During times of crisis, listening is crucial to understanding how the crisis affects people. No one can “fix” the problem or have all the answers. Crises are complex situations that involve and affect many people, each with their own perspective and story. Listening empowers each of us to speak our truth: what we are feeling, dreading, questioning, experiencing, and hoping….
With the Church’s scandal of sexual abuse and the recent news that some bishops have been less than transparent in submitting the names of priests accused of abuse, people’s trust in the Church’s moral authority and leadership is broken. We now realize the problem is deeper and more widespread than originally perceived, especially due to the bishops’ failure to monitor one of their own. The solutions promised in the Dallas Charter were designed to discipline priest-abusers and remove them from ministry, but the authors of the Charter failed to provide protocols for the next level of Church leadership: the bishops.
People are righteously upset and need a place to express their feelings and frustration. What better place than in their parish community—the sanctuary outside of the home? Without a safe place for people to share their questions and concerns, creative solutions, as well as people’s trust in the Church, will remain stifled. Already many families are torn with disbelief that even after the media’s revelation in 2002 of the extent of the abuse in the Church, so much had yet to be uncovered. Many parishioners have stepped away from their parish while they reassess their relationship with the Church.
A Listening/Prayer Session
A Listening/Prayer Session offers one way for a parish or parishes to gather people together to express their concerns and to offer them a model of how to pray through what they are experiencing. Using the Psalms as a format for the meeting could help people respond to the situation in a way that matches the crisis orientation of the psalm-prayers that Jesus himself prayed. Here is the downloadable PDF (an all-in-one downloadable) that can be used in a parish or group to provide a supportive, receptive atmosphere that encourages people both to express themselves and to receive spiritual support, so that each person can take their next best step forward.
This format for a listening/prayer session could be a helpful tool for pastors and ministry leaders in many settings, not just for the current crisis in the Church.
You may find it more helpful to download the guide in three separate handouts:
1. Pastoral Guide for a Listening/Prayer Session 2. Praying the Psalms Through Trials and Storms 3. Psalm Prayer Reflection Sheet