Friday, October 26th, 2012
26 October 2012
Posted by catholicsensibility under evangelization 1 Comment
Professor Ralph Martin’s commentary on post-conciliar evangelization, or the perceived lack of it, is interesting. I think he has one misdiagnosis:
(M)any Catholics were confused by the council’s laudable emphasis on ecumenism and interreligious dialogue into thinking that “maybe it doesn’t matter anymore whether people are Christians or not.
The theologian said that many Catholics today have adopted an attitude of “practical universalism,” which Martin described as a belief that “broad and wide is the way that leads to heaven, and almost everybody is going that way; but narrow is the gate the leads to hell, and hardly anybody’s going that way.”
This might be true of some people. It’s a complex thing. And complicated things often have two or more factors in play. My own sense is that mixed in with all of this is a continuation of two preconciliar themes.
One, that evangelization is for professionals. Bishop Sheen had high profile converts. Priests and RCIA directors do the heavy hitting in a parish. Lay people in the pews–many of them see evangelization as someone else’s ministry. Like a lot of things.
Two, I think we have an extension of a pre-conciliar mindset of Catholic entitlement. The extreme side of Professor Martin’s “practical universalism” is a practical triumphalism. We know we’re on the right track. We don’t chase after “lapsed” Catholics. If they don’t come back, it’s their own damned fault. Literally. Protestants, too. Catholics have all the answers, and surely other people have heard about it as much as we have. So if they don’t come to us, it’s their loss.
Before Vatican II, we didn’t have RCIA. In the US, it’s nearly universal in parishes. And we get a lot of people: engaged persons and newlyweds and those married for a long time to Catholics. We get people who are attracted by how we live. By what we do.
I’m a skeptic on placing too much blame on mistaken intellectual ideas. When I was in grad school, I was a member in a parish that had open Communion for non-Catholics. The pastor made that very, very clear. And we had people wanting to join the Church through RCIA, too.
I think we need a lot of ideas to solve the evangelization challenges, and not limit ourselves to a few.
26 October 2012
We all struggle with the risk of losing something in translation. It is a failing of human communication. We do not always say what we mean. People do not always hear what is proclaimed.
63. The individual Churches, intimately built up not only of people but also of aspirations, of riches and limitations, of ways of praying, of loving, of looking at life and the world, which distinguish this or that human gathering, have the task of assimilating the essence of the Gospel message and of transposing it, without the slightest betrayal of its essential truth, into the language that these particular people understand, then of proclaiming it in this language.
The transposition has to be done with the discernment, seriousness, respect and competence which the matter calls for in the field of liturgical expression,[Sacrosanctum Concilium 37-38: AAS 56 (1964), p. 110; cf. also the liturgical books and other documents subsequently issued by the Holy See for the putting into practice of the liturgical reform desired by the same Council.] and in the areas of catechesis, theological formulation, secondary ecclesial structures, and ministries. And the word “language” should be understood here less in the semantic or literary sense than in the sense which one may call anthropological and cultural.
This is the key paragraph:
The question is undoubtedly a delicate one. Evangelization loses much of its force and effectiveness if it does not take into consideration the actual people to whom it is addresses, if it does not use their language, their signs and symbols, if it does not answer the questions they ask, and if it does not have an impact on their concrete life. But on the other hand, evangelization risks losing its power and disappearing altogether if one empties or adulterates its content under the pretext of translating it; if, in other words, one sacrifices this reality and destroys the unity without which there is no universality, out of a wish to adapt a universal reality to a local situation. Now, only a Church which preserves the awareness of her universality and shows that she is in fact universal is capable of having a message which can be heard by all, regardless of regional frontiers.
Legitimate attention to individual Churches cannot fail to enrich the Church. Such attention is indispensable and urgent. It responds to the very deep aspirations of peoples and human communities to find their own identity ever more clearly.
These days, it seems there’s a swing to an emphasis on the preached message, rather than the adaptation for the listener. Still, there’s an attractiveness in the optimism that Christ is the answer to human longing. That aspiration is well-addressed by an engaged local community.
26 October 2012
Three sections devoted to a time-honored tradition picked up from Jerusalem in ancient times, and thanks to the Franciscans, we have as a part of nearly every Catholic church yet today:
§ 132 § The Stations of the Cross originated early in the history of the Church. It was the custom of the faithful to follow the way walked by Christ from Pilate’s house in Jerusalem to Calvary. As time went on, pilgrims to the holy city desired to continue this devotion when they returned home. In the fourteenth century when the Franciscans were entrusted with the care of the holy places in Jerusalem they promoted the use of images depicting the Lord’s Way of the Cross.
