In weekly classes on the Catholic I’ve been stressing a few (of many) points:
lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi (prayer, doctrine, life): all have to cohere
the Incarnation is a fact: in faith we encounter this fact, this Person, experience the exceptionality and the wonder
the contemporaneousness of Jesus Christ
the witness of the Catholic faith is true and it is true for all people
In November the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace Peter Cardinal Turkson, 63, gave an interview to Zenit on his new work as the head of a Roman office after being a pastor of a diocese in Ghana. Cardinal Turkson is a trained biblical scholar.
My point of bringing this matter up is that those of us who make the claim to be faithful Catholics need to live the faith as though Jesus Christ truly mattered and that what we profess at Mass and in prayer is lived according to correct doctrine while sharing the Good News of Salvation coherently. Cardinal Turkson is not the first to say that we don’t always understand social justice, but we need to put a greater effort in doing so. How do we imitate the love of God for other?
Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, the literature editor
the Italian bi-weekly journal La Civiltà Cattolica published an article “Towards a ‘Cybertheology’?” which will appear in the January 1st issue.
Father Spadaro’s summary:
The intelligence of faith in the era of the Net – The
Internet has become part of everyday life for many people, and for this reason
it increasingly contributes to the construction of a religious identity of the
people of our time, affecting their ability to understand reality, and
therefore also to understand faith and their way of living it. The Net and the
culture of cyberspace pose new challenges to our ability to formulate and
listen to a symbolic language that speaks of possibility and of signs of
transcendence in our lives. Perhaps the time has arrived to consider the
possibility of a cybertheology also understood as the intelligence of faith in
the era of the Net. It would be the fruit of faith that releases from itself a
cognitive boost at a time in which the logic of the Net influences the way we
think, learn, communicate and live.
The authority of sacred Scripture should be authoritative enough, but in case Scripture fails your logic, the Church also says that Truth is identified and lived through and with sacred Tradition and the Magisterium. More clearly: the believing Catholic holds that Truth is revealed in three inter-related pillars: sacred Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium. One can’t have one of the pillars without the others. To do so would mean that you are Protestant.
Concerning many in the Church (catechist, laity and ordained) is the lack of understanding of who Jesus is, and His place in our lives today. Many Catholics are functional agnostics; they have no concept of who Jesus is, why He is important, and what he has to do with the Church. No surprise to me since I contend that many of the ordained can’t adequately explain matters of Christology or Sotierology (the study of Chist and the study of salvation respectively) as is evidence in their praying the Mass, preaching, their practice of the sacraments in their own lives, and their teaching in other venues. I would also contend that many of the ecclesial problems we face today are the direct result of not really knowing who Jesus is, and how to conform ourselves to His Way. The Pslams, as one example, tell us to seek the face of the Lord (the Christian would understand this to mean, seek the face of Christ). As one consequence of not knowing Jesus is the denial that we are already saved –that salvation has already happened, that the hundredfold promised by the Lord is already fulfilled. Do you know that you are saved? Do act as though you are saved or are still persisting in your sinful ways?
In the recent English edition of the L’Osservatore Romano (7 April 2010), Lucetta Scardaffia’s article “The Shroud and secularization” makes a few good points to think about when asking the questions about who Jesus is and what we face today:
“It seems incredible, but many young people do not even know that Jesus existed historically: in various countries, including Italy, today the history of Christianity no longer forms part of the school curriculum, and this leads to an ignorance that is also the result of tendencies geared to make Christianity a religion like others, with no specificity, hence leading to considering Christ as a mythical being, almost as if he were a Greek, Roman or Orienal divinity.
In international milieus — even in organizations such as the United Nations– propaganda for a mistaken concept of multiculturalism has been spreading for decades: this is proposed as a panacea for every conflict, providing that all religions be considered absolutely equal, in other words that each waives all claim to truth.
Remembering that Christianity is born from the existence in history of a man, Jesus, who said he was the Son of God, is an obstacle to the seemingly irenic fabrication because it highlights the difference of Christianity in comparison with other religions. A God who becomes incarnate to save human beings, in fact is an absolute unicum [absolutely unique], difficult to standardize.
