Talking within our Traditions

Last night I went to Mass with a friend of mine at a church that neither of us had ever been to before. It was lovely in the way so many Catholic churches are—intricate stained glass windows, statues of saints and icons of holy people, rich with the smell of incense.

The readings for tonight were troublesome at first, with the piece from Thessalonians encouraging us to shun our neighbors who fall astray from the path toward holiness. But it was the Gospel that struck me most deeply. It’s the passage from the Gospel of Matthew in which Jesus appears to berate the scribes and Pharisees for their alleged hypocrisy. It reminded me of a class called The Four Gospels, which I took toward the end of my undergrad. The professor reminded us of Jesus’ Jewish identity and the Jewish audience of this particular gospel. Passages like these, she reasoned, are like the most painful of family fights because we know well how to hurt those we are closest to.

Remembering this caused me to reflect on how dialogue takes places within our own tradition. I’m thinking specifically of those who Michele Dillon describes as pro-change Catholics, those women and men who are involved in work that seems to go against the official teaching of our tradition (i.e. pro-choice work, marriage equality advocacy) and those who I’ll call traditionalist Catholics, who favor the Latin Mass over Mass in the vernacular, regularly partake of Eucharistic adoration, and hold fast to the letter of the catechism. Do those who think differently talk with one another? If we do, how do we speak to one another? Do we fall prey to stereotypes about those on the other end of the spectrum, or do we allow one another to be the complicated entities that we truly are? In telling the truth, how do we treat “the other”? These are just a few of the questions that come to mind as we review the manuscript with our editor, questions that I hope will guide our conversations about its content in the days ahead.

In peace and hope,



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