Thursday, June 12, 2014

Evangelii Gaudium, Part Six


106. Even if it is not always easy to approach young people, progress has been made in two areas: the awareness that the entire community is called to evangelize and educate the young, and the urgent need for the young to exercise greater leadership. We should recognize that despite the present crisis of commitment and communal relationships, many young people are making common cause before the problems of our world and are taking up various forms of activism and volunteer work. Some take part in the life of the Church as members of service groups and various missionary initiatives in their own dioceses and in other places. How beautiful it is to see that young people are “street preachers” (callejeros de la fe), joyfully bringing Jesus to every street, every town square and every corner of the earth!

That’s pretty beautiful. Where is this going on? Or does he just mean March for Life type deals?

107. Many places are experiencing a dearth of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. This is often due to a lack of contagious apostolic fervour in communities which results in a cooling of enthusiasm and attractiveness. Wherever there is life, fervour and a desire to bring Christ to others, genuine vocations will arise. Even in parishes where priests are not particularly committed or joyful, the fraternal life and fervour of the community can awaken in the young a desire to consecrate themselves completely to God and to the preaching of the Gospel. This is particularly true if such a living community prays insistently for vocations and courageously proposes to its young people the path of special consecration. On the other hand, despite the scarcity of vocations, today we are increasingly aware of the need for a better process of selecting candidates to the priesthood. Seminaries cannot accept candidates on the basis of any motivation whatsoever, especially if those motivations have to do with affective insecurity or the pursuit of power, human glory or economic well-being.

Again, a pastoral challenge with doctrinal roots. In my admittedly limited experience, I see two kinds of people going to the seminary. One type does so in order to change the Church because the Church needs to get with the modern times. The other goes in because he is drawn to serve others in spiritual combat. It all comes down to what you believe the Church is and is supposed to be doing. Which is doctrinal.

Remember, Cardinal Mahony believes that theshortage of vocations is a great fruit from Vatican II. Wouldn’t that mean it should be encouraged then? Where do you think he lies on this spectrum of thought?

110. After having considered some of the challenges of the present, I would now like to speak of the task which bears upon us in every age and place, for “there can be no true evangelization without the explicit proclamation of Jesus as Lord”, and without “the primacy of the proclamation of Jesus Christ in all evangelizing work”.[77] Acknowledging the concerns of the Asian bishops, John Paul II told them that if the Church “is to fulfil its providential destiny, evangelization as the joyful, patient and progressive preaching of the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ must be your absolute priority.”[78] These words hold true for all of us.

So we can at least dispense with any ideas of being satisfied with folks not converting, right? Or that other religions that draw people away from this proclamation of Jesus as Lord are somehow good of themselves? Right?

112. The salvation which God offers us is the work of his mercy. No human efforts, however good they may be, can enable us to merit so great a gift. God, by his sheer grace, draws us to himself and makes us one with him.[79] He sends his Spirit into our hearts to make us his children, transforming us and enabling us to respond to his love by our lives. The Church is sent by Jesus Christ as the sacrament of the salvation offered by God.[80] Through her evangelizing activity, she cooperates as an instrument of that divine grace which works unceasingly and inscrutably. Benedict XVI put it nicely at the beginning of the Synod’s reflections: “It is important always to know that the first word, the true initiative, the true activity comes from God and only by inserting ourselves into the divine initiative, only begging for this divine initiative, shall we too be able to become – with him and in him – evangelizers”.[81] This principle of the primacy of grace must be a beacon which constantly illuminates our reflections on evangelization.

The social justice Pelagians should cringe at this part. If they knew it existed. Or thought that salvation was somehow not a guaranteed proposition. If we take what the Pope says here and in Lumen Fidei seriously, we could finally begin to re-ignite the discussion of Catholic soteriology.

