Evidently, a more consistent and structured formation ought to be biblical, theological and spiritual as well as human and existential. Catechesis requires a true exchange between generations, actively involving parents in the process of the Christian initiation of their children. In this regard, some responses gave particular attention to liturgical feasts, such as Christmas and particularly the Feast of the Holy Family, as invaluable occasions to show the importance of the family and take into consideration the human context in which Jesus grew up and where he learned to speak, love, pray and work.
At work in the pastoral programme for the family is a beneficial mutual exchange between the responsibility of the bishops and other members of the clergy and the various charisms and ministries of the ecclesial community. This synergy results in many positive experiences. The richness in this field is revealed by considering various subjects and reviewing some initiatives and approaches found in the responses. The responses from the different continents display a great similarity when treating the subject of marriage preparation. Many refer to activities well underway, such as programmes in parishes, seminars and retreats for couples.
In addition to priests, these are often led by married couples with extensive experience in family matters. These programmes have the following aims: Some responses mention that, in many cases, couples give little attention to pre-marriage programmes.
For this reason, many different approaches are being adopted in catechesis, namely, offering instruction on the subject to the following: Some countries refer to true and proper schools of preparation for married life, especially intended for the education and advancement of women.
The contrary is true in strongly secularized areas, where, in certain cultures, couples are distancing themselves more and more from Church teaching. Particularly long courses are not always welcome. Some episcopal conferences express concern that couples, having already set a date for their wedding, often approach the Church too late, and, at times, require special attention in dealing with their situation, e.
In recent years the content of these programmes has substantially changed from being merely a preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage to becoming an actual initial proclamation of the faith. Many laudable initiatives in marriage preparation are taking place in various parts of the world, including: At times, however, these initiatives are seen more as an obligation than a freely undertaken opportunity for growth.
Undoubtedly, another important moment in marriage preparation is the meeting with the pastor or his delegate, a necessity for all engaged couples. The responses mention that often this meeting is not sufficiently used as an opportunity to engage the couple in a more detailed discussion on marriage but, instead, is a mere formality.
Several respondents report that attempts are being made to add new topics to marriage courses that are being offered, such as communication skills, the sexual aspects of conjugal life and conflict resolution. In some places characterized by a somewhat sexist cultural tradition, there exists a certain lack of respect towards women, which hinders the necessary mutual exchange in conjugal life between a man and woman who are equal in dignity. In other places, dominated in the past by atheistic regimes and often lacking in even a rudimentary knowledge of the faith, new forms in the preparation of engaged couples are being introduced, e.
Some responses indicate that in some multi-religious and multi-confessional territories, certain factors need to be taken into consideration, e. The dioceses in Eastern Europe are exploring a dialogue with the Orthodox Churches in inter-marriage preparation. Interesting information exists on diocesan events celebrating the family with the bishop present and testimonies given by couples who are well experienced in the faith. Such days can create an opportunity for families to interact with each other and to dialogue with older couples, thus adding to the value of initiatives based on the Bible and moments of prayer for engaged couples.
The responses suggest a need to safeguard and promote the various forms of popular piety on the different continents in support of the family. Despite a break-down in family life, certain religious practices which bring families together still remain vibrant, e. In addition to the rosary, some people also pray the Angelus.
In this regard, many also insist on the importance of praying the liturgy of the hours in common, the reading of the Psalms and other texts from Sacred Scripture. Still others recommend spontaneous prayers of thanksgiving and requests for forgiveness. Some countries encourage celebrating different religious events in life, such as anniversaries of baptism, marriage and death.
One response refers to family prayer, frequently practiced during travel, work and school, which, in some countries, utilizes radio and television. Furthermore, some note how families can benefit from nearby monasteries which can complement the vocation of marriage with that of the consecrated life. The same can be said for the fruitful relationship between couples and priests, in their respective roles.
Many bishops' conferences recount how particular Churches render support to a familial spirituality in their pastoral activity. In our time, spiritual movements make a special contribution to promoting an authentic, effective pastoral programme for the family. Christian communities are characterized by a variety of ecclesial situations and approaches aimed at specific individuals.
