Dialogue can at times be looked at with trepidation or mistrust, sometimes by those concerned that it may be in conflict with strongly witnessing to one’s faith or that it possibly weakens the underlying tenets of what we believe. That has not been the lived experience of those in Catholic circles and beyond who have been brave enough to engage one another in a setting open to dialogue. Instead, the reality often is ongoing grace-filled encounters and the opportunity to have one’s life deeply enriched by the surprising perspective of the other.
As OSV Newsweekly begins its 106th volume with this issue, two pieces of content stand in contrast to one another and create a dynamic tension that we hope is helpful for our readers, Catholics and all people seeking to navigate the challenging waters of the 21st century. On Page 7, an essay by veteran OSV Newsweekly Contributing Editor Russell Shaw looks at three books that outline strategies for Catholics seeking to preserve the values of the Faith in the face of a culture so hostile to it. And this week’s In Focus (Pages 9-12, online April 30) contains helpful tips for dialoguing with others online and in other formats, as well as some background as to why Catholics are called to practice dialogue, a practice strongly endorsed by Pope Francis in recent years.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, for example, explains the necessity for dialogue in terms of lived human reality: “The human person needs to live in society. Society is not for him an extraneous addition but a requirement of his nature. Through the exchange with others, mutual service and dialogue with his brethren, man develops his potential; he thus responds to his vocation” (No. 1879).
The passage boldly outlines the place of the outside world in Christian living, from the commission of Jesus to go forth to his admonition not to hide one’s lamp under a bushel basket (cf Mt 5:15). It also anticipates Pope Francis’ call for a Church that goes out into the world and, in the process of responding to Christ’s call, gets its feet dirty.
“If somebody has a room in his house that is closed for long periods, it develops humidity, and a bad smell. If a church, a parish, a diocese or an institute lives closed in on itself, it grows ill (just like with the closed room), and we are left with a scrawny Church, with strict rules, no creativity,” Francis said in a 2015 interview. “On the contrary — if it goes forth — if a Church and a parish go out into the world, then once outside they might suffer the same fate as anybody else who goes out: have an accident. Well in that case, between a sick and a bruised Church, I prefer the bruised, because at least it went into the street.”
There are additional problems with this “closed-up room” scenario. We suffer the missed opportunities of countless grace-filled encounters, where the Spirit could have entered into the cracks of uncomfortable, even seemingly impossible relationships and circumstances to break open new thoroughfares for building up the kingdom. When Christians stay out of the game, we send the world a message that the rest of humanity is not our concern, and the world loses a leavening agent.
As OSV Newsweekly enters a 106th year of serving the Church by going out into the world with the Good News, we embrace even hostile culture in the confidence that God’s will breaks through and flourishes even in what seem like the darkest times.
Editorial Board: Greg Willits, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor-in-chief; Don Clemmer, managing editor