The next Pope...-A A +A
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
... will need to explain in a simple and clear way what “new evangelization” really means.
From Catholic talk shows, this average Catholic has gathered “new evangelization” to mean that the laity, not just priests, takes active participation in the mission of the church to make disciples of all nations, starting with one’s family. You can do this, for instance, by deepening the experience of celebrating Sunday Mass and by tightening the family bond with daily readings of the Scripture and the communal praying of the rosary and the Angelus. Needless to say, the parents inculcate the gospel values in the family.
Then one is supposed to reach out to one’s immediate outer circle. This can be done by holding Bible study sessions with one’s neighbors or officemates. We Catholics may also start the practice of inviting non-Catholics to Sunday Mass, the way they invite us to their Sunday service.
Another impression I got of what “new evangelization” means came from Pope Emeritus Benedict himself. In one interview during his visit to the U.S.A., he said there may be a need for the Catholic Church to become smaller by going back to the catacombs, so to speak. I think by this he meant that we need to “re-invent” ourselves as though we were Jews or pagans receiving the good news for the first time with the enthusiasm of the first Christians. At the same time, the carriers of the good news need to conduct their mission with the vim and vigor of the first evangelists.
Then recently I attended an intra-faith forum during which the Second Vatican Council’s definition of “new evangelization” was discussed. The pertinent documents were projected on the screen. They contained the above impressions, and more. I’d like to focus on the portion that is vaguest to the ordinary person who is not a scholar, for this is a much-misunderstood teaching.
According to Vatican II, the Catholic Church includes not just Catholics but all baptized Christians. Thus, a Baptist is part of the church. I was once told by a priest that Protestants and the non-denominational churches are to be treated with tender loving care because they are our “separated brethren.” We need to dialogue with them to bring them back to the family. This idea is not difficult to accept; actualizingthe dialogue is another matter.
What is not a concern in the Vatican II documents, however, is the perception of our “separated family members.” We Catholics consider them as part of our church, but they find this notion amusing: In their eyes, we Catholics are the ones who have digressed from the true fold, and they are the true, original fold, that’s why they must do everything in their power to bring us back.
Dialoguing about this is possible. However, it requires the Catholic initiator to be a theologian, historian and Bible expert. Does Vatican II expect every citizen of Vaguelandia to have doctoral degrees, since this dialogue is no longer the exclusive work of the clergy? I mean, just to help me understand the finer points of faith and church matters, I must sacrifice my personal needs to be able to buy the very expensive books which are available only through the internet.
Also discussed in the forum was salvation. I don’t think this portion of the documents is original Vaticania, for in my younger pre-Vatican II days the teaching was discussed in my religion class. Maybe Vatican II just formalized the teaching.
Is salvation open to the non-Catholic and the non-Christian? Yes, if he lives out the ideals of his faith or, in common man’s parlance, he lives as a good follower of his religion. This is clear enough.
What’s vague is the actual “digestion” of the teaching by us Catholics. As a precocious pupil of mine put it recently, “Puede man diay ma-saved bisan dili ka Catolico. Teacher, mag-Baptist na lang ko kay mas sayon ang ilaha, enjoy pa gyod ko!” Because of this logic, so many Catholics are leaving the Catholic Church, even if theologians and Bible experts explain that we have the fullness of the Truth and this is the church which secular historians can trace as the original church that Jesus founded. In fact, many non-Catholics return on their own to this church once they study what Christians were like in the first century, for they are shocked to see that they were -- omigosh -- exactly what Catholics are today! Most of these individuals are pastors or ministers of their denominations who bump into the amazing realization in the course of research for their M.A. or Ph.D degree.
But primarily for the non-scholar common tao, I think the problem has to do with emphasis: Instead of underlining that we have the fullness of truth, what gets amplified is that it does not matter what your church or religion may be, just go on being faithful in that denomination or religion. Because of this wrong emphasis, the Catholic laity, phlegmatic and poorly catechized to begin with, does not really care to be a “salesman” of its Faith. Well, not just the laity but nuns and priests too!
Let me give you two shocking examples of what I mean. The other year, a Baptist girl was convinced that the true church was the Catholic Church. She opened up to me, knowing that I had “journeyed back home.” She wanted to enter the Catholic Church. I did not know how to go about adult initiation , so I went to XXX Parish.
There was no one in the office during office hours. So I waited and waited and waited. I had to return the next day. I was impassioned about my “apostolate” of bringing someone into the church, but not the secretary. She smirked, “Diay? Puede na man karon dili mag-Catolico.” She then told me that the Baptist girl needed to be interviewed by the priest to find out if she had a Trinitarian baptism as a Baptist. She also needed to be catechized, and XXX Parish had an “official catechist,” a nun. I nearly clapped my hands with joy! But when I was able to locate the nun’s residence within the church compound, the joy turned to horrified shock.
To make a long story short, Sister X repeated verbatim what the secretary had told me, with the exact accompanying smirk. As to the required catechetical instruction, she said, to my incredulous ears, “Busy kaayo ko. Ikaw na lang pangita og catechist. Daghan man ingon ana (in the school where she taught), dili namo gahilabtan. Lain naman gud ang teachings sa Vatican II.”
In my next example, a Japanese Shinto desired to become a Catholic. I made an appointment with a Japanese Catholic nun so the two of them could have a better discussion of the Christian Faith. A date was set. On the appointed date, she was not in the appointed place. So I returned the next day. Sorry, she said, she forgot all about the appointment. I wanted to make another appointment. She referred me to another person -- but he would come next year yet! Bitterly, I told her of the day when it was known that I had left the Catholic Church. There was a steady stream of non-Catholic evangelists coming to my door. What a stark contrast! Her dry reaction? “I’m very sorry. But it’s not important anymore to what religion you belong.”
Similarly in a homily, a priest said ecumenism means we have friendly relations with those with a different faith tradition, but we do not aim at converting them. This shows we respect others. The problem with this is, those to whom we “show respect” have one aim: to proselytize and take us to their side -- and they are succeeding.
Is there a candidate for pope who can make the church understandable and welcoming to non-Christians, to non-Catholics and to Catholics? My “manok” is Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, USA. He has the talent to not just speak clearly; he is also the person most likely to bring in some passion into the church which has lost its passion and pride.
(Ms. Ametta Taguchi teaches Home Economics and Livelihood Education. She also writes and directs plays and won the Palanca Award for Literature seven times)
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on March 13, 2013.