What is communion, anyway? What’s the connection to missionary discipleship? The bishops develop this theme a bit as the fifth chapter continues …
156. The vocation to missionary discipleship is convocation to communion in their church. There is no discipleship without communion. Given the temptation, very common in contemporary culture, of being churchless Christians and the tendency for new individualistic spiritual searches, we declare that faith in Jesus Christ reached us through ecclesial communion and that it “gives us a family, the universal family of God in the Catholic Church. Faith releases us from the isolation of the ‘Me’, because it leads us to communion.”(Benedict XVI, Aparecida Introductory Address, 3) This means that a constitutive dimension of the Christian event is belonging to a concrete communion in which we can be part of an ongoing experience of discipleship and communion with the successors of the apostles and with the successor of Peter.
“Churchless Christians,” an interesting term. I’m not sure I would agree that most spiritual searches are leading people to a deeper individualism. Many aspects of evangelical Christianity, so-called new-age movements, and even atheism have significant social connections that attract people who did not and do not find such “communion” in their Catholic upbringing or search.
Pope Benedict also gets us off on the right foot. The very nature of Christianity is a belonging to an actual, real life, flesh-and-blood community. I don’t think the internet or social media completely fulfill this. The experience of communion is a tangible one. It involves people we see and hear in treal time; friends with whom we bend an ear to listen or embrace in solidarity.
A word on the priesthood of all believers:
157. Upon receiving faith and Baptism, we Christians accept the action of the Holy Spirit who leads to confessing Jesus as Son of God and calling God “Abba.” “By means of the common priesthood of the People of God,”(Ibid. 5) all of us who are baptized in Latin America are called to live and transmit communion with the Trinity, for “evangelization is a calling to participate in the communion of the Trinity.”(Puebla Document, 218)
This is important, and not at all an invasion on clerical status and privilege. By definition, a priest assists others in their connection to God. We see this happen ritually at Mass. We experience a priestly ministry anytime another human being intercedes for us with God, brings us to God, helps to make firm and real and personal that connection to Jesus.
For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.