§ 133 § Whether celebrated by a community or by individuals, the Stations of the Cross offer a way for the faithful to enter more fully into the passion and death of the Lord and to serve as another manifestation of the pilgrim Church on its homeward journey. Traditionally the stations have been arranged around the walls of the nave of the church, or, in some instances, around the gathering space or even the exterior of the church, marking the devotion as a true journey.*
* Often churches have images as well as the crosses that mark the fourteen or fifteen stations. While the depictions of the passion are desirable, only the crosses are needed. The images that accompany the crosses are optional.
This is the note from the US bishops, unreferenced. Almost every place I’ve seen has images. I suppose the advantage to having just the crosses is that one can do alternate meditations, like this Scriptural one attributed to Pope John Paul II, and used by him publicly in Rome from 1991.
§ 134 § The Stations enjoy a long tradition. In recent times some parishes have clustered the stations in one place. While such an arrangement may be expedient, it is not desirable because it eliminates space for movement, which characterizes this devotion as a “way” of the cross.
Movement is a definite challenge. My parish has a prayer pathway from one entrance into the church. It’s great for individual movement or small groups. More than twenty, not so good. I like less the layout I’ve seen inside many churches along the perimeter of the nave, especially where people sit in pews and let the leaders walk the way. Not everyone likes outside, so I suppose we live with stations less then optimal for those numbers of devotees from one to several hundred.
All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
26 October 2012
Posted by catholicsensibility under Scripture
, spirituality  Comments
Ping! is not how my priest friend describes it. It doesn’t quite capture my sense of the Spirit’s subtle influence either. Maybe it’s a bit too frivolous. But it’s close.
Many believers think of a well-formed conscience in terms of avoiding sin. And certainly, steering ourselves away from moral transgression, mortal, venial, serious, not-so-serious, or whatever is an important part of our Christian formation.
Lately, I’ve been thinking of conscience formation not only in terms of avoiding sin. And also not only in terms of doing good deeds. But I’m looking for the more subtle and mysterious. I’ve been more conscious of it since I was sent home from reconciliation a number of years ago after confessing a sin against my family.
My confessor told me that for my penance, I would need to listen carefully to God. And that over the next twenty-four hours, it would be made obvious what I needed to do as an act of satisfaction.
Curious, I thought. But I can go with this. So I spent the next few minutes on the way home thinking about it. And wouldn’t you know, over the next day, I was urged not once, but seven times to do small acts of kindness. Something popped into my head–getting a glass of milk for the young miss, running an errand for my wife, putting in a load of laundry, and a few other things I’ve forgotten. Indeed, by lunchtime the next day I stopped keeping track. And when I walked to the grocery store two blocks away, I found a shopping cart halfway there on the roadside near an apartment complex.
Ping! get that cart.
Unping, what if someone sees me and gets the wrong idea that I borrowed the cart and I’m bringing it back?
Ping! take the cart back anyway.
I admit that my rational, American, scientifically-trained self was amazed by this experience. So I did the best rational thing I knew to do. I kept looking for the Ping!
My priest friend has told me one or two amazing stories about responding to that
Ping! nudge. I’ve talked to him about it a few times since. He gets the big events that leave no doubt. I think I’m okay with the small stories. I’ve even asked God not (necessarily) to show me the results of the Ping! An illustration …
One of my pet peeves is getting lost in the car. Or even missing a turn. Several wrong turns ago–maybe two or three years–I asked myself why I was getting so upset. Really: I’ve been driving a car for twenty-five years and I’ve only gotten into one serious accident (and thank God, no injuries). I’ve seen accidents unfold in front of me–some avoided, and some mishaps like seeing the car passing me on a snowy interstate spin off into the ditch. Maybe it was a more subtle ping that nudged me on a different road, a different path to take. Maybe I saved my family and myself from something more dangerous by going a route I hadn’t intended to drive. I realized I didn’t need to scan the internet headlines the next day for an accident on, say, US 30 that I missed. I can go with the subtle, small things. Plus, it makes for a calmer, more cheerful disposition for driving and for conversations in the car.
Anyone hear that Ping! lately?
He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. (1 Kings 19:11-13a)