Conversations

I saw parts of this video on Instagram a couple of days ago.

Video Link

I couldn’t wait to share it with you. Father Kyle Manno is a priest in the Diocese of Rockford, IL. He has an intermittent show on The Catholic Channel and does Priest with a Mic YouTube videos. OSV even did a story on him a few months ago. Check it out here!

So what’s the point of sharing this? Well, in the 11 minute video he makes a point that we so very easily forget. He says, “When we’re debating issues, sharing about hard teachings, having conversations to convert, don’t forget about the person.” (a paraphrase)

Remember that there’s a person on the other side of the conversation.

In the video he gives an example of a woman who came to his office who has been away from the church for 15 years because a priest once said in a homily that she had to vote pro-life. She couldn’t handle that, so she walked out in the middle of the homily and hasn’t been back to Church since. Father debated for over an hour with her on the pro-life issue, getting nowhere. Then he discovered that her daughter works for Planned Parenthood. A light went off for him, “it’s not about the issue, it’s about her daughter.” This discovery changed everything about their conversation.

There’s a life experience – a hurt, a wound, a person – behind the debater.

Last week I was getting my haircut. My stylist asked me if I had or wanted children, and I gave my standard, somewhat-snarky response of “yes, but not really something that happens alone, need to find a husband for that dream to come true.” We got to talking about ‘men these days’ (a common hair salon discussion) and our adventures in dating (online & off). She shared with me that she’d recently broken up with her boyfriend and that he hadn’t been treating her very well. I just said, “I’m sorry you had to go through that, you’re worth more than that.”

Apprehensively, she ended up sharing with me that she’d gotten pregnant last fall and had an abortion because she wasn’t ready to be a mom yet and the boyfriend wanted nothing to do with a kid. It was hard to hear from her. I didn’t know what to say. I did know the next statement wasn’t “Why’d you kill your child?” I probably fumbled it, big time. I focused on how difficult that must have been, that she’s worth more than a man who would demand that from her, and I was glad she had a good support system at home. This was all within 15 minutes of meeting her, as it was the first time she was cutting my hair (and she’s graduating from the school, so it will be the last).

I may have fumbled that opportunity. I need more practice talking through those real issues when they come my way. My point in sharing is that we all need more practice. I mean, I’m not your average Catholic. I’ve read the whole Bible and the entire Catechism, have a degree in Catholic Theology, and work at a Catholic Company. With all of that background, training, and education, I still need practice entering into conversations like this. And your parishioners do to. You might even need practice too.

On the Vision Plan survey I help parishes design, a common response in the open-ended questions is “How do I talk to my son/daughter who has left the Church? How do I address the concerns they have?” These concerns are everything from “I had an abortion” to “I want to marry my same-sex partner” to “How can the Church protect these child abusers?”

This is the real heart of conversion and conversation. These are the things that matter. People leave the Church because they don’t know how to talk through these issues. It’s the Holy Spirit who does the converting. We’re just the Lord’s instrument for having these conversations.

So what are we doing to help our parishioners have better conversations? This is a topic we’re going to explore more in the coming months. Why? Because it’s important. It might be one of the most important changes you make in your parishes.

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