Ronald Rolheiser, a Roman Catholic priest and member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, is president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas.
He is a community-builder, lecturer and writer. His books are popular throughout the English-speaking world and his weekly column is carried by more than seventy newspapers worldwide.
The Inclusive Embrace of Catholicism
Jesus said: "In my Father's house there are many rooms!" That's also meant to be a description, at least ideally, of Christianity, Catholicism, the church, and our theological and ideological embrace.
Allow me an example: Most every year, I attend a Religious Education Congress (sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles) in Anaheim, California. It's always an uplifting, faith-filled event where more than 30,000 Christians come together to reflect on and celebrate their faith.
One of the little sub-themes there that I've always enjoyed is the particular placing of some of the book displays in the pavilion where the various publishers sell their wares. Invariably you will find, side by side, the booths for the CATHOLIC WORKER and IGNATIUS PRESS. They're miles apart ideologically yet here they are, side by side, on very friendly terms, participating in the same faith event, both representing something important within the same tradition, neither bent on excluding the other.
There's something important, I believe, to be learned from this, and not just for Roman Catholics. To build community we need to work with more than just those who are like-minded. Any community or church built with just the like-minded is not worth belonging to because it reflects neither what's best inside the human spirit nor, for those of us who are Christians, the inclusive embrace of Christ.
But that doesn't come naturally. What does come naturally is the proclivity to huddle together in fear and like-mindedness, like the disciples before Pentecost, barricaded behind locked door with our own kind, paranoid, suspicious of all who are not of our own mind. They huddled together for a while for a purpose, in fear, in loneliness, consoling each other within a certain fragility; but when they finally felt the real power of God's spirit, they burst out of those narrow confines.