Saturday, 19 June 2010

Three asides on evangelisation

If the Church's mission of evangelisation is carried out at different levels, should a criterion of evaluation relevant to one level of that mission be applied to an action being carried out at a different level? This is a question prompted by three situations encountered in the past week.

The General Directory for Catechesis, published by the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy in 1997, describes the process of evangelisation in nn.47-49, referring to the fuller account of its different stages given in the Vatican II decree Ad Gentes on the missionary activity of the Church:
The Church, while ever containing in herself the fullness of the means of salvation, always operates "by slow stages". (n.6) The conciliar decree Ad Gentes clarifies well the dynamic of the process of evangelization: Christian witness, dialogue and presence in charity (nn.11-12), the proclamation of the Gospel and the call to conversion (n.13), the catechumenate and Christian Initiation (n.14), the formation of the Christian communities through and by means of the sacraments and their ministers (nn.15-18). This is the dynamic for establishing and building up the Church.
First aside

Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United Kingdom is clearly going to operate at a number of levels from the point of view of evangelisation. In the circumstances of our country, I believe that the level of witness, dialogue and presence in charity might well have a larger significance than in Pope Benedict's visits to other countries.

In this light, it is my view that the criticisms of Archbishop Nichols being expressed at Catholic and Loving it (and perhaps elsewhere), over his reference to the delicacy of the mission that Pope Benedict has undertaken in coming to Britain, are plain wrong. Presence in charity as a level of the process of evangelisation requires a discretion appropriate to time and place, and that this should be exercised in the context of Pope Benedict's visit is not a surprise.

Is the criticism applying a criterion appropriate to primary proclamation or catechumenate to the level of presence in charity?

Second aside

This week I heard a trenchant criticism of the new English translation of the Roman Missal. This related most directly to the text of prayers such as the Opening Prayers, where the new translation is closer to the Latin, generally longer than the translation presently in use, more demanding in its grammatical structure and more sacral in its language. [We had just been comparing the Latin, present English translation and the new "Grey Book" English translation of the Opening Prayer for the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time.] The criticism made was that, if the Liturgy was to be effective in evangelisation, its language should be simple and easy to understand, and so we should stick with the present translations.

However, the role of the Liturgy in the process of evangelisation is only partly at the level of primary proclamation; it is also, and perhaps more importantly, at the level of formation of the Christian community. The need to engage more fully with the text in order to understand and experience its meaning, and to have access to its essentially sacral nature, is quite appropriate to this level in the process of evangelisation.

Did this criticism apply a criterion for primary proclamation to the level of formation of the community?

Third aside

An article in the June issue of Faith Today describes the work of the Apostleship of the Sea at Teignmouth.
The ship's name - the Maria - is clearly visible on its side, and its seamen are on deck, preparing to throw ropes to the dock-hand. When a ship arrives into port there are certain formalities that have to be gone through, and waiting on the quayside are a customs officer and someone from the harbourmaster's office.

But standing there too are a couple of smiling women in high-visiblity jackets and white hard harts: and as the ship docks they wave to the sailors, and move closer so that they can chat. The men, it turns out, are Russian: one of them calls out in his native tongue. He looks astonished when one of the women on the quay answers in Russian, smiling broadly...

Oleg Kovalev, the Maria's electrical engineer, wants to say goodnight to his daughter Alina, seven. "I haven't called her for almost a week but it's nearly her bedtime so I need to do it quick", he explains. Liuba is already on the case, exchanging his Euros for sterling and explaining how to get to the shop that sells top-up cards, and is still open.
This example, does, I think give an indication of the power that presence in charity has as a part of the process of evangelisation.

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