success. This process can begin when we discover our mutual brokenness. We acknowledge our poverty and then we understand what it means that Jesus came to serve the poor. We recognize our infirmity and then we discover God doesn’t work primarily through those who think they are well, but through those who know they are sick. All this happens in the context of community—a place of pain and trial, but also reconciliation and celebration. Community is where the ego goes to die, and in its place we find resurrection, communion, and even salvation.

Here is Vanier himself talking about the same things;

It is worth watching some of the rest of the clips in this series. There is a deep sigh in me when I hear him speak about love and community and the possibilities of finding our being as we give it away in love of others. I know these things to be true.

I also know them to be elusive. I know them to be things that can not be grasped or owned- they are not aspirational as one might seek promotion or personal fulfilment- they are rather discovered in the shit of our own failure.

May we find the place of becoming, not because enlightenment is something we can conquer, like some spiritual Everest, but more because this is the only honest and hopeful thing possible when faced with the brokenness in me, and also glimpsed in others.

Where are all the ‘Emerging’ Catholics?

We just had a lovely weekend catching up with our friend Maggy Cooper.

Maggy is originally from Australia, coming over to the UK to become a Nun, before moving into secular work with adults with learning disabilities. She currently works as a community leader of a L’Arche community.

Although she remains Catholic, Maggy began to attend the church we attended in England, Calvary Christian Fellowship in order to learn and share with others from a different Christian tradition. She has been a bridge into a new world for many of us over the last 10 years or so…

So through Maggy I heard about people like Jean Vanier and Henri Nouwen. And she opened up for me a whole new stream of contemplative understanding of the life of faith. Maggy has years of experience as a prayer guide, and in leading retreats- now most commonly at St Beuno’s in North Wales.

Talking to Maggy is always a blessing.

But perhaps the common language that she and I have most in common is that found in and around the ’emerging church conversation’. She reads more books than I do on the subject (some of my friends will find this difficult to beleive!) and  the excitment offered for the future by the ideas and thoughts coming out of the EC debate seems to fit naturally with her Catholic faith.

Indeed, it has been very noticable how much of the ’emerging’ movement has embraced older contemplative practices- in many ways this could be describing a healing of rifts formed by the Reformation- a bringing together of different Christian traditions.

Which kind of makes me ask again- where are all the other Emerging Catholics? I have met a few. Some of them are returnees to the church that they had previously rejected- like Vince down in Ayr. For him, the EC has made it possible to speak about things that previously had no words, or at very least were unmentionable.

This is particularly important here in Scotland, where sectarian division runs deep and toxic.

In this pluralistic world, movements still require leadership– and given the rather conservative stance the Pope takes on most matters Spiritual perhaps this is difficult thing to do within the Catholic Church.

One voice that will be increasingly familiar will be that of Fransiscan Preist Richard Rohr, and his Center for Action and Contemplation in New Mexico USA. He even gets a mention in ChristianityToday.

Here are a couple of clips of him speaking…

I am not interested in seeing us all the converge on a common form of faith. How boring and lifeless that would be! I am fascinated to see these common streams emerging in the different traditions however.

And at the heart of this has to be a kind of generosity to one another’s view points.

I would love to hear about Catholic movements that I have missed…