During Lent and Easter this year, I heard of some parishes who gathered reading groups together to go through the book Divine Renovation by Fr James Mallon.
In my parish, I wanted to break the book up using questions to help reflection and discussion. It was easy to push readers too quickly, so the whole process lasted over 8 weeks, at the end of which we are coming together for a social to discuss things further.
If this would be of help to your parish then please use them and let me know how it goes. I tried to keep them relatively short so that I could send them out by text message. Enjoy!
Thanks so much for agreeing to read this book together for Lent! The following questions will be connected to the first chapter. I suggest reading two chapters a week (at least initially) perhaps slackening off towards Easter. I will send some more questions at the weekend. May God bless you as you read!
Introduction: House of Cards. Fr Mallon says we are ‘an essentially missionary church‘ (p12). What does this mean for our parish?
Chapter 1: House of Prayer. What do you think of Fr Mallon’s assessment of the central crisis facing the church?
The Temple. In our parish, who are those ‘outside the walls’ or who do we unintentionally excluded from parish life?
The Mission. Do we as a parish make disciples? If not, how can we do this? Would you describe yourself as a disciple?
Evangelisation. Fr Mallon says that to announce the Good News we must first have encountered Christ for ourselves. In the light of this, what steps might we take for our parish to begin to experience a ‘divine renovation’?
Please find the questions for chapter 2. Don’t feel you have to answer all of them. You might want to keep notes for a future get together.
Chapter 2: Rebuild My House. (p28) Alongside the call to be missionary, how do you strive to become holy?
Evangelisation is not just about giving information, but about encounter with Christ (p30). How might you speak about your encounter with Christ to others?
What do you think of the four findings on p38? Are there people you know who have left the Church for these reasons?
Where do the apostolates/groups in our parish fit into the schema on p40? Are they directed toward ‘making missionary disciples’? (also see RM no.3 quote, p31).
Chapter 3: House of Pain. Pope Francis describes a ‘self-referential’ church as one which glorifies herself and not Christ. This has caused great pain within and outside the Church, and has contributed to the abuse crisis.
Has this crisis influenced the way you speak to others about your faith and how has it affected you/your faith?
What can we/our parish do to participate in the process of forgiveness and healing? – during Lent is there some action (eg prayer, sacrifice, service) that you could do to aid this process?
The abuse crisis has touched every aspect of the Church’s mission. What does a repentant and renewed missionary Church look like and do?
Read the Lamentation passages in this chapter as part of your personal prayer this week.
The chapters get a bit longer now so I will be sending questions once a week. I hope you are still finding the book encouraging and challenging.
Chapter 4: Clearing out the Junk. On p60 Fr James quotes Pope Francis, who warns about ‘temptations against missionary discipleship’. Can you see why people might be tempted to envisage a brighter future for the Church by uniting it to (and I paraphrase) politics, psychology, elitism or ‘bring-backism’?
Have you heard of Pelagianism before? How do you respond to the teaching of the Church that there is nothing we can do to deserve God’s salvation from our sins – ie that we are saved by Grace alone? (pp62-65) What grace or gift from God do you have that you can ‘sing about’ (p71)?!
What do you think of Fr James’ description of clericalism (from p71) as a kind of elitism (or super-Christianity) in which priests and people are both complicit? What do you think of Fr James’ remedies to this problem?
What does a renewal of the Church based solely on a total trust and obedience to Christ look like, both for yourself and corporately? What formation can help our parish to embrace this renewal?
This chapter is the longest one in the book so I will split it up and suggest about a week and a half to read and digest. I hope you are enjoying the book and are perhaps seeing your part in bringing our Church from maintenance to mission.
Chapter 5: Laying the Foundations. (pp87-95) Try to describe the ‘culture of your parish’. What are its values? – ie What does it celebrate, tolerate and presume? Is this culture, or foundation, a secure base from which to form missionary disciples?
Will your parish church be ‘here’ in 5, 10, 25 or 50 yrs time? Will it hold the same values; what will it look like?
For the rest of the chapter (pp95-195) I suggest reading one section a day if possible, on these 10 characteristics, and ask yourself the following questions: 1) Does this happen in your parish? 2) …Whose responsibility is it? 3) If not, could it happen in your parish? – what would it take?
Chapter 6: The Front Door. (p198) Does our ‘yes’ to enquirers include a commitment to walk with them on the road of discipleship? How can the sacraments be a door/threshold into the life of the Church?
(p204) What is your response to Fr Mallon’s comment on Baptism creating invisible members of a visible Church? Are the Sacraments ordered toward making disciples who are visible members of this visible Church?
Read and reflect on the second paragraph on p208 in the light of our own discipleship. Do you recognise the situation in the 5 points on p210?
Catechesis presumes evangelisation (paraphrase p212). Read and reflect on the principles starting on p213.
Chapter 7: Leader of the House: The essential role of leadership. Fr James writes “…a second crisis [of our Church] is one of leadership” (p233). Do you agree with this? He also says that “everyone has some degree of leadership ability…” – in what area do you think God is calling you to be a leader in His Church?
Leaders are willing to be vulnerable (p241) and admit they cannot do it by themselves. What help do we need to ask of others in our parish, to grow from maintenance to mission?
The remainder of this chapter addresses Vision and Strategy – elements to which leaders need to give special attention. As you read on, consider your involvement in the development and growth of these aspects, as a leader in your parish. What can the Church offer you, so that you grow as a truly missionary disciple?
In the Easter season, I will arrange a short meeting & social to hear about the vision (“picture of the future that produces passion”) that God has given YOU for our Church, while reading DR. If you feel you are behind on the reading, don’t worry, and certainly don’t let it stop you from coming! I will be in touch again soon.