115. The People of God is incarnate in the peoples of the earth, each of which has its own culture. The concept of culture is valuable for grasping the various expressions of the Christian life present in God’s people. It has to do with the lifestyle of a given society, the specific way in which its members relate to one another, to other creatures and to God. Understood in this way, culture embraces the totality of a people’s life.[84] Each people in the course of its history develops its culture with legitimate autonomy.[85] This is due to the fact that the human person, “by nature stands completely in need of life in society”[86] and always exists in reference to society, finding there a concrete way of relating to reality. The human person is always situated in a culture: “nature and culture are intimately linked”.[87]Grace supposes culture, and God’s gift becomes flesh in the culture of those who receive it.

I’m not sure what it means that “grace supposes culture.” Given that we live in a culture that increasingly promotes moral deviancy in just about every aspect of life, though, the Holy Father is absolutely right in focusing on it so much in so many of the ensuing sections (many of which we are omitting because they seem fairly redundant).

Hence in the evangelization of new cultures, or cultures which have not received the Christian message, it is not essential to impose a specific cultural form, no matter how beautiful or ancient it may be, together with the Gospel. The message that we proclaim always has a certain cultural dress, but we in the Church can sometimes fall into a needless hallowing of our own culture, and thus show more fanaticism than true evangelizing zeal.

True, while it is not essential per se, it is often desirable (ie- the evangelization of the New World). I can even see it as necessary in some cases. Like, for example, the Aztecs. Or the United States.

The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries”, but rather that we are always “missionary disciples”.

In all this, I feel that the only thing lacking is a concrete definition of “evangelization” that makes explicit a conversion to the True Faith. I might be overly simplistic in saying so, but I can see people trying to use the lack of such a definition as wiggle room, despite the Holy Father’s other comments on the subject here and in other places.

123. Popular piety enables us to see how the faith, once received, becomes embodied in a culture and is constantly passed on. Once looked down upon, popular piety came to be appreciated once more in the decades following the Council.

Is this correct? What is the popular piety that is flourishing so much? In the US and Europe, the death of popular piety has been one of the main drivers of the satanization of our culture. Processions, feast days, private and family devotion, etc. all seem to have faded away.

124. The Aparecida Document describes the riches which the Holy Spirit pours forth in popular piety by his gratuitous initiative. On that beloved continent, where many Christians express their faith through popular piety, the bishops also refer to it as “popular spirituality” or “the people’s mysticism”.[103] 

Have I mentioned that I am beginning to sense that Pope Francis writes a lot of stuff with Latin America in mind?

126. Underlying popular piety, as a fruit of the inculturated Gospel, is an active evangelizing power which we must not underestimate: to do so would be to fail to recognize the work of the Holy Spirit. Instead, we are called to promote and strengthen it, in order to deepen the never-ending process of inculturation. Expressions of popular piety have much to teach us; for those who are capable of reading them, they are a locus theologicus which demands our attention, especially at a time when we are looking to the new evangelization.

One thing that is a concern in all the talk of culture. Pope Francis makes it a point to link inculturation to the Truth several times. The issue is that lots of damage has been done over the years in trying to “adapt” the Gospel to variant cultures, often because specific items in those cultures themselves are abhorrent to God. I can easily see things like the matter of communion for remarried Catholics being shoehorned into the conversation in the name of inculturation.

127. Today, as the Church seeks to experience a profound missionary renewal, there is a kind of preaching which falls to each of us as a daily responsibility. It has to do with bringing the Gospel to the people we meet, whether they be our neighbours or complete strangers. This is the informal preaching which takes place in the middle of a conversation, something along the lines of what a missionary does when visiting a home. Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey.

None of us do this enough.

131. Differences between persons and communities can sometimes prove uncomfortable, but the Holy Spirit, who is the source of that diversity, can bring forth something good from all things and turn it into an attractive means of evangelization. Diversity must always be reconciled by the help of the Holy Spirit; he alone can raise up diversity, plurality and multiplicity while at the same time bringing about unity. When we, for our part, aspire to diversity, we become self-enclosed, exclusive and divisive; similarly, whenever we attempt to create unity on the basis of our human calculations, we end up imposing a monolithic uniformity. This is not helpful for the Church’s mission.

Another point that made me think of Eastern Catholics and the Orthodox as well. Could we revisit Cardinal Sandri’s comments about the married priesthood now?

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