From Detroit this Pentecost, Archbishop Allen Vigneron released a pastoral letter, Unleash The Gospel. He mainly addresses the contemporary Church’s enormous need to recover a spirit of evangelization. And indeed, much much more than a spirit. His letter includes a plan of action.
At three times in the letter he addresses liturgy seriously. One of these is a separate section on the “Holy Eucharist.” I’ll leave that till a later post. Interestingly, the topic of liturgy comes us as he discusses families. I recommend you check out the website including and accompanying this letter. Even if you aren’t a Catholic in southeastern Michigan. A good amount to ponder, discuss, and put into action–even if you aren’t obliged to take part in the action plan for the Detroit archdiocese.
Archbishop Vigneron reminds his readers that “families are at the very heart” of the Church’s mission. Families, not parishes, their churches, their rectories, chanceries or religious communities are “the primary social unit in which life in Christ, the life of the Church, is experienced and lived.” Can you and do you accept this reality?
Speaking of families being in crisis, the archbishop acknowledges “unprecedented challenges.” As a result “our local Church must commit a major portion of her resources to supporting families and helping them live out their call to holiness.”
That said, the archbishop is a skeptic on the outsourcing of religious education.
Parishes must make every effort to resist this pattern, since catechizing children has little effect if parents themselves are not living as disciples of Jesus.
This is an important point, perhaps the most vital in the whole section:
Parishes must look for ways to make catechesis and sacramental preparation family-based, helping parents grow in discipleship so that they can then form their children. Parishes also need to do everything possible, within their limits, to ensure that struggling families are being cared for, including those affected by divorce, illness or bereavement; infertile couples; those with children with special needs; and those struggling with pornography or other forms of addiction. Ministry to families must be sensitive to the rich cultural diversity within our local Church, appreciating and celebrating the different ways that our Catholic faith is lived out.
You might ask now, where does the liturgy fit into this? By encouraging “Evangelization within Families,” his second “marker” on this topic. I’ll leave the comment about Sunday Mass in context of a wider view:
The first priority is given to participation in the Sunday liturgy and daily prayer; decisions about activities and finances are made according to the mind of Christ; the spouses talk freely to one another and to their children about the Lord; the faith is enculturated through various family and cultural traditions and celebrations; and, above all, the mutual gift of self is the norm for all relationships. In such families, the spouses are witnesses of Christ to one another, and often even the children, through the simplicity of their faith, evangelize their parents.
Self-gift is the way the Lord chooses to relate to people. Self-giving is not a marker for saints or for Jesus alone. The disciple chooses to imitate the master. We practice a giving of self. For Catholics steeped in the sacramental tradition (Marriage and Eucharist) we act out, as best we can, this self-giving. Spouses do so in full view of their children. They offer self to their children as well, and form (not just educate!) young people to do likewise in their lives. Thus the model is set, and in family life, the Christian way is practiced. The term “practicing Catholic” is illustrative. We can never hope to offer the full self as Christ did. However, through grace, and cooperating with the Divine Will, we can model it well enough for others to be evangelized by our imperfect efforts.
Note the “first priority” given here: Sunday liturgy and daily prayer. Each of these is a family activity.
I understand that many adult Catholics suffer a serious lack of self-esteem when it comes to their spiritual lives. Previous generations, including the ones before Vatican II, raised Catholics less sure of the details of discipleship. Adults were too often treated as children. Children were raised in the context of a culture that reinforced the externals–the social life, outward obedience, and neighborhood conformity. It is because we are in a crisis situation in our culture that this model no longer suffices.
I’ll leave off my commentary and turn it over to you readers. What do you make of Archbishop Vigneron’s emphasis on family and prayer? What suggestions would you make if your parish were following this initiative?