7 Insights for the NE from a Social Ritual Practices Perspective

If we reflect on the NE from a social ritual practices perspective, then I think professionals would start perceiving the 30% of Catholics who attend Mass more positively (not from a deficit model).

  • I think the recent book by Michael White and Tom Corcoran (White, Michael and Corcoran, Tom.  2013.  The Story of a Catholic Parish Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful Reaching the Lost Making Church Matter.  Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press) is a good example of professionals believing pew-dwellers are not good enough and operating out of a deficit model of Catholicism (especially in the first 80 or 90 pages).

If we reflect on the NE from a social ritual practices perspective, then I think professionals would start realizing EDUCATION is not the only answer to the issues facing the Church.

If we reflect on the NE from a social ritual practices perspective, then I think professionals would have an even deeper appreciation of the sacraments and our Catholic sacramentalizing processes.

If we reflect on the NE from a social ritual practices perspective, then I think professionals would promote every parish having LARGE KITCHENS in order for families to gather at the parish for not only coffee and donuts but spaghetti dinners, fish fries, etc. etc.

If I reflect on the NE from a social ritual practices perspective, then I think professionals would promote PARISH Christian Service Coordinators and Youth Ministers ministering together more so than they do now.  If I am going to get the teens in Redford Township to come back to church I need to say, “hey, Joe and Pete, I need you guys to help me build this home for this poor widow (or whatever the service project is) and then after the project I would catechize them about how we were doing the work of the Lord.  Understand, however, that it has to be some kind of lengthy or ongoing Christian service project, not simply setting up chairs or collecting clothes.  Consequently, every parish needs to have a CHRISTIAN SERVICE COORDINATOR and a YOUTH MINISTER and they must work closely together – from a social ritual practices perspective.

If I reflect on the NE from a social ritual practices perspective, then I would realize more fully how CATHOLIC my mother and father (and even some of my aunts and uncles) really were.

If we reflect on the NE from a social ritual practices perspective, not to denigrate or suggest we should not engage in educational activities concerning the NE (workshops, conferences, adult education sessions, etc.), then I think we would start thinking about DOINGS, ACTIVITIES, CHRISTIAN SERVICE PROJECTS that we could get former Catholics and youth involved in rather than predominantly inviting them to scripture studies or adult education sessions or NE workshops.  I have suggested, for example, to the Archbishop that the Archdiocese should have a World Youth Day at the diocesan level.  It would include catechesis, but catechesis would be the least powerful evangelization tool.  The processing together to some common area in the diocese would be the most powerful evangelization tool from a social ritual practices perspective.

How Does This Sociologist Think About the NE?

I believe the NE (New Evangelization) and “handing on the faith” today is not purely or even mostly a cognitive task or challenge.  It is not solely about our passing on formulaic content.  I think THE TASK IS A PROFOUNDLY SOCIOLOGICAL ONE.  Sociology has experienced a disciplinary turn away from examining predominantly cognitive, belief, and rational factors (as important as these areTO examining emotional, bodily, ritual factors (or mind to body; language to behaviors; rational to nonrational, ideas to practices; texts to performances; myths to rituals or in more liturgical terms lex orandi, lex credendi and the Catholic understanding of mystagogical catechesis).

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Dioceses and lay groups survey Catholics on issues of family life

Last week Brian Starks discussed the Vatican’s interest in lay input concerning pastoral challenges facing the family in preparation for the 2014 extraordinary synod on “the pastoral challenges for the family in the context of evangelization.” Since then, the Vatican’s announcement has been widely discussed in both the secular and Catholic media outlets with great interest.  The news has also led to discussions in the Catholic blogosphere over what exactly the Vatican questionnaire means and how Catholics are to interpret it (see here and here for two takes on the questionnaire).  For those interested in reading the preparatory document for the synod, it is also now posted on the Vatican’s website.  It discusses the reasons for the synod and ends with 38 questions pertaining to how Church teaching on marriage and family is understood by Catholics in one’s diocese and how pastoral care regarding certain family issues is addressed.

Since the announcement that the Vatican is interested in lay input regarding these questions, many have wondered how such data would be collected.  While the Catholic Bishops’ Conference for England and Wales (CBCEW) have created an online survey, according to the National Catholic Register the USCCB has noted that the survey is being handled at the diocesan level, and that “each bishop determines what is the most useful and reasonable manner of consultation to assist him in preparing his report for the Vatican.”  At least one diocese, the Diocese of Rockford, has created a way for individual Catholics to respond to the Vatican questionnaire.  Nonetheless, some lay Catholic groups have taken it upon themselves to create their own surveys.  For instance, the liberal Catholic group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good has created a survey which can be found at www.papalsurvey.com.  Likewise, Catholic Organizations for Renewal (COR), a collation of liberal Catholic groups (e.g., Call to Action, DignityUSA, FutureChurch, and Women’s Ordination Conference), have put together a survey titled “The Extraordinary Synod on the Family 2014: A parish-level survey for US Catholics,” which mirrors the format used by the CBCEW. Continue reading

Does Pope Francis *heart* Survey Research?

Too rarely do I read something that not only makes me take a second look, but also rub my eyes, and then smile in surprise.  Recent news regarding the upcoming Synod of Bishops did just that.  Not that the synod is being held, which is good news, to be sure.  Nor that its theme will be “Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization,” though that is surely an important and timely topic.  No, what really shocked me was this:

“The Vatican has asked national bishops’ conferences around the world to conduct a wide-ranging poll of Catholics asking for their opinions on church teachings on contraception, same-sex marriage and divorce.” Continue reading