Friday, January 25, 2008

Praedicator veritatis in universo mundo

"Tu es vas electionis, Sancte Paule Apostole; praedicator veritatis in universo mundo."

Thou art the chosen vessel, O Saint Paul Apostle, preacher of truth to the entire world.

This is the responsory for Lauds for today's feast, the Conversion of St. Paul. The words are found on the baldacchino above the main altar at St. Paul the Apostle in New York City (the mother church of the Paulist Fathers): the response is on a marble tablet on the floor at the foot of the altar.

St. Paul, of course, is my patron and inspiration.

This date, apart from focusing our attention on mission and evangelization, also has an ecumenical dimension, closing the week for prayer for Christian unity. [Here's the text of reflections from Pontifical Council for Christian Unity and the Faith and Order Commission of the WCC]

Ecumenism and evangelization are, of course closely related. The latter in fact was the catalyst for the birth of the modern ecumenical movement. And this past week, the Holy Father has said that both evangelization and ecumenism are the main tasks facing the church at this juncture.

Fr. Neuhaus shares some thoughts
on this feast day:
Something like that may be happening [a new springtime, in the words of Redemptoris Missio]. Consider the explosive growth of Christianity, especially in the Global South. And who knows what will happen when—and surely it is a question of when rather than if—China opens up? Redemptoris Missio tied together Christian mission and Christian unity. And, of course, the tie between mission and unity was the dynamic that launched what is called the modern ecumenical movement at Edinburgh in 1910. Not for nothing was that meeting called the World Missionary Conference. Unity is in the service of mission, which reflects Our Lord's prayer in John 17 that his disciples may be one so that the world may believe that he is sent by the Father.

Today the connection between mission and unity is not so evident. There are approximately 2.2 billion Christians in the world; about 1.2 billion Catholic, 400 million Orthodox, 150 million "classical" Reformation (Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed, etc.), and the rest an assortment, especially in the Global South, of evangelical, Pentecostal, and indigenous movements, the last often being strange amalgamations of Christian and other religious cultures. Anything approximating ecclesial unity in this wild mix of ways of being Christian seems increasingly remote. That is the reality that informs the admirable article by Avery Cardinal Dulles in the December 2007 issue of First Things, "Saving Ecumenism From Itself." (The points made by Dulles are reflected also in the report on the state of ecumenism by Walter Cardinal Kasper, head of the pontifical council on Christian unity, given to the consistory of cardinals in Rome last fall.)
There follow some insightful reflections on St. Paul's attempts at evangelization at the Areopagus, and the modern Areopagi, particular atheism. Not the bombastic, arrogant, pugnacious atheism that has gotten much press recently, but a more silent, humanistic atheism, which is, perhaps, more pervasive than one would think.

Let us pray for the intercession of The Apostle, today, and especially for that we imitate his courage and zeal, and a desire to know nothing, and proclaim nothing, but Christ crucified, in whose power our weakness is made perfect.

[Wonderful links for today's Feast from Mike Aquilina, along with a great summary of the life of St. Paul from St. Jerome.]

[Last year's post, with a Caravaggio and an anthem to St. Paul!]

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