God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Thoughts, inside, comments of a Catholic priest

12.09.2009 Saturday in Durban

Flying to Durban was and is always a pleasure for me as it gives me the opportunity to break my normal life circles and experience a totally different crowd of people. After the flight and check in I went to Mariannhill to deliver a talk on lay piety versus theology. A good discussion followed, centered around the question whether the definition of laity as the opposite to clergy is a) the right definition if we follow the biblical witness and the first Christian communities and b) whether there is a possibility to define laity in a positive way.

Lets face it: In the beginning it was the highest position in our church to be part of “the people of God”. Belonging to Jesus versus being a non Christian.  All were belonging to laity. Gratian and his collection of laws starts the trouble, creating the impression that laity is the opposite of clergy. Since today, there seems to be no real appreciation of the laity and a positive definition. The “sensus fidelium” of all people of God is so important, without this sensus, even the pope cannot speak “ex cathedra” or infallible as the I. Vatican Council degrees.

So I try to make clear to the people attending the talk how important they are, even if we cannot sense this appreciation in the daily dealing of the clergy with the laity. I encourage them to take their role positive and active – at the end we have to admit: Not the clergy, not the words of a pope, no word of a bishop but the daily religious routine of a mother or a father or a teacher brings a child to experience faith, to learn about faith. And seeing how people struggle to do that besides their work, how mothers do that besides all their tasks is much more praiseworthy than those, who are comfortably be paid to do it professionally. I really believe that we as the clergy, including bishops and popes, have more to learn to be of service to the “people of God” instead of trying to rule them.  Not power play but humility is what is missing in a lot of ranks within our church. We are used to rule and manage and decide, the higher we climb the latter of the hierarchy, the more we get used that we have it all. As adviser to church VIP’s also tend to say only what they think their “boss” will hear, it is sometimes getting virulent.

Thinking of the pope, the only title I really like is servant of the servants of God. this is indeed his major role and he can only perform when he also listens to the “sensus fidelium” as a very important criteria of finding the church’s way through the times.

Well, it was a great eve with deep thoughts and meaningful contributions.

This morning another touching ceremony: The baptism of a child and an adult and two confirmations: mother and son. My sermon is rather spontaneous as I meet the people the first time and I have first to touch ground with them to be able to connect well. But they are good prepared and the ceremony is one of joy and participation – one can feel the spirit of God present…

The afternoon is on a lighter note, I will go for a braai to meet members of the community bidding farewell to me, later I will meet with a friend from Kwazulu Natal to spend the eve out and relax a bit before Sunday duties are calling.

To encourage people to live their faith in their own way, to follow their intimate relationship with god, which indeed is a unique relationship seems me so important. People often forget that they are called to the freedom of the children of God and not being a sheep just running behind the pastor. We all have part in God’s good spirit – let us it together to bring the church forward in these difficult times.

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HIV, AIDS and HOPE – thoughts of a Catholic priest

Being a Roman - Catholic priest and working in the fields of HIV and AIDS in Africa is often a challenge. Living in Africa has also its challenges. On the other hand I feel very much blessed having all the three. So you will find stories and reflections about my work, about the church, South Africa and Africa and essential information and developments in the field of HIV and AIDS. And in between personal stories and thoughts. You are most welcome to leave a comment or to get in touch with me - blogs - "thinking loud" so to speak is a ways of communication and exchange of ideas.

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