By Michael D. Guinan, O.F.M.
As a young priest, right after
Vatican Council II (1963-1965), I remember a man
coming up to me after Mass one
Sunday. He was shaking with
anger, and said, “There are too
many changes! They’ve taken the
‘Amen’ away from the Our Father!
Now they’ve gone too far!”
This story is true, if a little
extreme, but it points to a problem.
Over the last 40 years or so,
the question of
change in the
Church is one of
the most divisive
For some “conservative”
Catholics there has
been too much change; for some
“progressive” Catholics, not nearly
enough. What are we to make of
this? Is there or isn’t there a place
for change in
with some facts.
Even a quick
survey of the
history of the
that whether we
are speaking of Church organization,
the liturgy or doctrine—the
Church has indeed changed.
The core of our faith is, of
course, constant. The creed we
recite at Mass on Sunday goes back
to the early Christian centuries and
is itself firmly rooted in the New
Testament. Our understanding of
it, however, has always grown and
developed in and through its
interactions with different times,
cultures and questions.
Instead of asking, “Should the
Church change?” perhaps we ought
to be asking, “Where did we ever get the idea that it does not or should not?”
A Healthy Body
Perhaps an analogy will be helpful. In the New
Testament, faced with the divisive issues of the
Church in Corinth, Paul compared the Church to a
body with different parts (1 Corinthians 12:12-13;
Romans 12:4-5). Today, in light of our many divisive
issues, we might extend his comparison. A human
body must constantly take in new things: fresh air,
food, water, etc. This is essential if we are to grow and
be healthy. However, not everything we take in is in
fact healthy; at times we pick up germs and viruses.
The body has an immune system to warn us when
things are going wrong and to help sort out what is
We can apply this idea to the progressive
and conservative functions within the
Church. To be healthy and alive the
Church takes in new ideas, new challenges,
new experiences: It must be
“progressive.” However, not all that
comes in is good for us, so it also has a
‘‘conservative” dimension to help sort
out the unhealthy elements. In truth,
we should each be either progressive-conservatives
The immune system, however, can have problems.
These can take two directions. On the one hand, the
system can be weak
(for example, after
cancer) or nonexistent
(as with AIDS).
In this case, anything
and everything that
comes along can
become a major
problem and could
be potentially fatal.
On the other hand,
the immune system
may itself become diseased or malfunctioning (the so-called
autoimmune diseases such as arthritis or
lupus). In this case, the immune system believes that
the body is sick or sicker than it really is, and begins to
devour the body itself. This, too, can be
painful and potentially fatal.
Radical Christianity on the far left
would represent the broken-down
immune system; it is not balanced by
a healthy conservatism. Fundamentalist
Christianity on the far right
would represent a diseased immune
system; it is not balanced by a healthy
progressivism. Both extremes can be very
Looking for Balance
This can also help us to appreciate the ironic fact that
the labels for the two extremes, “radical” and “fundamentalist,”
in fact both mean the same thing: holding
on to what is basic, fundamental, in the roots (radical
comes from the Latin word for “root”). Both progressive
and conservative dimensions are root, basic,
fundamental to the life of the body of Christ, which
the Church is. Radical Christianity is not a healthy
progressivism; nor is fundamentalist Christianity a
Each of us has a basic identity which lasts throughout
our lives. Each of us also undergoes change all the
time. The same is true of our Church. It has its underlying,
constant identity, but it also undergoes change.
We have an English word for living entities that
do not change. The word is dead. As the saying goes,
to live is to change.We believe the Church to be the
living body of Christ in the world.
Next: Why Do Catholics
How well do you or don’t you adapt to change? Give an example.
What are some of the Church’s teachings/thoughts that have changed in your lifetime? How did you accept the
God Is Truth
By Judith Dunlap
The Catechism tells us that God is love and truth. John’s first
letter clearly says that “God is love” (4:8), and his Gospel
tells us that Jesus is truth (14:6). We often hear or read
about God as love, but God as truth is not quite as familiar to
many of us.
Actually, there is only one absolute truth—and that is God. All
other truth is relative. It is limited and conditioned by all sorts of
things, including physicality, relativity, time, even culture. Three
people can witness an accident and truthfully testify to seemingly
contradictory statements. Their truth can be dictated by the
where, when and how of their relationship
to the incident. It can be colored by personal
limitations (eyesight, height, etc.)
or even personal viewpoints (prejudice,
associations with other life experiences).
Only God is truth, because
only God is limitless.
We know that even the Church’s
understanding of truth changes. We all
remember that Galileo was considered a heretic because he proposed
that the sun did not revolve around the earth. If the
Church is open to admitting limitations in its belief system, we
should be as well. As new ideas of faith or Church or even God
challenge us, we need to constantly pray to remain in the truth,
reminding ourselves that the one and only absolute truth is God.
Life’s journey is about learning and growing, constantly filtering
the truth as we see it through the witness of the Church and
our own ever-expanding experiences. This month, on the feast of
Christ the King, we hear Jesus telling us that he came into the
world “to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth
listens to my voice” (John 18:37). It is in allowing Christ to be
king and bowing to our own limitations that truth can reign in
Ask family members to talk about how they see/image God. Adults and teens can talk about how their image of God has changed over the years.
By Frank Frost
From the beginning, the
movie Invincible lets us
know that this story is
not just about Vince Papale.
