Many of us often find ourselves wondering how we can tell the story of Jesus in a way that makes sense to the people around us. It seems that the world changes so fast. How can we keep telling a faith which is historic and traditional in an age which often seems to have given up on anything less than five minutes ago?
Believe it or not, our saint of the week, Dominic, was having exactly the same trouble back in the 12th Century. He was a contemplative monk but was soon sent off on a preaching tour to help combat a heresy which was running riot in his area in southern France. The heretics, the Cathari, were promoting a lifestyle which rejected everything material. This was appealing to people because they could give up everything themselves and guarantee their salvation through their own actions. When Dominic and his retinue arrived riding on nice horses and dressed in comfortable clothes they could not make a dent in people’s beliefs. They simply reinforced the idea that The Church was a very long way from the people she was meant to serve.
Dominic changed his approach and adopted the lifestyle of a mendicant friar. Thus, he walked from place to place, preaching and teaching and living from meal to meal. This meant he was living into the same asceticism which people admired in the Cathari, and his message began to be heard.
This is a challenging story for us. Often people complain that churches are out of touch and out of reach. Dominic only succeeded by allowing himself to enter into the conversation which those he was seeking to minister to were engaged in. Interposing “the official” agenda simply failed. How can we do that? How can we enter into the conversations which are going on around us and make sense of the Gospel in light of the concerns and beliefs of those who are confused by or even angry at the established Church. Are there things we need to take up or give up in order to answer God’s call to us?