Clearly, local Churches should be able to find that this richness is a real resource for not only promoting various initiatives on behalf of couples intending marriage but devising ways to provide suitable pastoral care for families today. Some respondents recount that many dioceses foster specific endeavours and formation for couples who can then provide support to other couples and sustain a series of initiatives to promote a true familial spirituality.
Some argue that sometimes local communities, movements, groups and religious associations can be exclusive and too restrictive in the life of a parish. This situation illustrates the importance of their being fully engaged with the whole Church in an authentic sense of mission so as to avoid the danger of excessively looking inward. Families belonging to these communities exercise a vibrant apostolate and, judging from the past, are instrumental in the evangelization of many families.
Their members offer a credible witness with their lives of fidelity in marriage, mutual respect, unity and openness to life. Although some episcopal conferences mention that, in many parts of the world, a successful outcome to marriage and family life can no longer be presumed, they equally observe that young people have a high esteem for couples who, even after many years of marriage, continue their life together in love and fidelity. As an acknowledgment, many dioceses celebrate, with the bishop present, wedding anniversaries and thanksgiving commemorations for married couples who have spent many years together.
In this regard, special recognition needs to be given to those who faithfully remain with their spouses, despite problems and difficulties. This section deals with the responses and observations on the pastoral challenges of the family. It treats three fundamental questions: Some responses show how, in cases where the faith of family members is either weak or non-existent, both the parish and the Church in general are not seen as supportive. This probably comes from a mistaken idea of the Church and her activity due to socio-cultural circumstances, especially where the institution of the family itself is in crisis.
Therefore, the question arises on how to act pastorally in these situations, namely, how to make sure that the Church, in her variety of pastoral activities, can demonstrate that she has the ability of caring for couples in difficulty and families. Many respondents point out that a crisis in faith can either lead to failure or be taken as an opportunity for growth and an occasion to discover the deeper meaning of the marriage covenant. In this way, the loss of a sense of meaning, or even the breakdown within a family, can be the means of strengthening the marriage bond.
Families, willing to offer support to a couple in this difficult situation, can help them overcome this crisis. Most responses indicate that one of the many critical issues facing the family is a difficulty in relationships and communication. Whether it be tensions and conflicts in a marriage due to a lack of mutual trust and intimacy or the domination of one marriage partner over the other or the inter-generational conflict between parents and children, all hinder the building of family relationships and can even make them entirely impossible.
The dramatic aspect of these situations is that they lead to the gradual disappearance of the possibility of dialogue as well as the time and opportunity to work on relationships. For want of sharing and communication, each one is forced to face difficulties in isolation without an experience of being loved and, in turn, loving others. The lack of a father-figure in many families causes major imbalances in households and uncertainty in gender identification in children. People who do not witness, live and accept love on a daily basis find it particularly difficult to discover the person of Christ as the Son of God and the love of God the Father.
Other critical situations include many relationships which do not coincide with the idea of a traditional nuclear family, i. In some cultures, polygamy is insistently seen as one of the factors causing the breakdown of families, along with a mentality of parents which is not open to life. Many bishops' conferences are greatly concerned about the widespread practice of abortion.
Many responses also stress that a contraceptive mentality has a negative impact on family relationships. The responses unanimously make reference to psychological, physical and sexual violence and abuse in families which has a particularly damaging effect on women and children, a phenomenon which, unfortunately, is neither occasional nor isolated, particularly in certain parts of the world. In this regard, the responses also mention the appalling phenomenon of the killing of women, often caused by deep emotional trouble in relationships.
Arising from a false culture based on possessions, this is particularly disturbing and calls for action by everyone in society and by the Church in her ministry to the family. Sexual promiscuity and incest in the family are explicitly cited in certain parts of the world Africa, Asia and Oceania , as well as pedophilia and child abuse. Several episcopates worldwide raise the tragic question of the trafficking and exploitation of children. When citing the various critical situations affecting the family, the responses constantly allude to not only addictions to alcohol and drugs but also pornography, at times used and shared within families, not to mention addictions to gambling and video games, the Internet and social networks.
