Saturday, August 4, 2007

Catholic Evangelization/Latin America

August 4, 2007

I have a friend whose (non-denominational) church is relocating in order to minister to a nearby neighborhood. As I was thinking about their ministry, I said to my husband, "Why don't Catholics do that? It seems like we wait for people to come to us after they've had a conversion experience. Maybe we should go out to neighborhoods like that."

Of course, Catholics do a great deal of on-the-street ministry work with the poor, but for me, personally, my first inclination when I feel motivated is to set up a center, maybe a clearinghouse of information, rather than walk the streets.

Anyway, you can imagine my surprise when I read an article recently in The National Catholic Register summarizing my exact concerns (Volume 83, No. XX, The Brazil Brief.) The article was reporting on a document which came from the Latin American Bishops' meeting in Cuba. The reference is to a "Great Mission" that is being created to get Catholics there, moving.

According to The Register, the document, which comes out of Aparecida, Brazil, says, in part, that the Church should not depend "so much on great programs and structures, but in men and women who have incarnated the values of the Gospel in their hearts."

So perfect a call is this to men and women throughout the worldwide church to be converted to the Gospel and work in evangelization and religious education! Our "great programs and structures" will indeed be empty shells if they are not built on hearts of love. From Religious Education teachers to missionaries, if we don't evoke the name of God by our witness or our work, we're like a "resounding gong or a clashing cymbal." (1Cor 13:1)

Secondly, The Register article says:

In regards to the root problems identified by the Latin American bishops, "We do not experience an open confrontation against the Church, but there is a sustained effort to erode the Christian culture and replace our core values with a strange list of 'rights' that attacks life, family and community under the mantle of a false 'freedom of choice.'" (Cuban Cardinal Ortega)

Isn't this what is happening all over the world? Isn't this why Christians everywhere should speak up when their values are dismissed or challenged? Not to put too sharp a point on it, but it is true that the Christian culture which we know is eroding into a secularized pool of relativism.

Of course, we are not without hope. It is time, especially for laypeople to take responsibility for spreading the Gospel and we can do that, but it begins with our own conversion. Through prayer and consistently turning our hearts and minds to God, so that he is at the forefront of our thoughts, daily--perhaps hourly--we can be leaven in the world.

God bless,

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