Practically Speaking: Notes from the Parish

Authored by Patty Norris in Issue #35.2 of The Sower

Truth Seekers and Truth Tellers

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd.”

This quote is attributed to Flannery O’Connor. She was American, Southern and Catholic, an oddity itself in the deep South. She wrote in a style that is characterized as grotesque or gothic, and her characters often have maladies or often encounter messes and bizarre turns of events. Yet in her dark and quirky stories the glory of God often peeks through in profound and astonishing ways. O’Connor was a fiction writer who was fond of paraphrasing Jesus’ claims about truth telling as reflected above in John 8:32: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (or “odd” in a Flannery turn of phrase). The truth that Jesus reveals is freeing, but let’s be real; if we actually live this truth we are going to be out of step with our culture, unusual to most of our neighbors and downright strange or “grotesque.” I begin with this quote because if we are not feeling this tension and alienation as catechists, priests and pastoral leaders, then we have probably relegated Jesus to the edge of our lives; and the Truth has little to do with our everyday realities.

Even Pope Francis has been perceived as being odd. His actions are surprising everyone: inside and outside of the Church. The surprise of the “outsiders” is understandable; the surprise of the “insiders” may be more telling. Of course, the “insiders” are all of us, from the highest Vatican official to the most lukewarm parishioner. It seems to me that reflection on our own reaction to Pope Francis’ words and actions may help us be better catechists and help us understand our role as truth seekers and truth tellers.

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