November 2013

Proclamation and the new evangelization today

Dossier - Consacrazione e Servizo n.6/2013

Today there are some perplexity about the ways of the announcement and in the paths of evangelization, since it is to set a “new pastoral” in a traditional tissue of the Church. If you return to the theme is because the pastoral translation of “directions of the Church” is hard to be implemented in the parish communities.

     Within this short space you can not make speculations. I do it for granted that today it is necessary to invent a new way of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus. Therefore I will briefly analyze some of the criteria for the effectiveness of the mission of the Church in today’s history. It should start from the fact that the announcement has its “historic” connotation, because it is located in the bends of everyday life (culture as a way of life) and this operation requires at least two preliminary checkings:

– to examine the way of life of our people for Christian life (what they think and live of it, “in a post-Christian culture”);

– to check out our ecclesial language that is very far from understanding what common. Consequently, it is important to be aware that you can not continue to manage the life of the Church as if “the world has not changed”.

Distances between Gospel and culture

How to eliminate the distance between the Gospel of always and culture of today? Already Paul VI had warned us that “the drama of our time is the separation of the Gospel from culture” (Evangelii nuntiandi n. 18). After more than forty years this separation is a lot pronounced. If culture is something,so man becomes more human, whether it is that spiritual atmosphere in which the person lives and performs his activities, it must become clear to pastoral leaders that our spiritual health depends greatly on the quality of the cultural air that we breathe. One must ask: What gulps of fresh air enters the pastoral community in his own environment, to the point to “connect faith to life”?

The evangelization of culture is intended to ensure that the Gospel permeate the concrete reality of people’s lives. “The ministry should take up the task of shaping a Christian mentality in everyday life” (Ecclesia in Europa, 58). This is not to proselytize or to convince with compelling reasons or pleasant occasional initiatives. We need a stable system that shows the transition from a state of Christianity to a state of mission, because “the world has changed” (cf. CEI, Il volto missionario delle parrocchie in un mondo che cambia (30 May 2004).

Then it is necessary that the proclamation, to enter in the heart of the cultures, must be preceded by a preparation of the soil: listening to human and real problems, reflection on ​​the same as ever  values, even if combined with the actual mindset. It is to enter together in this kind of new life vision. If the fundamental problem of our people is the “indifference” towards the Gospel, the first and indispensable pastoral task becomes to attract attention, arouse interest, studying and inventing concrete anchor points where to dock the proclamation of the Gospel.

This is the task of the shepherd, the Pastoral Council, the Responsible adult of the communities and ecclesial movements. Therefore rises the need to reflect on this new way of being Church today! There are no easy recipes, but you have “to invent initiatives” useful groped in this approach of the Gospel to people’s lives. But it looks more likely for the parishes is difficult to “invent the new”; it is easier to “repeat the old”. Therefore we offer guidelines for the pastoral care that helps the local Christian community to respond to the challenge of unbelief and religious indifference, that characterizes the culture of the people in the beginning of this third millennium.

Pastoral Guidelines

1st. Seriously reflecting on the fact that the mentality of the people (even Christian) to the Gospel has deeply changed. A first implication is born by a global and specific looking of culture, understood as the acquired system. You have to help people and groups in a given local Christian community, more or less “distant” from the evangelical indications, to shorten the distance, through cultural initiatives that highlight the activities, lifestyle choices and behavior.

This “objectification” indicates that the answers on the evangelization are depending on the whole of attitudes, choices, decisions and behaviors, both people and groups. It also explains why the evangelization can not be limited to the personal aspects of the announcement but must assume, from the beginning, a conscious cultural dimension.

The reflexive critique analysis also can not be limited to the theoretical aspects of the culture, but to the practical consequences which affect the daily lives of those who live within the same society (young people, the elderly, workers, patients, professionals, urban, rural environment…) representing, in it, a particular culture.

2nd. Deepening the relationship between culture and personality, a relationship which is not unique, depending on specific environmental differences. In every culture there are different assessments and attitudes also opposed to the healthy, the sick, the young, the old, the employed, the unemployed, to foreigners, education, property…

This cultural pluralism explains the extreme difficulty of bringing a parish community to a common denominator. Experience shows that, faced with this obstacle, the problem is solved by limiting itself to the usual traditional pastoral offered to all, but significant for the few.

3rd. Constant reference of culture and its functions to the society in which we live and of which you are part,  even unknowingly (for many traditional Christians). The pastoral action must not appear detached from the way of life of the people. Between the society and culture are interwoven ongoing relationships and exchange mutual influences: the set of ways of life of a given group; patterns of behavior and values ​​shared by members of a group or society; the increasing complexity of human and social conditions.

Who wants to evangelize is called to discern, collaborate, develop creativity to the many social problems, passing first through the cultural models of each specific local community. It follows that it will have to engage in the problems and cultural situations of their own community, without neglecting other cultural communities near and far. In other words, the evangelization to the parishes and groups of all kinds contributes to evangelize the global society, provided that knows how to operate in a meaningful and appropriate to different cultural contexts, based on a principle not of imitation, but of analogy.

4th. Beware of religious language in the communication of the Gospel message. There is no doubt today that the common language is very different from that of faith. Abstract formulas are repeated often, incomprehensible to man of our time. Even the ritual liturgy must undress the rigid style of the past, becoming beautiful, sober, suitable to celebrate the glory of the Lord, intelligible in words and gestures that speak for themselves, without the need for further explanation.

The same catechetical vocabulary must be translated into understandable terms. Shepherds, catechists, educators are called to make a personal effort, even before it arrives from the institutions. Of course, without betraying the message. There is need, a huge work of translation, especially for inculturation.

The meeting between “Word and Life” must assume the style of the Incarnation of the Word. The language must be narrative, transcultural, why does not transmit ideas, but tells the facts known to all, that recall the body or the scope of common experience: the hand, foot, eye, mouth, birth, sleeping, dying, the water, the sun, the night… In this way the Christian community becomes visible and audible realization of the Gospel.

Finally, an invitation to reflect on two documents: the encyclical of John Paul II Redemptoris Missio (7 December 1990) and the already mentioned Pastoral Note of the CEI Il volto missionario delle parrocchie in un mondo che cambia (30 May 2004). From reading, reflected by the light of the above criteria, may start pastoral proposals of “new evangelization”, which arise from the base and involve in the implementation.

Giuseppe Morante sdb
Istituto Salesiano «Madonna di Lourdes»
Via Margherita di Savoia, 22
80058 Torre Annunziata (NA)

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