Aparecida 378-379: National Organization and Missionaries Abroad

Some tasks for the future. First, some national organization for formation in the missionary spirit:

378. We want to urge local churches to support and organize national missionary centers and to act in close collaboration with the Pontifical Missionary Societies and other church aid ventures, whose importance and dynamism for inspiring and aiding mission we acknowledge and for which we give heartfelt thanks. As we mark the fiftieth anniversary of the encyclical Fidei Donum, we thank God for the men and women missionaries who came to our continent and are today present in it, giving testimony to the missionary spirit of their local churches as they are sent by them.

Second, discernment for disciples heading to other nations and regions to spread the faith and give it away:

379. It is our desire that this Fifth Conference will prompt many disciples in our churches to go out and evangelize on the “other shore.” Faith is strengthened by giving it away, and in our continent we must enter into a new springtime of mission ad gentes. We are poor churches, but “we must give from our poverty and from the joy of our faith,”(Puebla 368) and do so without discharging to only a few of those sent out the commitment that belongs to the whole Christian community. Our capacity to share our spiritual, human, and material gifts with other churches, will confirm the authenticity of our new opening to mission. Hence we encourage participation in holding missionary conferences.

Remember, you can reference an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference here.

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Aparecida 377: Openness To All Cultures and Truths


377. We disciples, who by essence are missionaries by virtue of Baptism and confirmation, are formed with a universal heart, open to all cultures and to all truths, cultivating our capacity for human contact and dialogue. With the courage given us by the Spirit, we are willing to proclaim Christ where he is not accepted, with our life, with our action, with our profession of faith, and with his Word. Emigrants are likewise disciples and missionaries and are called to be a new seed of evangelization, like the many emigrants and missionaries who brought the Christian faith to our Americas.

There is great confidence here. The Americas have been a true melting pot, north to south, bringing cultures from all over the Eastern Hemisphere to blend with peoples longer native to these continents. It provides an opportunity not to blend all colors into a seamless and bland gray or brown, but into special pieces in which we can easily find aspects to which to point, saying to others, “Behold.”

I like the confidence that Christians of the Caribbean and Latin America may well find themselves in a diaspora to continue to spread the Gospel elsewhere in the world, and to bring new blood to those cultures and aspects of human society that are already Christian.

Remember, you can reference an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference here.

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Of Mascots, Sports, Symbols, and History

Holy Cross CrusadersA facebook friend who, I believe, is not a Holy Cross alum, commented on the decision of that university to distance itself from the Crusades via its mascots and sports identifier:

We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

I suppose a comment like that could go either way. When the institution speaks of …

…the culmination of a discussion we as a community have been undertaking for several months. Many of you participated in this discussion through submitting thoughtful and informed feedback via our website, letters, and emails or through campus listening sessions. Thank you for your input; it was immeasurably helpful in informing our deliberation.

I tend to trust that. To be sure, some look upon such a change with dismay. Tradition and all. A sense that a culture might be able to change its mind about things tainted with evil. Things like slavery, murder, robbery, or the like.

Various comments on the Catholic Right lament the move. I don’t think most are associated with the college and possibly few participated in the feedback period. Depending on the year and the offended group, maybe the Crusades don’t have a 100% Flagapproval rating among the orthodox Christian faithful. For example, it might be interpreted that the Fourth Crusade led to the weakening of Christianity in southeastern Europe. A few centuries later, that  would be a boon for Islam as it was embodied in the Ottoman Empire. Subtract Crusade #4 and maybe a lot of suffering would have been avoided in future centuries in the Balkans and parts of Asia Minor. Are we geldings to point out that at least one Crusade weakened Christianity? Was Pope Innocent III playing the long game to let Muslims overrun the Byzantines, with whom he happened to be in schism?

The Crusades had wide-ranging negative and positive effects for the whole world. I’m sure more skilled historians can conquer those arguments. But my question is why Catholic schools can’t be more thoughtful of their mascots. Most schools present themselves to the public not as bastions of learning but as outposts in the Religion of Sport. Colors and cartoonish characters are often in our mind. Even those not associated with schools can cite their color schemes and identify the human or animal (or less commonly, the vegetable or mineral) adopted as an institutional symbol.

I remember one parish I served whose patron was a saint known for knowledge, learning, and martyrdom. For some reason their athletic teams adopted the cyclone as their identifier. It always baffled me. Iowa State University was hours away, yet the colors and mascot were a match. Thomas More is a saint revered for many things, but the connection to meteorology simply isn’t there. (Nor really, is the visual connection to a cyclone–what is pictured on the right is a tornado, not a large-scale weather system.)

What if Catholic schools broke from the imitation of secular entities and adopted things like qualities instead? Courage, justice, persistence–these are qualities to which any athlete or academic can aspire.

Let the Jesuit school in Massachusetts keep their purple and adjust their rendering of crusade, crusaders, and the like. I don’t think there’s anything for which to apologize in this effort. Some might say it doesn’t go far enough. Or, if two sides seem to retain some unhappiness about it, maybe it’s on the right path.

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Aparecida 375-376: Missionary Disciples Without Borders

Traditionally, Catholics think of mission efforts as sending religious women and men to pagan territories. The pope emeritus would suggest a wider view:


375. His Holiness Benedict XVI has confirmed that mission ad gentes is opening to new dimensions.

Thus, the area of the “missio ad gentes” appears to have been considerably extended and cannot be defined solely on the basis of geographical or juridical considerations; indeed, the missionary activity of the People of God is not only intended for non-Christian peoples and distant lands, but above all for social and cultural contexts and hearts.(Benedict XVI, Address on Fortieth Anniversary of Ad Gentes, March 11, 2006)

He might be thinking of post-Christian Europe, where faith lags and many baptized Christians have minimal commitment to elements of faith, traditional or evangelical. Other might see themselves as members, rather than active elements of the Body. Cultures long considered Christian have new elements, some harmonious with faith and others antithetical to it.