The history of the birth of the individual is also interwoven with the history of the theological and sacramental significance of the Body of Christ –with the history of the sacrifice of the altar, for which the Body becomes a monstrance.
I went to confession the other day. I try to go once a month and for the most part I make that commitment. For some reason, it was a about 8 weeks since I darkened the confessional. I was leaving that afternoon for my hermitage day (spoken of in another blog post below) and Lent was fast approaching. Going to confession was awkward, lonely, fearful BUT intensely gratifying, freeing, and loving. Facing one’s sinful nature is NEVER easy; it is NEVER anything but a hassle, it is NEVER anything but embarassing but it is the only way I know how to be honest with myself in front of God. As an Opus Dei priest tells me when I see him occasionally for confession: you’ve got sin, I’ve got the grace for you to live … by the ministry of the Church. Of course, this priest is echoing the notion that I am not confessing my sinful self to him personally (I really don’t think he cares one-way-or-another truely in the best sense) but ipse Christus –to Christ Himself. I read the passage noted below from a rather famous spiritual treatise today and the last line from sacred Scripture struck me: If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself. Do you have a clear understanding of mortal sin? Have you gone to confession? How is your struggle with sin going in the face of grace?
Only mortal sin is completely opposed to God; this opposition is so great that it separates the soul from God. However, every sin, even venial sin, and every fault and imperfection, is in opposition to God’s infinite holiness. Therefore Jesus offers the perfection of his heavenly Father as a norm for our Christian life, and engages us in an intense struggle against sin in order to destroy in us its deepest roots and even its slightest traces.
This is what Jesus teaches in these few short words: deny yourself. We must deny self with all its imperfect habits and inclinations; and we must do so continually. Such a task is fatiguing and painful, but it is indispensable if we wish to attain sanctity. Jesus says: The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few (Mt. ).
In echo of Jesus, all the masters of the spiritual life insist strongly on detachment and self-renunciation as the indispensable foundation of the spiritual life. St. John of the cross offers a soul who is desirous of attaining union with God the harsh way of the “nothing”.
But first and foremost, it is Jesus, the divine Teacher, who has pointed out to us the absolute necessity of passing through this way: If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself (Mt. ).
Today is also the 44th World Communications Day, on feast of the saintly patron is Saint Francis de Sales who tirelessly brought the faith to others in an understandable way. Those claiming to be interested in the New Evangelization, especially seminarians, pay attention to what the Pope is saying! What is your diocese doing to reach out to those not hearing the Gospel on Sunday morning? How does your parish measure up to the Pope’s ideas? Does your seminary promote communication, in its various forms, for the good of teaching the faith? Are you, as a Catholic, prepared to meet the post-modern era? If not, why?
The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word.
The theme of this year’s World Communications Day – The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word – is meant to coincide with the Church’s celebration of the Year for Priests. It focuses attention on the important and sensitive pastoral area of digital communications, in which priests can discover new possibilities for carrying out their ministry to and for the Word of God. Church communities have always used the modern media for fostering communication, engagement with society, and, increasingly, for encouraging dialogue at a wider level. Yet the recent, explosive growth and greater social impact of these media make them all the more important for a fruitful priestly ministry.
All priests have as their primary duty the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, and the communication of his saving grace in the sacraments. Gathered and called by the Word, the Church is the sign and instrument of the communion that God creates with all people, and every priest is called to build up this communion, in Christ and with Christ. Such is the lofty dignity and beauty of the mission of the priest, which responds in a special way to the challenge raised by the Apostle Paul: “The Scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame … everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? (Rom , 13-15).
Responding adequately to this challenge amid today’s cultural shifts, to which young people are especially sensitive, necessarily involves using new communications technologies. The world of digital communication, with its almost limitless expressive capacity, makes us appreciate all the more Saint Paul’s exclamation: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Cor 9:16) The increased availability of the new technologies demands greater responsibility on the part of those called to proclaim the Word, but it also requires them to become more focused, efficient and compelling in their efforts. Priests stand at the threshold of a new era: as new technologies create deeper forms of relationship across greater distances, they are called to respond pastorally by putting the media ever more effectively at the service of the Word.