It starts with a grainy, gritty,
industrial portrait of South
Philly, and when we begin to
meet the main characters, we
have a hard time sorting them out.
They are a motley crew of rabid
Philadelphia Eagles fans who play
rough tackle football on their own
leisure time in a vacant lot lined with
This is all effective metaphor for
a frustrated, depressed group of 30-
something blue-collar workers, who
live on the edge economically. When
they’re not at an Eagles game or
throwing their own brutal blocks,
they hang out at Max’s bar and celebrate
their common existence.
Thus it is that the struggle of
Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg) turns
out to be not just his chance to
escape his own dead-end existence.
The whole neighborhood’s sense of
pride rides on his shoulders. Coach
Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear) will
expand on this community responsibility.
As the new coach he attempts
to motivate his Eagles team before a
key game by telling them the pride
of the city depends on them. Win
one—not for the Gipper, but for the
Based on a real character and a true
story, Invincible is a story of self-esteem,
hope, determination, persistence and loyalty
on several levels. What is true of Vince
is also true of his drinking buddies, his
neighborhood, Coach Vermeil and
Philadelphia itself. Vince’s friends and
neighbors face job problems that require
determination and persistence equal to his
own. The coach faces a crisis of self-confidence
In 1976, the Philadelphia Eagles have
had a run of bad seasons and their fans
are getting ugly about it. The freshly hired
coach holds open tryouts for the team as a
publicity and motivation stunt. Vince’s
buddies urge Vince to try out, but he is
reluctant. How can he believe in himself?
His wife has recently walked out on him,
taking everything. Even his father discourages
him, telling him, “A man can only
take so much failure.”
However foolhardy it may seem,Vince
gives it a go. In a visual reference to the
movie Rocky, he hits the streets with training
runs at sunup. When he is the only
walk-on to be invited to training camp, he
becomes a local media darling. But as the
days go on, the stakes grow higher. Vince
becomes all the more depressed at the
prospect of failure, compounded by the
anger of one close friend who senses Vince
Vince makes the team, but the turning
point for him is not his success in the stadium.
It is a night of playing football with
his buddies in the rain and mud in the
abandoned lot. Here the pain is worth it.
Here the mud is bathed in a golden light,
friends are bound together and whether
Vince makes the Eagles team or not, he
has discovered himself as well as the
power of true friendship.
What values do you find in this film?
By Judy Ball
St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231)
A queen may be an unlikely person to be known for
service to the poor and suffering, but that is who and
what St. Elizabeth of Hungary was—and why the
Church celebrates her. It’s also why she won the affection of
the ordinary people of her day.
The daughter of the king of Hungary, Elizabeth was born
at a time when arranged royal marriages were common. At
an early age she was promised to Louis, the future prince of
Thuringia in southern Germany. They married when she
was 14 and he was 20. They were a happy and devoted couple,
and Elizabeth gave birth to three children.
Under the spiritual direction of a Franciscan, Elizabeth
led a life of prayer, sacrifice and service to the poor and sick.
She wore simple clothing and fed hundreds of poor people
who came to the royal gate each day. While her husband
fully supported her work, Elizabeth’s charitable acts struck
his family as embarrassing and excessive. When Louis died
from plague while on a crusade to the Holy Land, Elizabeth
was devastated. They had been married only six years.
Suddenly, Elizabeth was alone
and vulnerable. Whether voluntarily
or under pressure, she left
her husband’s family and the
security of the palace. In 1228 she
became a Secular Franciscan and
spent the remaining few years of
her life caring for the poor in a
hospital she had founded in
honor of St. Francis of Assisi, who
had died only a few years before.
By then, however, her health was
broken. Elizabeth died before her
24th birthday. She was canonized
only four years later.
St. Elizabeth of Hungary is the
patron of Catholic charities and
of the Secular Franciscan Order.
Her feast day is November 17.
What do you do when your
bishop says he has a nice
building that he’d like put
to good use? If you’re Diane Halal,
you say, “Thank you! I’ll make sure
something great happens there.”
And then you follow
through on your
promise, which is
exactly what she did
more than 10 years
ago. Ever since, WE
CARE, an ecumenical
located in Los
Alamitos, California, has
been offering referrals out
of that building seven days each
week to anyone in need: people
abused by their spouses, people in
need of jobs or social benefits, people
desperate to find child care.
Seeing to it that good things happen,
especially for the poor, has been
at the heart of Diane’s life since she
joined the Secular Franciscan Order
(S.F.O.) 50 years ago while in college.
She has steeped herself in the spirituality
of Francis and Clare and
devoted herself to one charitable
cause after another. The Diocese of
Orange, California, honored her as
Woman of the Year in 2004.
With an energy level possessed by
few her age—she recently turned
71—Diane keeps finding new
ways to serve and to
deepen her faith. Each
day begins with Mass.
After that, it’s anybody’s
Communion to the
homebound, serving as
a lector at her parish,
combating fraud against the
elderly, writing pro-life letters to
government officials. She also makes
time for her seven grown children,
11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
One day 50 years ago, Diane Halal
made a permanent commitment to
the gospel life. Every day since, she
has reaffirmed it. “I have a hard time
imagining life without being a
Secular Franciscan. It’s the thread
behind everything I do.”