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Monday, April 20, 2009

Interesting Phenomena

In my previous post, I was making an attempt to direct readers to the theological concept of proper authority and the practical applications that result. 

Basically, to reiterate, I as a lay person CAN teach/preach outside of a homily, but my message won't really have the same effect as if that same message is conveyed by the person with the proper authority to do so.  In short, a Priest can offer what he teaches.  A Lay person cannot.  And in this case, I'm talking specifically about the Sacraments.  

I'll admit I was getting a bit frustrated with some of the comments I was receiving, because they were focusing not on my message, but on me.  They included advice as to how to point people to the proper authority.  When I teach about the Sacraments, I do that. In fact, in my blog post, I linked to a Church Document. I doubt anyone clicked on it.  

Same kind of thing.  When I teach/preach on the Sacraments, it falls on deaf ears in the same way my own theological point fell on blind eyes last night and this morning.  

The commenters, in a way I didn't at first realize, exactly made my point. 

Had a Priest brought up the issue of teaching authority proper to the priesthood versus that of the laity, what would have ensued would be a theological discussion of his points. 

But because I am a lay person, the theological point was largely ignored in favor of discussing my own personal role and what I should/could do, etc.  

That's EXACTLY what happens when a lay person teaches on these very important matters.  People ignore the message.  I don't get phone calls with questions on what I actually said, but rather, questions about what authority I have to tell them how to live.  I get questions on my outfit or my shoes or what kind of paper I used to write the talk on.  I get questions about what the kids should wear for First Communion. 

The one ear and out the other. 

Just like my blog post from last night. Almost NO discussion on the theology.  

I've also realized that's happened over and over on my posts where I'm making theological points. Granted, I often speak from experience in order to make my point, but even if I don't, people will tend to focus on me as the messenger more than the message itself. 

That's a problem, I'm realizing.  Because if I dominate the topic so much, then it means Jesus has taken a back seat, and I'm the one somehow in the limelight.  

This makes me seriously question blogging.  At least, my participation in it.  One of the reasons I don't write under my own name is because I don't want to be the focus. Yet, over time, that's happened. My identity is known to a lot of people now, and of course, once one is known, things become more personal and less theoretical.  

I'm going to take some time to really think about all of this, and whether or not I can do a better job of making Christ the focus as He is intended to be.  If I can't discuss theology without getting out of the way, that's a problem.  If my words are pointing only to me and people are bypassing God in order to get to me, then I'm not doing my job.  

I apologize if my frustration came out in my responses to comments in the previous post as I meant no offense to anyone, and know that they meant no offense to me. And truly, I am not offended. In fact, I'm glad they commented as they did as it makes me truly evaluate what I'm doing and why. 

God bless. 


uncle jim said...

If your readers are all in the same choir as you, they very well may tend to ignore the message and focus on the messenger. Not your intent, I know. So the issue becomes more of how to get the message to those who are not in the same choir.

At least that is my first not well thought through thought.

When I think on it a little more, I may be back.

Adoro said...

Uncle Jim ~ Good point, but dunno if it really applies. While we've all long known that when Father speaks, people listen, it's so ingrained in our American culture today that we have the "right" as laity to do all sorts of things, we never stop to consider whether or not we SHOULD.

I know that not everyone who reads my blog is in the same choir as I, and definitely on this issue. And I don't expect everyone to agree with me - not by any means. But in disagreeing, they should be engaging the POINTS - not what I do at work. I only used myself because I needed to point out through experience what I've seen.

Maybe what I need to do is NOT speak of experience but be more general, summarizing without citing whehter I was a part of something.


Fr. Andrew said...

From a different choir:

Isn't this part of the inherent difficulty of blogging and "personal media?" It focuses on the individual- "the medium is the message" is at least partially true. In blogs, people focus on whatever they want to focus on- runaway comment boxes aren't new. I've had some blog-disasters myself.

The issue of authority is important. In fact, it is THE issue of the last 500 years.

Adoro said...

Fr. Andrew ~ Thanks. I'm wondering if you'd consider doing a post on authority? Wish you'd been in my class so would have MORE of an idea of what I'm speaking about here with regard to the hierarchical gifts of the Holy Sprit.

I think we've all had blog disasters. I've probably caused more than a few. *sigh*

Julia said...