The spread of multimedia communications and its rich “menu of options” might make us think it sufficient simply to be present on the Web, or to see it only as a space to be filled. Yet priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different “voices” provided by the digital marketplace. Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.
Using new communication technologies, priests can introduce people to the life of the Church and help our contemporaries to discover the face of Christ. They will best achieve this aim if they learn, from the time of their formation, how to use these technologies in a competent and appropriate way, shaped by sound theological insights and reflecting a strong priestly spirituality grounded in constant dialogue with the Lord. Yet priests present in the world of digital communications should be less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart, their closeness to Christ. This will not only enliven their pastoral outreach, but also will give a “soul” to the fabric of communications that makes up the “Web”.
God’s loving care for all people in Christ must be expressed in the digital world not simply as an artifact from the past, or a learned theory, but as something concrete, present and engaging. Our pastoral presence in that world must thus serve to show our contemporaries, especially the many people in our day who experience uncertainty and confusion, “that God is near; that in Christ we all belong to one another” (Benedict XVI, Address to the Roman Curia, 21 December 2009).
Who better than a priest, as a man of God, can develop and put into practice, by his competence in current digital technology, a pastoral outreach capable of making God concretely present in today’s world and presenting the religious wisdom of the past as a treasure which can inspire our efforts to live in the present with dignity while building a better future? Consecrated men and women working in the media have a special responsibility for opening the door to new forms of encounter, maintaining the quality of human interaction, and showing concern for individuals and their genuine spiritual needs. They can thus help the men and women of our digital age to sense the Lord’s presence, to grow in expectation and hope, and to draw near to the Word of God which offers salvation and fosters an integral human development. In this way the Word can traverse the many crossroads created by the intersection of all the different “highways” that form “cyberspace”, and show that God has his rightful place in every age, including our own. Thanks to the new communications media, the Lord can walk the streets of our cities and, stopping before the threshold of our homes and our hearts, say once more: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” ().
In my Message last year, I encouraged leaders in the world of communications to promote a culture of respect for the dignity and value of the human person. This is one of the ways in which the Church is called to exercise a “diaconia of culture” on today’s “digital continent”. With the Gospels in our hands and in our hearts, we must reaffirm the need to continue preparing ways that lead to the Word of God, while being at the same time constantly attentive to those who continue to seek; indeed, we should encourage their seeking as a first step of evangelization. A pastoral presence in the world of digital communications, precisely because it brings us into contact with the followers of other religions, non-believers and people of every culture, requires sensitivity to those who do not believe, the disheartened and those who have a deep, unarticulated desire for enduring truth and the absolute. Just as the prophet Isaiah envisioned a house of prayer for all peoples (cf. Is 56:7), can we not see the web as also offering a space – like the “Court of the Gentiles” of the Temple of Jerusalem – for those who have not yet come to know God?
The development of the new technologies and the larger digital world represents a great resource for humanity as a whole and for every individual, and it can act as a stimulus to encounter and dialogue. But this development likewise represents a great opportunity for believers. No door can or should be closed to those who, in the name of the risen Christ, are committed to drawing near to others. To priests in particular the new media offer ever new and far-reaching pastoral possibilities, encouraging them to embody the universality of the Church’s mission, to build a vast and real fellowship, and to testify in today’s world to the new life which comes from hearing the Gospel of Jesus, the eternal Son who came among us for our salvation. At the same time, priests must always bear in mind that the ultimate fruitfulness of their ministry comes from Christ himself, encountered and listened to in prayer; proclaimed in preaching and lived witness; and known, loved and celebrated in the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation.
To my dear brother priests, then, I renew the invitation to make astute use of the unique possibilities offered by modern communications. May the Lord make all of you enthusiastic heralds of the Gospel in the new “agorà” which the current media are opening up.
With this confidence, I invoke upon you the protection of the Mother of God and of the Holy Curè of Ars and, with affection, I impart to each of you my Apostolic Blessing.
From the Vatican, 24 January 2010, Feast of Saint Francis de Sales.
Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.