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Evangelical Catholic Institute, part II PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Saturday, 14 April 2007 21:46
I had a great day today at the Evangelical Catholic Institute! The speakers I heard were insightful, and practical in their comments, and everyone here is talking about discipleship - even intentional discipleship! There are officially 215 folks here, including a dozen student leaders from Michigan Technological University in Houghton, MI, my alma mater! It was wonderful to hear them talk about what it's like on campus now, and sobering to realize that I graduated from Tech before any of them were born! Most amazing was the fact that I was an acquaintance of the mother of one of the students!

This day ended with a keynote address by Avery Cardinal Dulles, who spoke on six models of evangelization: personal witness, affirmation, worship, community, inculturation and works of charity. These models were drawn from the work of Fr. Timothy Bayerly (whose last name I may have butchered), a graduate student whom Cardinal Dulles advised. I'll share very briefly a few of the notes I took on Cardinal Dulles' keynote.

PERSONAL WITNESS - involves the witness of a life totally given to Christ; a communion with God that nothing can destroy. His Emminence quoted Evangelii Nuntiandi, 21.

AFFIRMATION - involves verbal testimony, which can include apologetics, catechesis and the "explanation for the hope we have in Christ." This testimony often follows upon the silent witness of one's life and is described as necessary to prevent even the best silent witness from being ineffective in the long run (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 22)

WORSHIP - worship is not normally conducted in order to make an impression on outsiders, but our sincerity of relationship with God, our sense of mystery and devotion, can and does have an effect on others; it can change hearts. Some people, in seeing the liturgy, are moved to study the doctrine behind the fervor and devotion of the Catholic faithful. Liturgy and the sacraments immerse us in the mystery of Christ, centers us on him, and makes us his heralds in the world.

COMMUNITY - combats the anonymity that so often marks modern secularism. The Protestant writer Rodney Stark wrote in "The Rise of Christianity" about the way in which the intentional community of the early Christians was such a witness to a pagan world that had no regard or mercy for children, women, the elderly, the sick or the poor. We need a similar communal witness today, and that is part of the power of the Neocatechumenal Way, Focolare, Communion and Liberation, the community of San Egidio, and communidades de base. As Cardinal Dulles spoke of this, I was reminded of a quote by Pope Benedict XVI, who encouraged every Catholic Christian to work to ensure that "new generations experience the Church as a company of friends who are truly dependable and close in all life's moments and circumstances, whether joyful and gratifying or arduous and obscure; as a company that will never fail us, not even in death, for it carries within it the promise of eternity."

INCULTURATION - the Cardinal called this the "incarnation of the Gospel in cultural forms recognizable to new cultures." He mentioned the long history of inculturation, beginning with the translation of Jewish categories of thought to Greek categories in the first century (especially the example of St. Paul in the areopagus [Acts 17:23-31], which is a model of incultured evangelization, since St. Paul quoted Greek authors and poets in that speech.) Sts. Cyril and Methodius inculturated the Gospel for the people of easter Europe, while St. Matteo Ricci was "successful in clothing Christianity in cultural forms of China and India." Yet the Cardinal also pointed out that culture, too, needs evangelizing, and John Paul II called us to transform the values we find already present in the world around us. This need for inculturation is especially profound when we talk about communications/mass media; human rights, international relations, bio-ethics. These are all new areopagii. These are areas that cannot be evangelized from without, but, rather, must be evangelized from within.

WORKS OF CHARITY - also known as the "social apostolate." St. Paul got us started by taking up a collection among the churchs in order to support the Jerusalem church during hard times. The Cardinal reminded the students of the history to which they are heirs; that we belong to a community that inspired people to begin hospitals, schools, the Catholic Worker, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Cardinal Dulles reminded us that, while works of charity are impressive, they can't take the place of the Gospel, nor can the Gospel be reduced to the pursuit of peace and justice in this world. He also pointed out that the social Gospel is lived out primarily by the laity.

Cardinal Dulles concluded by reminding us that evangelization is an act of love - that it begins and ends with the Holy Spirit. Finally, he said, "Faith is strengthened when it is given away, and, conversely, weakened when it is hoarded."

I'll try to write more tomorrow after the conclusion of the Institute! I'm falling asleep at my computer!
 

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