Frank’s Note: As Published in Summer Serve 2008
Recently I learned of the Vatican’s “Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization”, published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The document calls us all to be fervent in our commitment to missionary evangelism:
− “…[T]o evangelize does not mean simply to teach a doctrine, but to proclaim Jesus Christ by one’s words and actions, that is, to make oneself an instrument of His presence and action in the world.” (2)
− The primary objective of evangelism is “to help all persons to meet Christ in faith”. (2)
− “There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and speak to others of our friendship with Him.” (A quote from Mass homily by Benedict XVI.)
− “Evangelization also involves a sincere dialogue that seeks to understand the reasons and feelings of others.” (8)
− “Evangelization does not only entail the possibility of enrichment for those who are evangelized; it is also an enrichment for the one who does the evangelizing, as well as for the entire Church…. Every encounter with another person or culture is capable of revealing potentialities of the Gospel which hitherto may not have been fully explicit and which will enrich the life of Christians and the Church.” (6)
− This apostolic commitment to which everyone in the Church is called is “an inalienable right and duty.” (10)
− Public preaching of the Gospel and personal witness (“whereby an individual’s personal conscience is reached and touched by an entirely unique word that he receives from someone else”) are both essential. (12)
− “Throughout the entire history of the Church, people motivated by the love of Jesus have undertaken initiatives and works of every kind in order to proclaim the Gospel to the entire world and in all sectors of society.” (13)
In His Message for World Mission Sunday 2007, Pope Benedict XVI talks about the urgency of the missionary mandate. The theme chosen for World Mission day was “All the Churches for all the world”. This is meant to incite an awareness of “the urgent need to relaunch missionary action in the face of the many serious challenges of our time.”
Missionary activity allows a providential “exchange of gifts” which benefits the entire Mystical Body of Christ — “the most will be made of the potential and charisms of each one…all the Christian communities…every baptized person.”
He repeats that “missionary commitment remains the first service that the Church owes to humanity”. All the Pastors should promote this “pressing concern to proclaim and spread the Gospel.”
He exhorts the Church to pray for the priests, religious and laity serving in foreign missions. He asks God that their example may inspire new missionary vocations and renewed mission awareness, noting that “it is precisely on the basis of the courage to evangelize that the love of believers for the Lord is measured.”
“For the individual members of the faithful it is no longer merely a matter of collaboration in evangelizing work but of feeling that they themselves are protagonists and co-responsible.” Working together we “use the means necessary for evangelization today”, “working out appropriate spiritual and formative itineraries”, and “training new missionaries to spread the Gospel in our time”.
THE GREAT CHARISMATIC RENEWAL:
Genie and I have recently read Sober Intoxication of the Spirit: Filled with the Fullness of God, an excellent book on the spiritual life by Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM; he is the preacher to the papal household. Fr. Cantalamessa teaches on the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our journey to holiness and fruitful service to God. He affirms the experience of “BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT”, and of “THE CHARISMS”, “SPEAKING IN TONGUES” and prayers for “HEALING”. As I read the book, I wondered, “Where was this book at the height of the Charismatic Renewal in America?” The Charismatic Renewal is so Catholic, so rooted in sound doctrine – why couldn’t we (the Church, the people who go to churches, me) see that? I’ve asked all of our FMC missionaries to read the book.
LECTIO DIVINA is SPIRITUAL DIRECTION:
In our last issue of SERVE, I wrote an article on the importance of LECTIO DIVINA. And during Lent Cantalamessa gave a talk to Benedict XVI and the Roman Curia on the same subject. I found the transcript on Zenit, March 7, 2008.
Fr. Cantalamessa quotes St. Ambrose (my confirmation saint): “The word of God is the vital substance of our soul; there is nothing else that could give life to man’s soul apart from the word of God.” He recalls that John Paul II recommended Lectio Divina to all Catholics in his “Novo Millenio Ineunte” letter (where the Pope outlines an authentic Catholic spirituality for the Third millennium).
Fr. Cantalamessa says we come into contact with the word of God in the liturgy; in Bible schools and with written aids; and through “something that is irreplaceable – personal reading of the Bible at home.”
In Lectio Divina there are three steps or successive actions: (1) “welcoming the word”; (2) contemplating and meditating on the word; and (3) putting the word into practice; and for teachers, a systematic study of the Bible. A purely impersonal or academic reading is dangerous, as is a reading without meditation (“fundamentalism”).
More than “searching the Scriptures”, we must allow ourselves to be searched by the Scriptures, coming to self-knowledge and knowledge of God.
Fr. Cantalamessa teaches on the value of Scripture in providing SPIRITUAL DIRECTION: “To every soul that desires it, the word of God assures fundamental, and in itself infallible, spiritual direction.” Ordinary and everyday spiritual direction is assured by meditation on the word of God accompanied by the interior anointing of the Spirit. “There have been souls who have become holy with the word of God as their sole spiritual director.” There are occasions when powerful, true spiritual direction comes from prayerful “random opening” of the Bible. He cites the guidance St. Augustine, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Therese of Lisieux received in this way.
He says we must not just read and study our Bible word, we must “swallow” it, so that it truly becomes “the substance of our soul,” “that which informs our thoughts, forms language, determines actions, creates the ‘spiritual’ man”. This swallowed word is “the most powerful of life principles”, similar to the Eucharist.
We must “Be doers of the word and not hearers only.” “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” St. Gregory the Great wrote that the word of God is only truly understood when one begins to practice it. “Listening to” the word means one carries out what one has heard.
The New Testament calls us to “OBEDIENCE”. Studying this holy obedience, “one makes a surprising discovery, and that is, that obedience is almost always seen as obedience to the word of God.” “The obedience itself of Jesus is exercised above all through obedience to written words. In the episode of the temptations in the desert, Jesus’ obedience consists in recalling the words of God and of abiding in them: ‘It is written!’”
“Jesus’ life is as guided by a luminous wake that the others did not see and which is created by the words that were written for him; he gathers from the Scriptures the ‘it is necessary’…that governs his whole life.” We should all be guided by God’s word in Scripture: “The words of God, by the present action of the Spirit, become the expression of the living will of God for me in a given moment.” When we receive a special word during prayerful Bible reading, we can understand that though the word does not apply universally in all cases, certainly in that moment it applies to us, and we obey it.
“Obeying visible orders and authorities, is something that we do every so often, three or four times in a lifetime, if we are talking about serious obedience; but there can be obedience to God’s word in every moment. It is also the obedience that applies to all of us, inferiors and superiors, clerics and laity. The laity do not have a superior in the Church whom they must obey – at least not in the sense that religious and clerics have a superior; but they do have, in compensation, a ‘Lord’ to obey! They have His word.