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Let’s Be Catholic!

28 Sep

Today’s Catholics are called to be leaven in the new millennium. That’s a tremendous challenge, as the richness of our Catholic faith isn’t easily reducible to culture-friendly soundbytes, and timeless Christian wisdom is often portrayed in the media as simply one voice among many, or even as the “spin” of the “religious right.”

This all points to the ongoing need for prudent inculturation, which is the process of adapting–without diluting or disfiguring–the Gospel for new cultures and generations. Rather than withdraw into a secure Catholic ghetto, we’re called by our Holy Father to be an evangelizing presence in the world, allowing God’s grace to transform a generation that at times seems to be lost in cyberspace.

In other words, we’re called to be catholic!

The Catechism provides an outstanding exposition of the catholicity of the Church, which is one of her distinguishing marks, for we believe in “one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church.” The Church is “catholic,” or “universal,” both because she has already received from Christ the fullness of salvation (see Eph. 1:22-23), and because she has been entrusted with the mission of bringing the Gospel to the entire human race.

Regarding the Church’s missionary nature, the Catechism devotes an important paragraph to inculturation (no. 854), worth quoting in full:

“By her very mission, the Church travels the same journey as all humanity and shares the same earthly lot with the world: she is to be a leaven and, as it were, the soul of human society in its renewal by Christ and transformation into the family of God. Missionary endeavor requires patience. It begins with the proclamation of the Gospel to peoples and groups who do not yet believe in Christ, continues with the establishment of Christian communities that are a sign of God’s presence in the world, and leads to the foundation of local churches. It must involve a process of inculturation if the Gospel is to take flesh in each people’s culture. There will be times of defeat. With regard to individuals, groups, and peoples it is only by degrees that [the Church] touches and penetrates them, and so receives them into a fullness which is Catholic.”

The “new evangelization” requires profound respect for other peoples, cultures, and generations and absolute fidelity to the Person and teaching of Jesus Christ. It’s not an either-or proposition.

The Church calls us to build on the truths we already have in common with others while patiently fostering full communion in the Body of Christ. The glass is never only half full or half empty, it’s both. Dialoguing without ever summoning to conversion is cowardly and weak; summoning to conversion without first connecting with other people is foolhardy and harsh. We need grace and courage to hold these two realities together in our own particular network of relationships.

But, most of us aren’t missionaries in the strict sense. We don’t go anywhere except maybe to work or the grocery store or the mall. How do we live the catholicity of the Church? Continue reading