Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us 84-87: Four Inculturation Principles

Principles ten through thirteen look to inculturation. We begin with a quote from Pope John Paul II’s Catechesi Tradendae:

  • “Bring the power of the Gospel into the very heart of culture and cultures.” (84)
  • Let the gifts of culture enrich the life of the Church. (85)
  • Involve the whole people of God in inculturating the faith. (86)
  • Let adult faith formation programs be centers of service and inculturation. (87)


The bishops suggest that even aspects of culture that do not harmonize with the Gospel are worth a serious look. If they are meaningful to people either in or out of the Church, looking at ways to “purify” them can be a useful approach.

Many cultures of Africa, the Middle East, and ancient Europe enriched the early Church. This process of enrichment can and should continue today. The cultures of today, even emerging ones, have something to offer. As social beings, humans express themselves in social culture. Since God has created us so, we have the means to utilize these social expressions to aspire to union with God.

Many cultures of antiquity have given rise to the myriad of cultures of today. Based on family, the arts, ethnicity and race, and other factors–all of these contribute to human expression. The bishops also remind us of the importance of “(s)pecial attention … to those groups that are most easily forgotten: particularly those who are elderly, those who are living with handicapping conditions, those who are alienated from society.” (86)

This document also addresses “those whose racial, linguistic, or ethnic identity may cause them to feel alienated from the local culture or faith community, to experience overt or subtle discrimination, or to be economically disadvantaged.” (87) We cannot leave behind any believer, seeker, or potential sister or brother in Christ.

The US Bishops published Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us in 1999.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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