Thus, every parish, every cluster of parishes, must be “outward bound,” that is to say, geared up not just to offer good things and then hope that people will show up, but actively in search of those who need to hear the Gospel, actively trying to make connections with people in the parish boundaries, intentionally inclusive of parishioners and potential parishioners in all their diversity.
– A Light Brightly Visible, Archdiocese of Baltimore
On the local scene, recently, we have been attempting to assess mission vitality. Back in the fall of 2011, I wrote of Missionary Audacity. I am revising my comments from back then as they have been echoing Jiminy-Cricket style throughout the process.
How can we have missionary audacity? Pope Benedict XVI asked this of the Plenary Assembly of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE). Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone spoke these on his behalf in 2011. He gave the European bishops the task to “identify new ways of evangelization with missionary audacity.” There was particular attention stressing the need that young people have of the Gospel.
At that same meeting, he identifies evangelization as “the manifestation of the Church’s life and vitality.” Evangelization is not just a pastoral activity. It is the manifestation of the Church’s nature and mission.” Evangelization is just for fallen-away Christians. (This is a commonplace understanding now.) Evangelization is for everyone,
“It seeks to proclaim Christ, true God and true man, crucified to bear every human grief, raised from the dead that we might have life,” they stated. “Through their baptism, all believers are called to take part in the new evangelization: families; young people who are generally the most open to being missionaries; but also parishes, the movements, and new communities.” (You can read more from the Zenit article)
The line oft-accredited to Saint Francis of Assisi is “preach the Gospel at all times… if necessary, use words.” When we are using words we are most often using words within a place where WE feel comfortable.
Pope Francis, however, might not be comfortable with that language. He might identify more with a Presbyterian elder, who, “back in the day,” challenged us beyond that. Bill Tammeus advocated that we evolve our thinking from church as not a “place where” but a “people who.” All believers are called to take part in the new evangelization. They are to be missionaries. They are to beyond their “wheres’ and to seek the fringes, In doing so they become a church that is “a people who.”
Kenda Dean suggests that we all suffer from ascension deficit disorder. After two millennia, does the ending of the gospels seem a little too special effects-y for us? Do we have a tendency to act as if the future that God has promised in Jesus Christ comes off a little too fairy-tale-ish? Is it too much to deal with faith, Jesus, Resurrection, and Ascension as truth? if so, what impact does this have on our hope, our faithful reality?
Then how do we find ourselves? Do we remain in the walls because we need limits in an audacious mission that has no limits?
And, if that is the case, we find ourselves, as church in the mode of just putting up with stuff. We seek not the peripheries, but just the perceived limit. Our Ascension Deficit Disorder comes into play. We find ourselves looking towards the skies awaiting the Reign of God.
And this is the lid to our perceived capacity. (see the videos below.)
Everything in faith just a little beyond our reach – holiness, sainthood, Pentecost. We have limited ourselves into a “place where.” Evangelization aspires for us to be a “people who” make disciples of all the nations, a lid-less task.
Benedict XVI asked European bishops to be audacious in thinking of new ways. “Places of catechesis and Catholic schools must also be and become ever more places of evangelization. (…) There is also question of seeking new ways to evangelize, such as, for example, new technology, the Internet, and social networking sites. But all this is only possible if, following the example of the Christians of the Acts of the Apostles, we open ourselves up in a new way to the Holy Spirit: ‘There will be no new evangelization without a new Pentecost!’”
Make space in your imagination for a new Pentecost in our Church. In the vernacular of a generation or two previous to today’s youth – it’s time to blow the roof off of this joint.