As for the media, the respondents repeatedly stressed, in one instance, their negative impact on the family, particularly when they convey and offer opposing models to the image of the family, which transmit mistaken and misleading values. On the other hand, the responses refer to problems in relationships which the media, together with the social networks and the Internet, are creating within the family. In fact, television, smart phones and computers can be a real impediment to dialogue among family members, leading to a breakdown and alienation in relationships within a family, where communication depends more and more on technology.
In the end, the means of communication and access to the Internet replace real family relationships with virtual ones. This situation runs the risk of leading to not only the disunity and breakdown of the family but also the possibility that the virtual world will replace the real one particularly a danger in Europe, North America and Asia. Furthermore, the responses allude to the growing phenomenon in the Internet age of an information overload , namely, the exponential increase of information on line, often not corresponding to an increase in quality, in addition to the inability always to check the reliability of the information available on the Internet.
Technological progress is a global challenge which can cause rapid changes in family life regarding values, relationships and the internal equilibrium. This situation becomes critical, therefore, when a family lacks an adequate knowledge of the proper use of the media and new technologies. All responses, treating the impact of work on the well-being of the family, make reference to the difficulty of coordinating the communal aspects of family living with the excessive demands of work, which require of the family a greater flexibility.
An increasingly hectic life leaves little opportunity for moments of peace and family togetherness. Some parts of the world are showing signs of the price being paid by the family as a result of economic growth and development, not to mention the much broader effects produced by the economic crisis and the instability of the labor market.
Increasing job insecurity, together with the growth of unemployment and the consequent need to travel greater distances to work, have taken their toll on family life, resulting in, among other things, a weakening of family relationships and the gradual isolation of persons, causing even greater anxiety. In dialoguing with the State and the related public entities, the Church is called to offer real support for decent jobs, just wages and a fiscal policy favouring the family as well as programmes of assistance to families and children. In this regard, laws protecting the family in relation to work are frequently wanting, particularly those affecting working mothers.
Moreover, civil support and involvement on behalf of the family provides the Church with an opportunity for working together. Networking in this area with organizations which pursue similar goals is equally wise and productive. In treating the relation of work to the family, the responses also emphasize the impact of migration on the family.
To support the family financially, fathers, and an increasing number of mothers, are being forced to abandon their families for work. The absence of a parent has serious consequences on both the well-being of the family and the upbringing of children. This situation requires promoting appropriate policies that make it easier for families to be reunited.
The responses and observations widely and insistently refer to the economic hardships endured by families as well as the lack of material resources, poverty and the struggle for subsistence. This widespread phenomenon is not limited to developing countries only, but is also mentioned in responses and observations from Europe and North America.
In such cases of extreme and increasing poverty, the family has to struggle for subsistence, a struggle to which the family has to devote most of its energy. Some observations call for the Church to raise a strong prophetic voice concerning poverty which puts a strain on family life. Careerism and a competitive spirit are also pointed out as crucially affecting family life. Relegating life, faith and ethics to the private sphere is also noted, particularly in the West, to have a decisive effect.
A culture based on the senses and immediate gratification is also having an influence. Responses from almost every part of the world frequently refer to the sexual scandals within the Church pedophilia , in particular and, in general, to a negative experience with the clergy and other persons. In addition, a conspicuously lavish lifestyle by some of the clergy shows an inconsistency between their teaching and their conduct.
The responses lament that persons who are separated, divorced or single parents sometimes feel unwelcome in some parish communities, that some clergy are uncompromising and insensitive in their behavior; and, generally speaking, that the Church, in many ways, is perceived as exclusive, and not sufficiently present and supportive.
In this sense, an open and positive pastoral approach is needed, one which can restore confidence in the institution through a credible witness by all her members. Added to the critical situations within and outside the family mentioned above, others are prevalent in different parts of the world, e. Achievement at school and obtaining scholastic degrees credentialism are considered by the family as prime objectives.
Such cases affect family life and the life of faith as well as the free time for children to play, not to mention, to rest and sleep. Expectations can sometimes be so powerful that they lead to ostracism, and even suicide. Finally, the responses note the great difficulty of the Church and society — arising from specific cultural and social situations — to confront these types of problems and discuss them openly.
