Pope Francis explores “The evangelizing power of popular piety” in Evangelii Gaudium. Let’s read the follow-up to the premise that all the baptized are called to be missionary disciples. How does “popular piety” help that, influence it, and make it more possible?
122. In the same way, we can see that the different peoples among whom the Gospel has been inculturated are active collective subjects or agents of evangelization.
Keep in mind the premise that God actively works through human beings in the way he made us. We are social beings. Therefore, our social structures are absolutely fair game for the workings of grace.
This is because each people is the creator of their own culture and the protagonist of their own history. Culture is a dynamic reality which a people constantly recreates; each generation passes on a whole series of ways of approaching different existential situations to the next generation, which must in turn reformulate it as it confronts its own challenges.
This reformulation is part of the inculturation process. This is why the post-Reformation period was so damaging to the Church. We had four centuries of stasis at a time when human culture, particularly in the West, was undergoing perhaps the greatest changes since the life of Christ.
Pope John Paul II weighs in:
Being human means “being at the same time son and father of the culture to which one belongs”.[JOHN PAUL II Fides et Ratio 71]
Do today’s Catholics believe this? Many Christians believe that the culture has bypassed God, and by extension, them. Do we have a power, an agency, that goes deeper? If God works through culture, it would seem those who choose to withdraw, to isolate, to protect have not as much faith in the workings of God through human structures. But how else can it happen?
The link between evangelization and inculturation:
Once the Gospel has been inculturated in a people, in their process of transmitting their culture they also transmit the faith in ever new forms; hence the importance of understanding evangelization as inculturation. Each portion of the people of God, by translating the gift of God into its own life and in accordance with its own genius, bears witness to the faith it has received and enriches it with new and eloquent expressions. One can say that “a people continuously evangelizes itself”.[Puebla Document 450; cf. Aparecida Document 264] Herein lies the importance of popular piety, a true expression of the spontaneous missionary activity of the people of God. This is an ongoing and developing process, of which the Holy Spirit is the principal agent.[JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia (6 November 1999), 21]
The bishops of Latin America and of Asia contribute here along with JP2. We’ll explore popular piety over numbered sections 123-126 that follow.
Meanwhile, any comments?