From  Vatican II:

376. At the same time, the world expects of our Latin American and Caribbean church a more significant commitment to the universal mission on all continents. In order to avoid falling into the trap of becoming closed in on ourselves, we must be formed as missionary disciples without borders, willing to go “to the other shore,” there where Christ is still not recognized as God and Lord, and the church is not yet present.(Cf. Ad Gentes 6)


Remember, you can reference an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference here.

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Aparecida 373-374: Mission To The Nations

Looking at the theme Our Commitment to Mission Ad Gentes:

373. We are conscious and grateful that the Father so loved the world that he sent his Son to save it (cf. Jn 3:17), and so we want to be continuers of his mission, because it is the reason for the Church’s existence and defines its deepest identity.

The Latin phrase “ad gentes” is interpreted as to the peoples of the world. It’s the title of the Vatican III document on mission activity, surveyed here over a decade ago.

How far can we go? Saint Matthew quotes the Lord who has a commission great indeed, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” (28:19a) Saint Mark cites a more expansive mission from the Lord, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (16:15) Matthew is more often adopted, except for the Francis-minded among us.

Four chief signs of the Holy Spirit are identified:

374. As missionary disciples, we want the influence of Christ to reach the ends of the earth. We discover the presence of the Holy Spirit in mission lands through signs:

a) The presence of the values of the Kingdom of God in cultures, recreating them from within to transform situations inimical to the gospel.

b) The efforts of men and women who find in their religious beliefs the energy for their commitment to engage with the world of their time.

c) The birth of the ecclesial community.

d) The testimony of persons and communities that proclaim Jesus Christ through the holiness of their lives.


I can’t help but note than the Tridentine Church was somewhat overshadowed by the Apostolic tradition. Five hundred years after the Gospel was brought across the Mediterranean, we had oodles of martyrs, saints, doctors, monastics, and such. Why does the Western Hemisphere lag so behind those great ages of the past? I suspect that maybe we don’t lag so much, as the church has been imbalanced toward Europe. The Spirit has been in the New World. Sometimes the Old has a hard time seeing it.

Remember, you can reference an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference here.

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Two Popes, A Book, and a Letter

This story rather confirms that maybe VNO #2 is a better choice for observing a pope’s anniversary than a controversial situation that attaches a letter to a book. Speaking as a composer, I hope I’m dead before my protégés decide to have some concert or recording or  YouTube thingie with covers of my liturgical songs.

Anyway, it was hard to determine where to go to get the straight scoop on the blurring of Pope Benedict’s letter in which he expressed doubt about one of the contributors to a tome on Pope Francis’ theology. A simple google search gave me links to everything from the two NCR’s to the Eponymous Flower and beyond. I saw adjectives like “evil” being tossed about. Probably not worth following that rabbit down the hole.

All I can say is that the whole episode seems more clumsy than evil. Blurring parts of a letter. Asking an outspoken pope to write such a letter. Assembling a book about a pope’s theology. I confess I see Peter as more of a pastor than a theologian. Some popes happened to have been theologians in their former stages of professional life.

The whole deal seems to be part of some plan to reassure people there’s some kind of continuity between the last two popes. Supporters and detractors of Pope Francis are capable of making their own judgments, I’m sure. It seems to me things are mostly the same. Both Catholic white men. Non-Italians. Teachers. Bishops. You know: continuity is not always a good thing. Banging your head against a wall, for example: maybe that’s a good way to break it down. But on the third or fourth try, it’s time for a rupture. Either the skull or the method of deconstruction. I happen to think that discontinuity is a sign of a healthy spiritual life: sin and bad habits get left behind.

So some on the Catholic Right are dismayed, crying foul, and wringing their hands that the Church is going to hell in a handbasket. Come to think of it, some minorities of Catholics have been thinking this for many decades now. I think it’s part of what it means to emerge from a major council.

Speaking of VNO #2, anybody celebrate or hear of a Mass for Pope Francis’ anniversary? Or did we all head to the printery or to the blogs to mark five years?

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Aparecida 372: Too-Large Communities

Finding the best scale for pastoral efforts: we all struggle with it. First question: Is everyone who can be reached getting contact?


372. Bearing in mind the size of our parishes, breaking them up into smaller territorial units with their own leadership and coordination teams is advisable so as to allow closer contact with persons and groups living in the territory.

Professional ministers or families? The Aparecida bishops opt for the latter:

It is advisable that missionary agents promote the creation of communities of families to foster sharing their Christian faith and responses to problems.

Missionary activity is no longer the domain of vowed religious, but there are significant numbers of lay people who dedicate themselves for limited periods of time:

We recognize as an important phenomenon in our time the emergence and spread of different forms of missionary volunteer service which are handling a variety of services. The Church supports national and international volunteer networks and programs, which in many countries have emerged within the realm of civil society organizations on behalf of our continent poorest people, in the light of the principles of dignity, subsidiarity, and solidarity, in accordance with the Church’s social doctrine. These are not simply strategies for pursuing pastoral success, but fidelity in imitation of the Master, ever close, accessible, available to everyone, eager to communicate life in every corner of the earth.

I’ve known people for whom missionary experiences are always with them, and often draw them back into service after children have grown and careers are completed.

Remember, you can reference an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference here.

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