As I look back to our recently concluded parish congress several lessons came to mind and these are lessons which goes beyond words and concepts formulated and documented in the congress. Below are lessons as they unfolded throughout those eventful three nights which I found personally valuable.
First lesson: growth almost always involves pain. People who do not grow are people who are either afraid of facing the pain or are insulated from them. I remember a story of a boy who was observing a butterfly coming out from its cocoon. The hole was too small and the butterfly was struggling for a way out. So out of pity and thinking that he is helping the butterfly, the boy cut a larger hole and out came a butterfly with disheveled wings and a bloated body. The pain of struggling through the little hole could have helped the butterfly to drain out excess fluids from its body and shape properly its wings. However, insulated from the painful process of growth the butterfly was in a way forestalled from spreading its wings and fly off towards the sun. And so it is with life. We will not grow unless we are willing to accept the pain that goes with it.
Second, more could be achieved by “listening” than by “talking”. This is true in a parish congress as well as in life. The attitude of listening has tremendous benefits for nurturing human relationships. Being listened to develops our own self-worth and self-confidence. In the congress we are not just forming resolutions to build up a comprehensive pastoral plan for our parish. More importantly we are forming the right attitudes needed for community building - an attitude where the individual feels his opinions and observations are important. Wimps and indecisive people are created by know-it-all, over-protective parents and managers who believe they have all the right answers, knows what is best for their children. They seldom leave room for people to create and learn from their own mistakes. I believe there are particular instances in life, and they are many, where the processes that we go through are more important than the output. The output may create order but the process creates mature people.
Third, asking the question “why” is more important than just asking “what”. Sometimes we go through life judging people on the basis of what they have said, what they have done and what they are asking for. And worse when we make “what” the sole basis for providing or withholding solutions to life’s problems. And so a parent can dismiss a child’s yearning on the basis of what she is asking without considering the why of her desire. When the congress resolution included that women should wear veils everybody started protesting. It never occured to us to ask why such a resolution came out in the first place. Does it mean that after 20 years of liturgical reform we have failed to properly inform women that this veil placed over their heads is a sign, according to the cultural practice of St. Paul’s Jewish community, that women should be submissive to the will of men? Is there a lack of formation in this regard? Sometimes we forget that we are rational people and we all have the capacity to ask the question why. Listening merely to what they are asking would not provide easy solutions to life’s problems. In fact it would even detract us from answering our true concerns.