Today we conclude our examination of popular piety with the Aparecida bishops. They cite their Puebla document from 1979, affirmed by Pope Benedict XVI:
264. Popular spirituality is a legitimate way of living the faith, a way of feeling part of the Church and a manner of being missionaries, where the deepest vibrations of America’s depths come together. It is part of a “cultural historic originality”(Puebla Document 446) of the poor of this continent, and fruit of a “synthesis between their cultures and the Christian faith.”(Introductory Address 1) In the environment of secularization experienced by our peoples, it is still a powerful confession of the living God who acts in history, and a channel for handing on the faith. Journeying together to shrines and taking part in other manifestations of popular piety, also taking one’s children or inviting others, is in itself an evangelizing gesture by which the Christian people evangelizes itself and fulfills the Church’s missionary calling.
And so we are drawn back into the major theme of evangelization. Popular piety serves as a shared human experience that draws people to Christ. Intellectual persuasion has a place in Christianity. I’ve become attached to the notion this is more important in situations where faith is already present and seeks confirmation. It is true that God made us beings with intellect. Our level of braininess is unique, perhaps, in creation. But we also possess a depth of emotional life that appears equally rare, if not unique. To express ourselves as fully human, we may well need to explore ways in which we can gaze on a love more concrete, a love in which God and his saints take part. They reach to us:
265. Our peoples particularly identify with the suffering Christ; they look at him, kiss him or touch his wounded feet as though saying: This is he “who has loved me and given himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). Many of them, beaten, ignored, dispossessed, hold their arms aloft. With their characteristic religiosity, they firmly adhere to the immense love that God has for them and that continually reminds them of their own dignity. They also find God’s affection and love in the face of Mary. In it they see reflected the essential gospel message. From the shrine of Guadalupe our beloved Mother makes her littlest children feel that they are in the fold of her cloak. Now from Aparecida she invites them to cast their nets into the world to bring out of anonymity those who are sunk in oblivion, and bring them to the light of faith. Gathering her children, she brings our peoples together around Jesus Christ.
For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.