The responses, particularly those from Africa and the Middle East, speak of the impact of war on the family, causing violent deaths and the destruction of homes and forcing people to abandon everything to seek refuge in other countries. In some places, wars lead to the breakdown of society, forcing persons, and at times entire families living in poverty, to abandon their Christian faith community. In some geographical areas, like Asia and North Africa, given the low percentage of Catholics, a great number of couples in families is made up of one who is Catholic and the other who comes from another religion.
Some responses, while recognizing that these couples bring great richness to the Church, highlight the inherent difficulties of these unions in the Christian upbringing of children, particularly where civil law has an influence in determining the religious affiliation of the couple's children. Sometimes, different religions in the family are seen as an opportunity or a challenge for growth in the Christian faith. Other difficulties affecting the family, in addition to physical illnesses, including AIDS, are: Times such as these, marked by illness and bereavement, are a particularly opportune occasion to rediscover the sustaining and consoling nature of the faith.
In some parts of the world with declining birth rates, still other critical situations include the spread of sects, esoteric practices, occultism, magic and witchcraft. The responses clearly indicate that no area and no situation can be considered a priori unable to be reached by the Gospel. Therefore, the power and urgency of proclaiming the Gospel of mercy is crucial for a Christian community in the course of providing for and receiving persons in these difficulties, especially when a family is particularly in need.
Under the heading of so-called marriage difficulties, the responses consistently recount stories of great suffering as well as testimonies of true love. Real pastoral attention is urgently needed to care for these people and bring them healing so that they might continue their journey with the entire ecclesial community.
The mercy of God does not provide a temporary cover-up of personal misdeeds, but rather radically opens lives to reconciliation which brings new trust and serenity through true inward renewal. The pastoral care of families, far from limiting itself to a legal point of view, has a mission to recall the great vocation of love to which each person is called and to help a person live up to the dignity of that calling. Sometimes marriage takes place after the birth of their first child and the wedding and baptism are celebrated together.
Statistics show a high incidence of these unions, though with some qualification between rural areas, where cohabitation is rarer and urban areas, e.
Generally speaking, cohabitation is more commonly seen in Europe and North America, increasingly witnessed in Latin America and almost non-existent in Arab countries and Asia minor. In some regions of Latin America, cohabitation is more of a tradition in rural areas, integrated into the indigenous culture servinacuy: In Africa marriage is practiced in stages and associated with verifying the fertility of the woman, which implies a sort of bond between the two families in question.
In Europe, a variety of situations exist, which, in some cases, are influenced by a Marxist ideology, and, in others, are increasingly claimed to be simply a moral choice. Among the circumstances which lead couples to choose cohabitation, the responses mention: These and other factors tend to make couples delay marriage. In this regard, the fear of making a commitment and the idea of having children are also elements to be taken into consideration, especially in Europe and Latin America. Others indicate that improper marriage formation is a reason couples choose cohabitation.
For still others, cohabitation allows a couple to live together free from any definitive decisions or responsibilities on an institutional level. In this regard, some pastoral approaches might include offering, from a young age, instruction on appreciating the beauty of marriage and better forming pastoral workers on the topics of marriage and the family. Not to be overlooked is the witness-value of the many young people preparing for marriage and presently living their engagement period in a spirit of chastity.
Living together ad experimentum often takes the form of de facto unions, which are not civilly or religiously recognized. The responses note that, in some countries, civil recognition of these unions, though not equivalent to marriage, is governed by specific legislation which has been enacted in their regard. Despite the availability of this option, an increasing number of couples do not request any form of registration. The responses recount that in western countries, society no longer views this situation as a problem.
Some reasons given for this situation, especially in western countries, is: Immigrants, especially when they enter a country illegally, are a particular problem, because they fear being identified as such, if they seek public recognition for their marriage. The responses mention a concept of freedom, mainly associated with life in the West but equally found in other countries, which considers the bond of marriage as a relinquishment of personal freedom.
