Friday, May 14, 2010

The Pope Wants - Something New?!: Catholicism in the 21st Century

In some circles, Catholics in general and the Pope in particular are considered none-too-bright atavisms who desperately cling to a few old, outmoded, and seriously ungroovy ideas.

In a way, there's something to that. We worship the eternal God, and are on the same page as the quartet that sings: "...'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.' " (Revelation 4:8) (I rather like the title we used in English for a while: "Book of the Apocalypse" - but "Revelation" focuses on what the book's about.)

Acting over a span of nearly two thousand years and anchored in eternity, it's no surprise that the Catholic Church isn't exactly known for jumping on every intellectual bandwagon that goes by.

On the other hand, we were told to go "and make disciples of all nations." (Matthew 28:19) We're dealing with nations that didn't exist when Jesus gave that order, and we've had to change - not the message, but how we deliver it.
"In Portugal, pope calls for new style of evangelization"
Catholic News Service (May 14, 2010)

"On a four-day visit to Portugal, Pope Benedict XVI turned the church's attention to Fatima and offered a new perspective on the continuing relevance of Mary's appearances and messages there.

"But the larger purpose of his May 11-14 trip, a point enunciated at each of his three stops, was to prod Catholics to adopt a more forceful and direct way of evangelizing in a largely secularized society.

"In talk after talk, the pope spoke about how to be a missionary in the modern world, challenging Portugal's Catholic majority -- and its bishops -- to stop acquiescing in a kind of silent surrender as the faith is marginalized and even ridiculed...."

"...'We need to overcome the temptation to limit ourselves to what we already have, or think we have, that is safely our own: that would be a slow death for the church as a presence in the world,' he said.

Pope Benedict has sometimes been presumed to accept the idea of a smaller but more militant church, supposedly to strengthen the church's identity. But he made it clear in Portugal that 'pruning back' is not his strategic goal....
There's scuttlebutt that we'll have a "Pontifical Council for New Evangelization" soon. Before somebody has a stroke, READ THIS:
"...The 83-year-old pope made it clear from the moment he stepped off his airplane that his idea of 'new evangelization' did not mean trying to reinstall Catholicism as the state religion. Arriving in Lisbon May 11, he told civil authorities that the church was happy to live in a pluralistic society, which challenges its members to articulate their beliefs and put them into practice...."
(Catholic News Service") [emphasis mine]
There's more to the article, including what Benedict XVI said about the message of Fatima. I'm going to write a little more about the evangelization angle of the article.

What the Pope said about living in a pluralistic society is, I think, important. I'm an America, born during the Truman administration. I remember when many folks didn't think America was - or should be - particularly "pluralistic."


"Pluralism" is what you've got when you have "a social organization in which diversity of racial or religious or ethnic or cultural groups is tolerated" (Princeton's WordNet) That's just about the opposite of the sort of conformism memorialized in "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" (1956). The 'good old days?' No, thanks: I remember them, and don't want to go back.

A person might think that someone like me, who likes living in a small town in central Minnesota, would be dead-set against pluralism. People like me are supposed to like living in communities where everybody is either a WASP or a WASP mimic. Or at least all go to the same church.
Rambling On About the Town I Live In
Sauk Centre is a very Catholic town - but we've got two Catholic parishes in large part because in early years the German priest wouldn't use English in Mass; and the Irish settlers didn't, for the most part, understand German. I really should write more about that some time.

It's been a long time since there have been essentially two families in town: the German one and the Irish one. (April 19, 2010) And there's been quite an assortment of churches in town in the quarter century I've lived here. We've got a Kingdom Hall, a Harvest Church, an Assembly of God, as well as the more big-name outfits like Baptists, Lutherans, and Methodists.

Aside from getting our door knocked on by committees from one of the more enthusiastic outfits: I'm fine with the situation. Seriously: I do not mind living in areas where everybody doesn't believe exactly what I do. Although I'll admit that it makes be a bit more self-conscious about how I live out my faith. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

The German/Irish identity of Sauk Centre is fading. Which is fine by me. Hispanic families in town meant prayer candles being available in Coborn's - a real convenience for this family. Besides, it's nice to see folks who aren't transplanted Germans and Irishmen. That didn't come out quite right, but I'll let it stand.

Since "diversity" has been a big deal: one more thing. Among the banns posted in last week's parish bulletin was this pair of surnames: Middendorf and Rayamajhi.

If I could learn to pronounce German names, I figure I can learn to pronounce just about anything: so no, I don't mind getting new neighbors.

Back to the Pope, Portugal, and Evangelization

"...The bishops themselves, he said, must respect pluralism and engage in dialogue, but without being 'gagged' when it comes to defending the church's moral teachings.

"Clearly, the pope sees evangelization today as a countercultural activity. As he said in his first talk in Portugal, in modern societies it can even lead to the 'radical choice' of martyrdom...."
(Catholic News Service")
Martyrdom?! I know that's a sort of 'fast track' to sainthood: but I really do not like pain, and would rather avoid that, myself. God willing, I won't have to choose between life and my faith. America has had a history of (grudging) tolerance - which I hope will endure.

Benedict XVI, Evangelizing, and Me

Evangelization is one of the reasons I started this blog. I converted to Catholicism because I had good reason to believe that this is the outfit organized by Jesus, and originally led by Peter. Short version: I'm convinced that being Catholic is the right thing to do.

But I won't 'make' you become a Catholic. How could I? You've got free will, and can make your own choices. My job ends when I provide the information. After that, it's your decision and your life.

So, I've been writing about my faith, what it's like to live a Catholic life in America, and why I like being Catholic.

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