What do you think of Pope Paul’s image of a central axis of evangelization”? And how would you answer the questions?
4. This fidelity both to a message whose servants we are and to the people to whom we must transmit it living and intact is the central axis of evangelization. It poses three burning questions, which the 1974 Synod kept constantly in mind:
- In our day, what has happened to that hidden energy of the Good News, which is able to have a powerful effect on (human) conscience?
- To what extent and in what way is that evangelical force capable of really transforming the people of this century?
- What methods should be followed in order that the power of the Gospel may have its effect?
Basically, these inquiries make explicit the fundamental question that the Church is asking herself today and which may be expressed in the following terms: after the Council and thanks to the Council, which was a time given her by God, at this turning-point of history, does the Church or does she not find herself better equipped to proclaim the Gospel and to put it into people’s hearts with conviction, freedom of spirit and effectiveness?
To me, the image suggests a sacramentality in which the Church is a sacrament of Christ to the world. But it’s also important for the message to come through clearly. In order for that to happen, the members of the Church must possess a certain transparency. The primary message is Christ, not the way in which he is presented.
That said, Pope Paul VI speaks of “energy” and “force” and “power.” An evangelical Church cannot rely on mere words of a page without a spirit behind them. Doesn’t that bring a certain conundrum? Perhaps not. One of the prime means of witnessing to the faith is the lived example of a Christian life. There is also the witness of an entire community demonstrating the faith. Effective evangelization can avoid the cult of celebrity by making the Christian community that axis through which Christ is communicated to seekers. The many and effective gifts of a whole community: that’s an inoculation against the twin dangers of clericalism and celebrity.
BLS 32-37 covers the third principle, that “the design of the church building reflects the roles of the participants.”
§ 32 § The design of the church building reflects the various roles of the participants. Since the liturgical celebration is an action of Christ and the Church, it belongs to the whole Body of the Church.(GIRM 294) While all the members are called to participate in worship, not all have the same role.(Cf. SC, 14 and 26; Presbyterorum Ordinis 2; Lumen Gentium 28; GIRM 4, 58, and 60) From the earliest days of the Church, the Holy Spirit has called forth members to serve in a variety of ministries. That same Spirit continues to call the members to various ministries today and to bestow gifts necessary for the good of the community.(Cf. 1 Cor 12:27-28)
Only the last note references Saint Paul, but this whole paragraph is solidly rooted in the apostle’s understanding of an original “theology of the body,” namely that the spiritual gifts of a community guide its liturgical functioning. A variety of ministries? That’s biblical. You can’t cite rubrics or canon law that supercedes that. What BLS is underscoring here is that the actual design of a building must accommodate these various liturgical ministries. You don’t design just for the clergy. Or the musicians. You design for all, and count on a creativity in design, planning, and construction to accommodate all. That’s easier for a new building. It can be a challenge for a renovation.
In the next few posts, we’ll examine what BLS has to say about specific ministries. But this is enough for today. Any thoughts?
All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
More often I see complaints in the Catholic blogosphere along the lines of this. N values popularity of a constituency more than speaking out for the truth. One recent example:
The flock has been scattered on our watch. Vast numbers of our people have been deceived by innumerable errors and too often we have been silent, or, at best, an uncertain trumpet. Often our silence has been due to concerns with remaining popular and accepted.
I’m not sure where Msgr Charles Pope is going with this one. He’s analyzing a perceived failure of the Roman Catholic priesthood in the US in light of Ezekiel 34. But what sort of popularity do American clergy desire? Are there really so many pastors who clam up rather than say something that will rub some or all parishioners the wrong way? Are there others who fawn over their bishop and older chancery-connected priests so as to get prime assignments? Is all the missing hard news a one way street: pulpit to pew?
Does feather-ruffling reveal a truth-telling? If so, I must have a lot of resentful fans on the Catholic Right. I’ve never sought popularity online, and I’ve told it straight to any number of Catholics: lay bloggers, priests, and even the occasional bishop. My day doesn’t depend on anyone giving me that little blue thumbs-up. As for my real life, I’ll admit that I enjoy getting affection, gratitude, and love from people in my life, especially my wife and daughter. But that doesn’t mean my wife and I avoid discussing tough topics or that I don’t occasionally deliver unwanted news to a teenager’s ears. I would hope that parishioners feel free to approach me with concerns. When they come with praise, I pay attention if its specific. When they criticize, I listen.
The blogosphere itself cultivates popularity in many corners. We have only to Google “Mark Shea Father Corapi” to check the combox commentary of two well-known Catholics, each with their battling segment of fangirls and boys. Mr Shea, to his credit, rarely shies away from taking a stand that we all know will ruffle a good portion of his readership. I caught Fr Corapi once on EWTN while my wife was channel surfing. He was a tough talker, to be sure. But for some Catholics, maybe it’s more about the group they want to see ruffled, rather than an honest appreciation for honesty across the board.
Scratch the popularity complaint, and not too far under the surface, maybe there’s a bit of envy.
That said, I do think there’s a danger in any social circle of a cult of celebrity. Check the list: politics, sports, media–on the bigger world stage, leaders want to be popular because it guarantees income, endorsements, and other adrenaline rushes. Check our local communities, too. In parishes, I think some leaders cultivate a certain celebrity. Charismatic clergy and the occasional lay person are much-admired. But the key to the veracity of their ministry comes when they leave. Do the ministries continue? Or are people left adrift?
Long long ago, I followed an extremely popular and charismatic person in a parish. She was able, as I was made aware, to draw people in. “I would do anything for her,” I often heard. But when I got to know people, I found a core of ministry leadership that was very tired and burned out. A handful of key people promised they would continue for my first year in the parish. But they made it clear that I would need to find new leaders those first six to twelve months to fill in the gaps of my second year.
One, I appreciated the honesty. Two, I noted the difference between people who were attracted to a married lay woman and a single guy. And three, my pastor was alarmed at the hemorrhaging (as he saw it) in leadership. I wasn’t as popular as my forerunner. I didn’t think it was my job to cultivate a circle of loyalty. I wanted people to be involved in ministry for the right reasons, well-discerned, and for the service they could offer others. I didn’t want groupies.
I’m still convinced that is the way to go. I even go out of my way to decline the cultivation of close friendships among parishioners in my ministry areas, out of concern for other reasons intruding on the right ones.
So, are there priests out there who don’t preach on abortion, birth control, same-sex marriage, and euthanasia because they fear unpopularity? I have no idea. I imagine the number might be in the dozens. I suspect that more don’t preach it because they know it’s a message of comfort for some conservative Catholics who, for various reasons, prefer to see other people squirm. That’s not a matter of popularity misplaced as much as it’s about turning the homily into a cheerleading session.
I don’t think that leadership is about making equal-opportunity discomfort for the factions. I think that’s misunderstanding the means and the end. The end result of good ministry is that people are holier. Every holy person undergoes metanoia, and almost all the time metanoia feels like hell. And quite often, the person delivering the message is unpopular. But it doesn’t figure that every homily is supposed to result in a voluntary and partial exodus of worshipers from the pews.
In worship, a preacher must remain closely faithful to the Scriptures and the liturgy. The thought that people must be shaken up every four to thirteen weeks or so is a false one. Certainly, a preacher needs to have a pulse on the community. And certainly, there are elements of a preached message that will elicit discomfort in some hearts. My sense is that if a leader is praying, and truly engages a community she or he knows, that the needed messages of challenge will come through at the right time and place.