Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Lamenting Wall

I'm not really a techie guy - I have an iPhone, a Kindle Fire, and a computer. Sure, I do have some experience with YouTube and with blogging but, in general, I've little knowledge of computers and technology. I'm glad it's there, I'm glad when it is working, but I haven't the foggiest clue as to how it works.

I wish I did.

In addition to www.parishconnect.com, my proposal for a multi-platform site to help women and men interested in finding a 'right fit' parish, I have another idea. Near as I can tell, it will remain only an idea as I haven't the skill to put it into action. Hence my blogging about it: if it is a good idea, viable and helpful to souls, perhaps someone else will pick up on it.

There is a practice, at the "Wailing Wall" of Jerusalem, for pilgrims to place prayer notes into the crevices. I even learned on Wikipedia that one can now email prayers that will be printed and put into the wall. There's something beautiful about the image of many prayers, born out of the hearts of many people, coming together in the fissures of the Wall.

What I would propose is something like a digital Wailing Wall, called www.WhyILeftTheChurch.com. Or www.LamentingWall.com. On this site, users could anonymously write their stories of why they feel no longer able to be in communion with the Catholic Church. These stories would then be digitally 'folded' and put into a virtual wall. Over time, I suspect, we would see many of the joints and cracks and crevices filled with the stories of those who have departed. No comments would be enabled and no registration necessary. Simply stop by, tell your story, and commend it to the Lamenting Wall.

Why this proposal? Because every time we lose a member of the Church, we should feel a sting of lamentation. Every time a sincere seeker throws up her hands and says, "I quit!" we should take a moment to ask, "Why?" We, as a Church, ought to do this because the stories that are posted are the stories of good people who find that they are not being fed at the Lord's table. If, by listening to their stories, we find that there are ways we can help to invite them and those like them back, then we can start to become the change we want to see.

I do not envision this as simply a place where people can moan and complain. I'm also certain that many kooks will show up and write utterly obnoxious things online. If I were in charge of it, I'd enlist the services of some of my Jesuit brothers - those in our nursing facilities, especially - and ask them to take on as a special mission the activity of praying for those who commend their stories to the virtual wall. Perhaps it would be a start to healing wounds to know that, in response to your story, someone is praying for you.

I suspect that one of the great frustrations many people have with the Catholic Church is their experience of not being heard, of feeling as though no one has listened to them. A digital Lamenting Wall certainly would not heal old wounds or change structures, but it might be a beginning. Imagine how an inquisitive bishop, or pastor, or any member of the Church might feel to go online and read the testimonies of people who felt they had to 'vote with their feet.' This might be just the sort of forum where the process of telling one's story might be the start of a spiritual journey home.

As I said the other day, I welcome any and all feedback. I might be totally crazy with these ideas, but I put them out on the blog to see if they gain any traction. If this is of God's spirit, then it will enkindle the hearts of others. If it is simply the product of my own mind, it is doomed to languish in the archives.



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