Such an idea influences poorly formed young people to make them think that love cannot endure for a lifetime. The media largely promotes this attitude among young people. Often, cohabitation and de facto unions are a symptom of the fact that young people tend to prolong their adolescence and consider marriage too challenging and, therefore, fear embarking on an adventure considered too great for them cf.
In this regard, any possible response to this situation through pastoral care must assist young people overcome an overly romantic idea that love is only an intense feeling towards each other and teach them that it is, instead, a personal response to another person as part of a joint project of life, which reveals a great mystery and great promise. Such a pastoral approach must include education in human love and emotions which begins already in childhood, is reinforced in young couples in the early stages of their engagement and puts the community and liturgical aspects in relief.
Pastoral action needs to teach young people how to open themselves to the mystery of the Creator, manifested in their love, because they are fully conscious of the implications of their consent. Likewise, it must help them see the need to restore the ties between the family and society so as to counteract the idea that love is something lived apart from the community. Therefore these persons are to be encouraged to become true partners among themselves and with others.
The responses indicate that in Europe and across America, a very high number of persons are separated, divorced or divorced and remarried; the number is much lower in Africa and Asia. Given that this phenomenon is on the rise, many parents are concerned about the future of their children. In addition, the responses note that the increasing number of people simply living together makes the problem of divorce less important.
Fewer of these people are divorcing, because fewer tend to marry. In some places the situation is different; divorce does not exist because civil marriage does not exist, e. The responses and observations also raise the issue of the children of separated or divorced persons, who notably lack the attention of society. The Church also needs to provide care to the parents of divorced persons. The responses give particular attention to mothers who have no husbands and who, alone, must care for their children, a situation which is often the result of much suffering and, very often, abandonment.
Above all, they are to be esteemed for the love and courage with which they welcomed the life conceived in their womb and now provide for the upbringing and education of their children. They deserve from society a special support which takes into account the many sacrifices they are facing. Generally speaking, the responses from various places in the world devote attention to divorced and remarried persons or those, at least, who have formed a different union. Those living in such canonically irregular situations display various attitudes ranging from their being entirely unaware of their irregular situation to their consciously enduring the difficulties created by their irregular situation.
For the most part, divorced persons in new unions display similar attitudes in the various parts of the world, with the most prevalent in Europe and America and the fewest in Africa. In this regard, some responses attribute this situation to a lack of formation or religious practice. In North America, people often think that the Church is no longer a reliable moral guide, primarily in issues related to the family, which they see as a private matter to be decided independently. A rather great number of people give no thought to their irregular situation.
In these cases, no one requests access to Holy Communion nor the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance. These persons often become aware of their irregular situation when they request the Sacraments of Christian Initiation for their children or if they are asked to be a godfather or godmother at the celebration of the Sacraments of Baptism or Confirmation.
At times, adults, who have a personal and conscious experience of the faith in the programme of catechesis or the catechumenate, become aware of the irregularity of their marital relationship. From a pastoral point of view, these situations are good opportunities to begin the process of regularization, especially in cases of cohabitation.
The responses from Africa speak of a different situation, not so much focusing on divorced persons who form a new union as those engaged in practicing polygamy. Before treating the suffering associated with those who are unable to receive the sacraments due to their irregular union, the responses refer to a more basic suffering which the Church must take in hand, namely, the suffering of a breakdown in marriage and the difficulty of regularizing the situation.
Various episcopal conferences in Europe, Africa and America mention that distress in the situation often seems to depend on the degree of formation. Many times, people in these irregular situations do not grasp the intrinsic relationship between marriage and the Sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Penance. Consequently, they find it very difficult to understand why the Church does not allow those who are in an irregular situation to receive Holy Communion.
The catechetical instruction on marriage does not sufficiently explain the connection. Some responses America, Europe, Asia relate how at times people wrongly think that divorced people as such, without entering a new union, are automatically excluded from receiving Holy Communion. Such people, however, are not prohibited from receiving the sacraments. Some Church members who are cognizant that they are in an irregular situation clearly suffer from the fact that they are unable to receive the sacraments.
