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Philadelphia Maryknoll Affiliate Gathering January 15, 2012

Philadelphia Maryknoll Affiliate Gathering, January 15, 2012

The Philadelphia Maryknoll Affiliates gathered on January 15 at St. Malachy’s Rectory in Philadelphia.

We opened with a prayer followed by some sharing and reflection.

Prior to the gathering, Pat Hayes had sent two pieces for reflection and provided a third piece at the meeting. The focus of the reflection pieces was prophetic imagination and the vocational call to be prophetic, as individuals and as a group.

We focused on Walter Brueggemann’s book on prophetic imagination in which he begins with examining the alternative community of Moses as a paradigm for the community built on the foundation of the biblical prophet’s work and ministry. Brueggemann proposes that “the task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us.”

The alternative community who lives in a different imaginative world is nurtured by the twofold work of the prophet to criticize the dominant consciousness and energize communities to move. The criticism isn’t mere carping or complaining. It is instead an authentic experience of grief at the troubling social paradigms being faced by the community under oppression by the imperial imagination. This criticism helped to begin to mobilize the Hebrew community away from Egypt and toward a new alternative community. It contributed to lifting the numbness and hopeless feeling within the community. Historically, it has always been difficult to keep a revolution of freedom and justice under way for long periods when there is satiation. The empire seeks to present God as a soother of the royal consciousness, satiation, and aspirations. All this soothing leads to the same “comfortably numb” feeling which prevents the message of the alternative community (the reign of God) from coming forth. Therefore, there is a continuing need for prophetic people and prophetic ministries to shake people out of this numbness created and nurtured by empire. This numbness is essential to empire retaining power.

According to Brueggemann, prophetic ministry takes practical shape in three distinct ways:

  1. Prophetic ministry evokes an alternative community that knows it is about different things in different ways.
  2. The practice of prophetic ministry is not some special thing done two days a week.
  3. Prophetic ministry seeks to penetrate the numbness in order to face the body of death in which we get caught.
  4. Prophetic ministry penetrates despair so that new futures can be believed in and embraced.

Questions: Where are these communities today: How can we penetrate the numbness of our world symbolically and concretely?

In addition to Brueggemann’s book, The Prophetic Imagination, Fortress Press, 1973, we also used these resources: “Prophetic Imagination and the Dream of God” from A Sacred Voice is Calling by John Neafsey, Orbis, 2006 and an online blog Brueggemann’s Prophetic Imagination.

We will gather again in March with a date to be determined based on conflicting schedules. At the next gathering, we will reflect on the words of Mother Mary Joseph posted recently on the Maryknoll Affiliate website.

The Philadelphia Affiliates are planning in October to host Claudette LaVerdiere, MM to speak on her book and the Maryknoll Sisters. Pat was in contact with Claudette prior to her leaving for her global trip and we are awaiting her response about possible dates. She is out of the country until September, traveling to many Asian countries.

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