I think authority is a very important issue to address. People today don't like to talk frankly about it.

I like to "share" my faith more than teach it. It may seem like semantics, but I feel as if I approach conversations differently when I think about it that way. Then again, I've never had a formal teaching position in the faith, so I don't know what that's like.

I've wondered about female theology professors, especially ones who work in seminaries. I would love to hear their thoughts on teaching and authority.

Anyway, as a young, newly "re-verted" Catholic considering the possibility of religious life, I love your blog. I have found it very valuable, and I hope you continue posting. :)

God bless.

Adoro said...

Thanks, Julia.

You may want to check out the comments of the post below. Fr. S. left a great comment addressing authority, and discusses theology professors.

And you're right...authority is a dirty topic in this country. Everyone's entitled these days, and so no real authority is respected.

Except is. Especially when it's divine. People just don't want to admit it!

Julia said...

Thanks! I just read Fr S's comment, and it was very helpful!

Melody K said...

In the not-too-distant past, many people's sacramental formation was carried out by religious sisters. I don't recall too many people arguing with them, or blowing them off. Perhaps, as others have mentioned, the problem now is that people have a hard time accepting any kind of authority. I have even heard priests complain that people don't listen, or don't want to hear what they are saying. Too many people have decided that the only authority is "me".

Brother Juniper said...


I think that your point is very well made. I also believe that theological posts in general tend to get people riled up for one reason or another.

When I used to write about all kinds of extremely heavy theological issues on my blog mostly about sedevacantism and the SSPX, I would have all kinds of dirt thrown at me because I was saying the truth which hurts. Even if it was one hurtful comment, I found that the best policy was to keep my mouth shut and write about my own spiritual experiences.

With regard to the identity question, I understand you thoroughly. I think that the more identity you put forward, the more likely it is that you are going to be attacked "personally." Meaning that the issue at hand is not what is at stake, but rather your personality or whatever. It's a difficult line to tow or walk on and I can understand if you need a break.

I will be praying for you.

Maureen said...

Well, religious sisters aren't ordained; but in the old days, it was quite clear that they were people under authority who had given their lives to Jesus and the Church. If they were teaching, they'd been given the authority to do it.

Also, they wore uniforms. :) Uniforms are a great sign of being part of a chain of command. The habits were sacramentals, too, if I recall, so it was like they were clothed in their holy role and authority.

Adoro said...

Brother Juniper ~ Indeed, they do. One way or another, they strike a chord with people, whether agreeing or disagreeing, there are strong reactions. God does that. I think it's because we can't ignore Him and we HAVE to react in some way, even if our reactions aren't the ones those around us would prefer.

To be clear, no one is really "attacking" and I don't think that's even the word you intended, although sometimes it might be proper. The issue of identity makes it easy for people to *THINK* they know what you're talking about because they subconsciously analyze you and think you intend something you don't. Even if they don't comment, they're thinking, "I know that person and this is *REALLY* what they're getting at here".

And we, all of us, in our arrogance, do this. ALL of us!

Adoro said...

Maureen ~ Religious Sisters are an entirely different thing, but related, so thanks for bringing them up.

Their habits ARE sacramentals and like priests, they "put on Christ" each and every day, so that it is He who lives. Therefore the habit itself is a sign of authority, and I do think hierarchical gifts are granted to them, although not in the same way, of course, as those in the priesthood.

They are very visible signs of the Church and Church authority. If I stood in that same classroom clothed in a habit, there are many more who would trust my teaching because of that outward sign, within which I as a person could in a sense retire. Father would still be the primary authority, though.

So even though Sisters are Laity, they do also have a charism of authority albeit secondary to that of the Clergy.

We didn't discuss that in class, though, although it would be interesting to bring up if we get a chance in our May class.

sr_mary said...

I totally agree that a religious in habit is a sign of the voice of the Church... even when we have no intention of being one. Years back, I attended a local secular university. I can be quite vocal. One class I expressed a personal opinion, and overheard someone in the back of the room say "I had no idea that is what the Catholic Church thinks." Thankfully, it wasn't too far off the mark, and on a topic not definatively defined yet. But it woke me up to the fact EVERYTHING I say and do is seen as coming from 'the church' ... for good or for ill.