This is a significant paragraph, outlining the shape of the Church’s ministry to the faithful, especially those who no longer walk with us. There is certainly room for “enhancement” along these initiatives.
Dioceses, parishes, parish groups, religious orders (both contemplative and apostolic), lay associations, and even families might consider this checklist. First, we might consider which of these have been our strength, or which offers some work already accomplished. From there, the room for improvement. Let’s read …
226. In our church we should enhance work along four lines:
a) Religious experience. In our Church we must offer all our faithful “a personal encounter with Jesus Christ,” a profound and intense religious experience, a kerygmatic proclamation and the personal witness of the evangelizers that leads to a personal conversion and to a thorough change of life.
Individual persons are on point outside of places designated as “church.” We can certainly ask if baptized persons live as if they’ve experienced that “personal encounter.” That’s something for which remaining believers can aspire.
My sense is that the liturgy must offer this “profound and intense religious experience.” It’s not just the proclamation of the Word. It’s the whole experience.
b) Community life. Our faithful are seeking Christian communities where they are accepted fraternally and feel valued, visible, and included in the Church. Our faithful must really feel that they are members of an ecclesial community and stewards of its development. That will allow for greater commitment and self-giving in and for the Church.
On this point, welcome. Does everybody who walks through our doors–Sunday as well as office hours–feel they are part of something larger? Or are they present to be serviced? The more we get the former, and less of the latter, the better off we’ll be in achieving this sense of community.
c) Biblical and doctrinal formation. Along with a strong religious experience and notable community life, our faithful need to deepen knowledge of the Word of God and the contents of the faith, because that is the only way to bring their religious experience to maturity. Along this strongly experiential and communal path, doctrinal formation is not experienced as theoretical and cold knowledge, but as a fundamental and necessary tool in spiritual, personal, and community growth.
My caution on this point: it can be easy to replace matter of relationship, the affective side of knowing Jesus Christ, with simple information about him. Knowledge is nothing, according to the apostle Paul, unless it comes with love. Formation built on cleverness is mere dust.
d) Missionary commitment of the entire community. It goes out to meet those who are afar, is concerned about their situation so as to attract them once more to the Church and invite them to return to it.
Evangelization. Commitment to it, concretely.
As a liturgist, I recognize the impulses of the lay desire for preaching, music, and hospitality in the Mass. The first two enhancements cover this. Here in North America, we’ve wasted a lot of energy when we flit around the boundaries of these without getting into their meat. Accompanying is this fourth point: a drive to implement a sincere and effective outreach.
I happen to think one of the strengths of the post-conciliar Church are the tools and methods we use in formation. The problem there, perhaps, is our poverty of love.
For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.