It’s a new week, a Monday, and a good day for a fresh start. In observing the Year of Faith, I’d like to get an early start. So here’s what I’m proposing: let’s take a year or more to look at Vatican and USCCB documentation on evangelization, the spreading of the Christian faith, and a mandate from Jesus himself to all believers.
The Vatican II document Ad Gentes is the conciliar locus for the expression of the Christian faith and the mission to spread it throughout the world. It’s been four years since this website examined that document closely. I’m not yet prepared for a “reboot” of it, so I’ll refer interested readers to those posts on the reform and renewal of missionary activity. Review, and comment, if you wish. Your comment connections will appear in the sidebar, and if people are willing, we can renew discussion on some points there. Perhaps in the next few weeks, I’ll organize a separate page for easier reference, breaking down the document in outline form so we can easily reference topics and their discussions.
As for the Year of Faith, it’s not my intent at Catholic Sensibility to repeat what you will easily find on other sites or with other resources. I’m not competing for readers or even fans in the mainstream thrust of this observance. My purpose here is to facilitate a serious discussion for people who want to delve deeper than the Catechism. Not that I have anything against the CCC, but here you will find a close look at what are footnotes in that teaching tool–the original Church documentation spread out a little more in detail.
It’s my contention that where Vatican II has failed it has not been because of poor, false, or heretical ideas. The Council simple hasn’t been tried, or at best, was not implemented well on many fronts. I tend to look with criticism on any effort to “reform” the “conciliar reform.” Mainly because I think reform and renewal, by and large, have not been deeply embraced.
Evangelization strikes me as a particular lost opportunity of the past half-century. Something along the lines of the liturgical failures of Penance and the Liturgy of the Hours. And again, it’s not that I have a problem with sacramental reconciliation or the Divine Office. I just think fear superceded needed reform and renewal on those two efforts. The Church let timidity dictate the situation.
Rather than blame (or only blame) the errors of the past decades, I’d prefer to look at what the Church actually taught. And in looking at Church teaching on evangelization, I believe we will find significant wisdom from some church leaders who actually “got” Matthew 28:16-20, and tried with their best effort to get the Body moving on this. Pope Benedict would reassure you that his predecessors have not ignored evangelization. And the “newness” of what he proposes is not exactly new or original to him.
I’m aware of Pope Benedict’s apostolic letter outlining the Year of Faith. I will get to that document in time. But where I would like to start is in 1966. I propose we pick up the immediate post-conciliar years and progress through the major church documents that touch on the matter of evangelization. We’ll begin with a hardly-noticed document, Ecclesiae Sanctae, the apostolic letter from 1966, in which Pope Paul VI outlined the path of implementation of four Vatican II decrees: the one treating the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church (Christus Dominus), the one on the Ministry and Life of Priests (Presbyterorum Ordinis), the one on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life (Perfectae Caritatis), and of course, Ad Gentes, which treats the Missionary Activity of the Church.
We will focus on what is often referenced as “Ecclesiae Sanctae III,” the final section that addresses the implementation of Ad Gentes. Over the next year-plus, I’d like to continue with Pope Paul’s 1975 apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi. You may recall we caught glimpses of that document in the General Directory for Catechesis.
From there, it’s less clear to me what we’ll scrutinize. These two documents will take us to this Advent, so we’ll need much more to bring us to November 2013. Your suggestions will be welcome.
As we get to the text of the documents, my bias will be to ask what will work for my parish, my community, and the Catholic Church in the United States. I don’t presume to comment expertly on the situation of evangelization in Japan, Honduras, or other locations where friends and good people have far different challenges than I. But I think commentary from the missino apostolate, as well as other First World nations would be welcome.
I harbor no pretensions that these discussions will be as sexy as liturgy. I fully expect days will pass without comment from anyone. But hopefully you and a few others will find this exploration to be helpful and fruitful for your own ministry and your own life of faith. The vistas may not be new, but I hope you’ll join me in the excitement of the possibilities. And best of all, we may pick up new companions on our way.