Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Called to not be incestuous

Well, I'm through Book 1 of 15 (on the Novitiate reading list). Thought I'd share this bit from Avery Dulles' The Priestly Office: A Theological Reflection.
In our denominationally divided society, we tend to think of pastoral activity as limited to the care of the faithful and thus to ignore the outreach that the parish ought to have toward all who live in the area. John Paul II offers a corrective in Redemptoris Missio, where he writes: "Especially in those areas where Christians are a minority, priests must be filled with special missionary zeal and commitment. The Lord entrusts to them not only the pastoral care of the Christian community, but also and above all the evangelization of those of their fellow citizens who do not belong to Christ's flock."

Since Paul VI's great exhortation on Evangelization in the Modern World, its eems clear that all the activities of the parish should be centered on evangelization as the church's central mission. Evangelization, broadly defined, includes the proclamation of the gospel to those who are afar and the nurturing of believers in the faith, so that they may more effectively understand and practice it.

A vital church is one that looks outward, spreading the good news and inviting others to join. It is not enough to evangelize those who come into our buildings; as bearers of the gospel, we must move into the neighborhoods and workplaces to evangelize. The United States bishops, in their national plan for evangelization, have called upon parish leaders, especially pastors, to understand their ministry in terms of this plan. Many now speak of "evangelizing parishes." In the words of Patrick J. Brennan, "The parish or church that has lost this attitude of invitation and mission has become incestuous, closed in upon itself, or maintenance-oriented, concerned with maintaining the status quo." It is normally necessary, but hardly sufficient, to have a good RCIA program. Evangelization should be a dimension of every parish organization, including those dedicated to religious education, liturgy, youth, social justice, and the like. An evangelizing parish will have a vigorous program for keeping in contact with inactive and alienated parishioners and for making unchurched persons feel welcome.
Evangelii nuntiandi came out in 1976. Redemptoris missio in 1990, the Bishops' plan in 1992. How much has this attitude taken hold? Aren't most of our parishes still just oriented to spiritual consumers? Maintenance rather than mission?

5 comments:

Fr. Andrew said...

Incestuous or contraceptive?

In my own seminary formation we spoke of not contracepting from the ambo. Do not restrain the Good News but liberally sow it.

I can see incestuous from the sense that maybe our spiritual fecundity is limited to our parish and those in union with Rome, but maybe contraceptive or even masturbatory is a better word if you want to use that route.

I have encountered faith groups that were intellectually and/or spiritually masturbatory- it was all about self-satisfaction. There was no discernment of where the truth lies, simply the expression of self, views, and experience.

Gashwin said...

Thanks Father for the comment. "Incestuous" is used in the quote itself above, "The parish or church that has lost this attitude of invitation and mission has become incestuous, closed in upon itself." I used that as the title to provoke and grab attention! It works, don't you think? :)

In this context -- ministering only to those who show up -- I think incestuous or autoerotic (if one goes that route!) would be the best metaphor. Contraceptive might perhaps refer to muting the full proclamation of the apostolic teaching?

I never thought I'd actually delve so deeply into such -- um -- unusual metaphor! :)

angelmeg said...

Parishes are supposed to be doing all those things and yet they are cutting staff at an alarming rate due to "economic constraints".

How sad that they are cutting away those people who have the time and knowledge to do this work when the pastor is charged with taking care of the needs of two and sometimes three parishes.

I really think we need to get back to the idea that our mission is much greater than keeping open the Catholic School. (extemely important in my diocese, to the detriment of true evangelization efforts.)

angelmeg said...

I also agree with what Fr. says above. I have encountered groups like that in the spiritual formation of my graduate school.

What is the purpose of a spiritual formation process if it is only to stroke ones own accomplishments and not try to grow or learn from anyone else? It is frightening to me that these activities are sanctioned by the program.

Fr. Andrew said...

Thanks for the correction to my suggestion. I glanced over the Cardinal Dulles quote and missed that!

Some of this autoerotic spirituality (much friendlier term btw) arose from the influence of things like 3rd force psychology, the work of Carl Rogers. Also the movement in catechesis away from...well...catechesis and into experiential visions of the faith.

Angelmeg: yeah, it is difficult right now and I suspect the financial situation will get more difficult in the coming years with many tough decisions regarding schools and the paid exercise of pastoral ministry. Even priests salaries might change/suffer.

Yet, if we suffer, if sin is all around, we should take heart and be alert- for where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.