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The Monkey Story

Not too long ago I heard a lecture about a scientific experiment with monkeys. The scientists set out to see if they could change the behavior of a group of monkeys that would extend as new monkeys were introduced to the original group. Here goes, the study began with five monkeys in a cage. Bananas were placed on a platform in the cage the monkeys had to climb up to before they could eat them. The monkeys, doing what monkeys do, began climbing up to the platform. Just as they reached the bananas, they were sprayed with cold water. Discouraged they would hurry down and the cold water spray was stopped. They climbed again and again only to be sprayed with cold water. The group eventually stopped climbing to the bananas. Now the second part of the experiment takes place. One monkey of the original group is removed and replaced with new monkey. Also, the cold water spray was removed. The new guy sees the bananas and begins climbing to eat them only to have the other four pulling him down so new guy would not get sprayed with cold water. However, as mentioned the water was removed. This too happens over and over until the new guy quits trying to reach the bananas. New guy climbs the others pull him down. This experiment continues until all original monkeys have been replaced. Although, the out come did not change through out the experiment. As each new monkey was introduced, the older ones would stop any new member to the group from climbing to reach the tasty bananas. They feared the cold water which no longer was a threat.

What is the point of all this? When the experiment ended you had five monkeys, completely different than the original group in the cage, that had no idea what they were protecting the new monkeys from. My question to you is, often do we act like the monkeys in the cage? I have been apart of several committees and projects that see past failures as something not to try again for fear of another failure. It is so easy to put our lives on cruise control and to think inside our own self, home, or parish. But parish life cannot be like that, we cannot be like that. We are seeing the results of that thinking regularly. Young families not attending mass. Catholics treating their faith as a buffet rather than a full course meal. Priests almost begging for volunteers in various ministries. But there is good reason to see the future as only bright.

“The individual tasks of the Episcopal and priestly ministries cannot be simply handed over to lay persons. Conversely, Pastors are bound to respect the specific role of lay       persons. Therefore it must not happen that the laity delegate their tasks to priests, deacons or professional assistants. Only if each assumes the specific role which belongs to him will the common path of shepherd and flock be successful. (Exert from Pope John Paul’s homily, Cathedral of Saints Rupert and Virgilius, Salzburg, Austria, June 1998).

My liberal interpretation from this homily basically tells us Americans to get off our collective duffs and build up God’s church! I have written before each one of us has a role to play in our church using our unique gifts given to us by God. It our job to identify those gifts and answer God by using them. Collectively we have the talent to overcome that list of challenges above. I know this because I seen it happening as I travel across our diocese. But that’s not good enough. As we evolve together we need to risk the possibility of cold water to get to the tasty fruit. As I mentioned, we can do it, the future is very bright. Peter Drucker said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” God gave us what we need, let’s get to work.

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