Thanks for discomfort

by Judith Bratten

As a friend and observer of Franciscan University, I wish to commend all of you involved in the Concourse for providing a civilized forum for the exchange of ideas. When debate takes literary form, it allows for clearer thinking and more careful explanations than structured oral debate—and it certainly offers a more civil and tempered discussion than spontaneous sidewalk argument.

I have especially appreciated Kathleen van Schaijik’s insights on the charismatic/traditionalist dichotomy that has developed on campus in the past six or seven years. In her article on liturgical music in Vol. 1, Issue 7/8 and in her editorial in Vol. 2, Issue 1, she gives an accurate description of what I also have seen. And her plea for openness echoes my own desire.

I came into the Church through the charismatic renewal. I have experienced the great joys as well as the abuses that have been part of the renewal. My spiritual journey did not stop there but carried me on to a great appreciation for tradition and orthodoxy. My love for the Catholic Church, which acknowledges that spirituality has many expressions, has grown deeper and stronger as a result. Thus I was saddened to find one portion of this wonderful family of Faith coming into conflict with another, causing heated arguments and divisions among us. Yet perhaps this “creative tension” is normal and healthy. As alumna Regina Doman Schmiedicke once wrote in another journal, Franciscan University is like a big Catholic family with its usual arguments and sibling rivalries. But if ever the family is attacked from the outside, all disagreements are put aside and a united front is presented to the assailant.

My husband and I brought our family to Steubenville because of the charismatic renewal over thirteen years ago. Even then, wise men realized that the Holy Spirit could not be limited. The late Father Jim Ferry, one of the founders of the Fraternity of Priests, once reminded me that charismatics must be prepared for new movements of the Holy Spirit and not hold on to that with which we have become comfortable. Father Michael Scanlan also warned us to beware of the “comfort Gospel”—that which fits like an old shoe and no longer challenges us or stretches us. Christianity should be consoling and strengthening, yes, but not comfortable. If we are finding it so, we can be sure that God will soon boot us out of our comfort zone. And so, rather than feeling upset that there is this charismatic/traditionalistic debate, I have become grateful for it. It keeps us on our intellectual toes, makes us rethink our positions and beliefs. And I thank the Concourse for being willing to air these differences, for making us a bit uncomfortable, for challenging us to think, and for allowing us to hear one another clearly.

Judith Bratten

Mrs. Bratten is the mother of Copy Editor Joanna Bratten and former Contributing Editor Rebecca Bratten. She and her family live in Hopedale, Ohio.