I’ve been working my way through the Lineamenta or “Guidelines” put out by the Synod of Bishops last month in preparation for the Synod on the New Evangelization to be held in Rome in October, 2012. The Lineamenta provides guidelines and a series of questions to which bishops, head of religious orders, and other Catholic leaders are asked to respond. Their responses are the basis upon which a draft of a new magisterial document on the New Evangelization will be discussed at the 2012 Bishop’s Synod in Rome. So the Lineamenta sets the tone and parameters for the discussion to come.
The title is telling: The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.
I find the issues and questions being raised to be dead on, inspiring, and thought-provoking. Whoever wrote the Lineamenta really grasps our lived situation in the west in the early 21st century.
Word forms like “ecumenical” and “disciple” (20 times), personal”(25 times), encounter (36 times), “change” (45 times), “missionary” (51 times) “experience” (60 times), “transmit” (63 times), proclaim (71 times), “Jesus” (83 times), “live” (94 times), “Gospel” (90 times), “Spirit” (105 times) “community” (105 times) and especially “new” (206 times) are key. Meanwhile, the vague and ubiquitous phrase “Catholic identity” isn’t anywhere to be found.
This is not another compilation of high level abstractions and exhortations on the topic of evangelization. This is a serious meditation on where we actually are in the post-Christian west in terms of transmitting a living, personal Catholic faith.
The emphasis on ‘transmit” is crucial, I think. Transmitting the faith is an organic, full-orbed, whole person/whole life concept that goes far beyond instruction in ideas or doctrines or facts. Some synonyms for transmit are bequeath, broadcast, carry, channel, conduct, convey, disseminate, funnel, hand down, hand on, impart, instill, pass on and relay.
What does it mean to successfully “transmit the faith”?
According to the Lineamenta, “. . . the goal of the transmission of the faith is the realization of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, in the Spirit, thereby leading to an experiencing of his Father and our Father.
Transmitting the faith means to create in every place and time the conditions for this personal encounter of individuals with Jesus Christ. . .
This personal encounter allows individuals to share in the Son’s relationship with his Father and to experience the power of the Spirit.”
The non-negotiable pre-requisite for successfully “transmitting the faith” according to the Vatican’s guidelines?
“What is not believed or lived cannot be transmitted.”
More on this critical topic in a bit.