Today we wrap up chapter I (Revelation and its transmission through evangelization) of Part I. It’s another lengthy section, which I considered chopping up into a few posts. But it connects closely with yesterday’s post, so let’s have at it:
The mutual connection between the activities of evangelization which correspond to these socio-religious situations
59. These socio-religious situations obviously differ from each other and it is wrong to regard them as equal. Such diversity, which has always existed in the Church’s mission, acquires in today’s changing world a new significance. Indeed, increasingly different situations oftentimes co-exist in the same territory. In many of the great cities, for example, a situation requiring “missio ad gentes” can co-exist along with one which requires “new evangelization”. Together with these there can be present in a dynamic way Christian missionary communities sustained by “comprehensive pastoral activity”. Very often today, local Churches are obliged to address the entire panorama of these religious situations. “The boundaries between pastoral care of the faithful, new evangelization and specific missionary activity are not clearly definable, and it is unthinkable to create barriers between them or to put them into water-tight compartments”. (Redemptionis Missio 34b) In fact, “each of them influences, stimulates and assists the others”.*
*Redemptionis Missio 34c. The text also speaks of the mutual enrichment between the mission ad intra and the mission ad extra. In RM 59c, in the same way, it is shown how the mission ad gentes encourages people towards development, while “new evangelization” in the more developed nations brings about a clear sense of solidarity towards others.
Smart insight here. People involved in RCIA, for example, know the task of sorting fish (the baptized and unbaptized, the catechized and not, the religious and those less so) can be complex enough for an individual. When it comes to ordering an effective and fruitful ministry, it is not so easy to operate with a few comfortable parameters.
John Paul II’s suggestion that these different evangelical ministries can stimulate each other is worth serious consideration. Do parish ministries in the catechumenate, with inactive Catholics, and in adult formation reinforce and assist one another? Or are they seen as competitive interests?
In order, therefore, to arrive at a mutual enrichment between the various activities of evangelization which can co-exist, it is useful to remember that:
- – Mission ad gentes, regardless of the zone or context in which it is realized, is the missionary responsibility most specifically entrusted to the Church by Jesus and thus the exemplary model for all her missionary activity. New evangelization cannot supplant or be substituted for ‘the mission ad gentes,’ which continues to be the paradigm and primary task of missionary activity. (cf. Redemptionis Missio 31, 34)
- – “The model for all catechesis is the baptismal catechumenate when, by specific formation, an adult converted to belief is brought to explicit profession of baptismal faith during the Paschal Vigil”. (1977 Synod section 8) This catechumenal formation should inspire the other forms of catechesis in both their objectives and in their dynamism.
- – “Catechesis for adults, since it deals with persons who are capable of an adherence that is fully responsible, must be considered the chief form of catechesis. All the other forms, which are indeed always necessary, are in some way oriented to it”. (General Catechetical Directory (1971) 20; Catechesi Tradendae 43; cf. Part Four, chap. 2) This implies that the catechesis of other age groups should have it for a point of reference and should be expressed in conjunction with it, in a coherent catechetical programme suitable to meet the pastoral needs of dioceses.
In this way catechesis, situated in the context of the Church’s mission of evangelization and seen as an essential moment of that mission, receives from evangelization a missionary dynamic which deeply enriches it and defines its own identity. The ministry of catechesis appears, then, as a fundamental ecclesial service for the realization of the missionary mandate of Jesus.
This emphasis from the 1971 General Catechetical Directory has yet to be fully realized in many parishes, especially those with schools. Is adult formation the primary form in your parish? Is children’s religious education “oriented” to what your parish does with adults? One might ask why a whole community model is not more widespread, especially in keeping with this repeated post-conciliar emphasis of the Church. It certainly throws the whole school-model up in the air, doesn’t it?
Why would Rome insist so strongly on a model so far removed from the American experience? Do you see it as visionary? Impractical? How well does it work (or not) in your own community?