The church is young! The church is alive!
Those were the words of Pope Benedict in his first Mass after his election to the Pontificate. And that is certainly how I'd describe the sense one gets here at the 2006 Institute for Evangelical Catholicism at the St. Paul's University Catholic Center in Madison, WI.
[No, St. Bloggers -- it's not true that the only thing the young gravitate to are lace and Latin.]
[Ok. No more snakriness! :-)]
The folks at EC are onto something - and it's certainly a vision that's catching on. The Church as a vibrant evangelical movement (words that John Paul used himsefl!). A vision of the church as a community that invites people into a deep, personal relationship with the Risen Lord.
Yep, the language and the style sound often, well, evangelical. But Praise & Worship, certainly energizes. And it's so, well, American! :-)
The Institute started with daily Mass -- throughout which I could only think of our beloved Pope John Paul II. Last year I was here, and at that same Mass, we were praying for the dying Pontiff. He is so in my thoughts and in my heart this weekend! Then some extended Praise & Worship, and a talk on the principles of Evangelical Catholic ministry by the Director for Evangelical Catholicism, Tim Kruse. This year, lots of quotes from Pope Benedict. Looking over my notes, there's one that really sticks out, that really struck me. It was from Cardinal Ratzinger's interview with Vittorio Mesor (the one that became the "Ratzinger Report"), where he talks about the smallness of the church. "It would be an error to think that 10 years from now we'll have all the world Catholic. ... that is not our expectation. Rather, it is to have deeply intentional, confident and committed communities." [paraphrase] I really need to unpack that!
The highlight was the talk on the characteristics of an evangelical Catholic spirituality by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee. Abp. Dolan did the catechesis with the group I was with at World Youth Day in Toronto back in 2002, when he'd just been assigned to Milwaukee. Man, what a speaker! What powerful preaching! He had us all sitting at the edge of our seats, and spoke with passion and conviction, straight from the heart! It's the best I've heard a Bishop preach, ever! What a shot in the arm!
He highlighted five characteristics, which he developed in further detail in the talk:
An evangelical Catholic spirituality is
- centered on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ
- is incarnational
- is humble
- is joyful
- is confident
My notes are copious, and I just want to share a couple of points that really struck me:
-- quoting a professor who taught at the Gregorian, "I do not believe in the doctrine of the Eucharist. I believe in the person who revealed this doctrine."
-- St. Peter to the beggar in Acts. "Silver and gold I have not, but in the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to rise up and walk." The church doesn't have silver and gold. No longer the silver and gold of power, and status and wealth. And this is a good thing. We need this humility. All we have to offer is Jesus himself.
-- one of the ways the Incarnation continues is through Mary. We turn to her, our mother, who points to her Son. I must say, I'd never thought of connecting Mary with the Incarnation in this way before!
-- the other way -- and this is most controversial, especially these days with the messiness of the Church so visible -- the other way the Incarnation continues is through the Church. Being an evangelical Catholic means loving Jesus and his Church. They're inseparable.
-- the great temptation of religion is to reduce God to an idea. Ideas, don't have a mom. Jesus does!
-- Which do we want? Da Vinci [the church is a sham, a liar, who's covered up the truth of Jesus?] or De Lubac ["what would I know of Him, without her?"]
- humility. For many, "evangelical" conjures up images of the arrogant, the self-righteous, the snide. Never for an evangelical Catholic!
-- joy is the infallible sign of God's presence
-- Confidence: Be not afraid!
"Love Christ! Love the Church! Be not afraid!" Stuff that I need to hear over and over again.
I can't wait till the morrow. Pray for us over here.