I owe that last phrase to my wise friend Fr. Jim Hogan of Missoula, Montana. He does preach and teach the powerful, nuanced simplicity at the center of mystery and maturity. Similarly, Franciscan Father Richard Rohr and many others talk about two halves of life -- the first to learn the rules, the second to enter the mystery.
What leads us to maturity in faith? We start with the simple answers we learned as children. Add life experience, reflection, prayer, community, discernment, thoughtful knowledge of the world and of theology. The simple answers gain layers of nuance and depth.
Our tongues can get tangled as we try to say the old words and let them hold the growing richness.
One thing I like a lot about Pope Francis is that he doesn't focus on formulas. He focuses on loving action, in everyday experiences. That's where the mystery dwells. His homilies often let it surface.
In contrast, in 2012 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith decided LCWR needed to be "reformed" by three bishops; was this to a large degree because they were looking for formulaic words? The role of the CDF, and the role some bishops embrace, is to clarify and protect "the faith" - and they often seem to think faith means "simply stated truths." Is this is because they view us laity as St. Paul's "children" in need of their care, rather than as co-adventurers with them in the journey of faith?
Ignoring LCWR's strong leadership in supporting U.S. sisters to be ever more effective in their loving actions, the CDF's critique focused on LCWR's words or lack of words: LCWR doesn't condemn people, not even when they don't follow church teaching; and speakers at the annual LCWR Assemblies have sometimes spoken of divine reality in words that don't match traditional formulas.
I hear adult faith in LCWR's words and lack of words. A faith that knows it's impossible to pigeonhole God. A faith that believes actions speak louder than words. A faith that believes the essential language is love.
Is there a way to express that kind of faith in ways that are comprehensible, and that invite mutual respect, with people who prefer traditional language, like CDF, many bishops, and perhaps Pope Francis?