Tag Archives: inculturation

A New “E-vangelization”

11 Sep

In my senior religion class at St. Francis High School, I read the book Future Shock by Alvin Toffler. What we were supposed to take out of the book is that the world is changing at an ever-accelerating rate. If we are not firmly rooted in the transcendent—namely, Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8)—we will be overcome by stress, disorientation, and information overload. In other words, we would be “future shocked.”

In the 35 years since that class, technology has changed virtually everything we do. Even little things, like how we get directions or book flights, are completely different now.


What is the “public square” today? St. Paul brought the Gospel to the Areopagus (see Acts 17), the “public square” in Athens where learned pagans gathered to discuss education, philosophy, and religion.

What is today’s Areopagus? Is it the town hall meeting? The school auditorium? The football stadium? While there are many physical “public squares,” we must say that the public square today is cyberspace. Two billion people use the Internet. Hundreds of millions of young people “hang out” at Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or other social networking sites. What would St. Paul do today? Continue reading

Dual Citizenship

30 Jan

Even though it’s written on our souls rather than our passports, our true home is heaven. As God’s children by adoption (cf. Gal. 4:4-7), we are citizens of both the earthly kingdom and the heavenly kingdom.

There is one significant difference between our earthly citizenship and our heavenly citizenship. As citizens of this world, we strive to change the world for the better through our participation in human endeavors, great or small. We must be thermostats, not thermometers as we seek a cultural “climate change.”

Rather than conform to the world and simply reflect the secular mindset of the status quo, we are called to be counter-cultural agents of renewal and reconciliation (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17-20) as we strive to build a civilization of life and love. Our Lord calls us to be leaven in the world; just “fitting in” doesn’t quite cut it.

After all, as Catholics we have the advantage of the fullness of revealed truth. We also have a rich corpus of social teaching and a developed sense of the natural law that the Magisterium preserves from error–or social engineering. The Church’s urgent call to Catholic laity today is that we use these blessings to help transform the temporal order, including social, political, and economic realities, especially in the upcoming Year of Faith.

As citizens of heaven, though, we strive to allow the Lord to change us through our participation in the communion of saints. Continue reading

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