by Joseph Nangle, OFM
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace

As we move through Cycle A of the current liturgical year and the gospel of Matthew, the phenomenon of Jesus’s storytelling catches our attention. The other two synoptic gospels, Mark and Luke, also feature such stories but Matthew’s seem to be paramount.

There is no need here to repeat the tales (parables) used by Jesus in his public ministry. We know them well and appreciate them for their clarity and simplicity in describing what “the kingdom of God us like…”) Perhaps, however, as we hear them once again in the liturgies of the Word each Sunday, a reflection on the value of stories generally and a few in particular might be useful.

This is an important thing to do because we all have stories. In fact, it might be said that in the end our stories are of great importance in explaining to ourselves and to others what is the key to our lives on earth and the ways the Holy Spirit has guided us. Above all, this type of reflection helps us recognize that our stories have immense value and should never be underrated, but confidently shared. What is more, the current synodal process is fundamentally a gathering of stories from every level of Church life and from every place in the world.

Two examples:

The post-Vatican II Catholic Church in Latin America often turned to people’s experiences as guides to its pastoral directions. It was not unusual for laity, clergy and vowed religious to sit down together and share their stories.

On one such occasion a young factory worker sat at a table with the cardinal-archbishop of his city. The conversation was free-flowing and at one point the worker shared an experience he had on the previous Christmas Eve.

The workers were not allowed time off to attend the traditional midnight Mass that year so our friend gathered his companions and conducted a prayer service featuring the Nativity story from Luke’s gospel, shared prayers, songs and reflections on the wonderful event that was being celebrated that night.

The cardinal listened with great attention and when the man had finished, asked if there had been the possibility of a Eucharistic celebration there; of course, the answer was negative. Then his Eminence spoke directly to the young lay person and told him that whenever such an occasion might present itself again, he had the cardinal’s permission to go to the local church and bring the Blessed Sacrament to the factory and conduct a communion service. (This exemplifies the Church which produced Papa Bergoglio.)

The husband of an elderly couple was at the end of his life, dying in a local hospital. Husband and wife called their pastor to celebrate the Sacrament of the Sick and minister Holy Communion to them. After the wonderful prayers and anointing, the priest took out the consecrated bread and began the rite of Communion. At this the dying man’s wife asked if she could give the sacred host to her husband and he to her. And so it happened.

Clearly these two stories took place under the most ordinary circumstance. One around a table, sharing experiences of Church, and the other, three persons gathered in a hospital room. Each is powerful and examples of what Pope Francis is hoping will emerge as expressions of Church from his historic synodal efforts to learn from the experiences of the People of God. In this he shows himself more a pastor with theological depth rather than a theologian with pastoral sensitivity.

To return for a moment to the example of Jesus and his storytelling: Surely his daily life during the 18 years he spent growing up as the carpenter of Nazareth was filled with innumerable little events which he later used in his preaching. We have the same resources if “we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.”

Joe Nangle OFM is a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. As a member of the Assisi Community in Washington, D.C., he is dedicated to simple living and social change. Joe also serves as the Pastoral Associate for the Latino community at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Arlington, Virginia.

2 thoughts on “Sharing our stories, sharing ourselves

  1. Thank you once again for your inspiring stories. Years ago my youngest brother was part of your parish and I remember my mother and I coming for a liturgy there. It was most uplifting, involving, joyful! I know it is a wonderful parish. Blessings on this feast of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

  2. Here is my story which I tell in the hope of promoting the “New Evangelization”:

    In my parish, – St. Anne -St. Augustin Parish in Manchester, N.H.— we do not have a parish council.
    The pastor seems to be so overwhelmed with the attempt to provide liturgical services that he does not have the time or energy to help organize a parish council. I wrote a letter to my Bishop, Peter Libasci, suggesting that synodality implies that we must have a parish council or unify our resources with another parish so that we will be able to do so.
    Pope Francis is correct in his attempt to help us see the need for fraternal dialogue. This dialogue should help us promote the “New Evangelization”.

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