Thursday, August 06, 2009

Prophets of a Future Not Our Own

The following reflection was shared as the opening prayer at a meeting of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform that I attended earlier this evening. This reflection is often attributed to Archbishop Óscar Romero, but it was actually written by Bishop Ken Untener (pictured at right) of Saginaw when he was a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit under Cardinal John Dearden.

As someone dedicated to church reform (and thus the ongoing manifestation of the kingdom of God in our world), I’m aware that I can, at times, be quite discouraged by the seemingly intractability of reactionary forces within the church. I therefore find Untener’s words to be very wise, hopeful and inspiring. So much so that I thought I’d reprint them here at The Wild Reed.


It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view.

The kingdom of God is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our imagination.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything
And there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
A step along the way,
An opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between
The master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

– Ken Untener

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Brave Hope
Staying On Board
To Whom the Future of the Catholic Church Belongs
The Emerging Church
Of Mustard Seeds and Walled Gardens
Dispatches from the Periphery
Something We Dare Call Hope


Michael Hovey said...

Michael, this reflection is was in fact written by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw when he was a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit under Cardinal John Dearden, and somehow has been misattributed to Archbishop Romero. No Latin American (bless their hearts!) would speak in such "results-oriented" language as this reflection does; that, for better or worse, is an American "virtue"!

Michael J. Bayly said...

Thanks, Michael, for the correction. I'll be sure to change this post as I don't want to perpetuate the error of attributing this particular quote to Romero.