Many feel frustrated and marginalized. Some wonder why other sins can be forgiven and not theirs. Others cannot see how religious and priests can receive a dispensation from their vows and priestly obligations so they can marry, while divorced and remarried persons are unable to receive Holy Communion. These questions highlight the necessity of providing suitable formation and information in the matter. In other cases, persons do not understand how their irregular situation can be a reason for their not being able to receive the sacraments. Instead, they believe that the Church is at fault in not permitting their irregular marriage situation.
This way of thinking can lead to viewing withholding the sacraments as a punishment. Furthermore, another factor of concern is the lack of understanding of the discipline of the Church when access to the sacraments is denied in these cases, as if it were a punishment. Moreover, responses and observations from some episcopal conferences emphasize that the Church needs to equip herself with pastoral means which provide the possibility of her more widely exercising mercy, clemency and indulgence towards new unions.
In the matter of access to the sacraments, the responses describe various reactions among the faithful who are divorced and remarried. In Europe and also in some countries in Latin America and Asia the prevailing tendency among some of the clergy is to resolve the issue by simply complying with the request for access to the sacraments.
Other members of the clergy, particularly in Europe and Latin America, respond to the matter in a variety of ways. At times, the faithful distance themselves from the Church or go to other Christian denominations. In some countries of Europe and some countries on the other continents, this solution is not sufficient for many people; they wish to be publically readmitted to the Church. The problem is not so much not being able to receive Communion but that the Church publically does not permit them to receive Communion.
As a result, these believers then simply refuse to consider themselves in an irregular situation. Still others, as indicated in the responses from some Euro-Atlantic episcopal conferences, accept the duty to live in continence cf. A good number of responses speak of the very many cases, especially in Europe, America and some countries in Africa, where persons clearly ask to receive the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. This happens primarily when their children receive the sacraments.
In this regard, some recommend considering the practice of some Orthodox Churches, which, in their opinion, opens the way for a second or third marriage of a penitential character. In light of this suggestion, countries having a major number of Orthodox Christians noted that, from their experience, this practice does not reduce the number of divorces.
Others request clarification as to whether this solution is based on doctrine or is merely a matter of discipline. Very many responses, especially in Europe and North America request streamlining the procedure for marriage annulments. In this regard, they see a need to investigate the question of the relationship between faith and the Sacrament of Matrimony, as suggested by Pope Benedict XVI, on several occasions. In some cases, Catholics in countries with a major number of Orthodox Christians remarry in the Orthodox Church following their customary ritual and then ask to receive Communion in the Catholic Church.
Finally, other responses request clear indications on the procedure to follow in cases of a mixed marriage, in which the Orthodox spouse has already been married and has received permission for a second marriage in the Orthodox Church. Various responses and observations want to see more attention given to separated and divorced persons who have not remarried but have remained faithful to their nuptial vows.
A people for everyone  A people of many faces  We are all missionary disciples  The evangelizing power of popular piety  Person to person  Charisms at the service of a communion which evangelizes  Culture, thought and education . Preparing to preach . Reverence for truth  Personalizing the word  Spiritual reading  An ear to the people  Homiletic resources .
Evangelization and the deeper understanding of the kerygma . Kerygmatic and mystagogical catechesis  Personal accompaniment in processes of growth  Centred on the word of God . Communal and societal repercussions of the kerygma . The inclusion of the poor in society . The common good and peace in society . Time is greater than space  Unity prevails over conflict  Realities are more important than ideas  The whole is greater than the part . Social dialogue as a contribution to peace . Dialogue between faith, reason and science  Ecumenical dialogue  Relations with Judaism  Interreligious dialogue  Social dialogue in a context of religious freedom .
Reasons for a renewed missionary impulse . Personal encounter with the saving love of Jesus  The spiritual savour of being a people  The mysterious working of the risen Christ and his Spirit  The missionary power of intercessory prayer . Mary, Mother of Evangelization . The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.
Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. A joy ever new, a joy which is shared. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. This is a very real danger for believers too.
Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. Now is the time to say to Jesus: How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost!
Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. Time and time again he bears us on his shoulders. No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew.
Let us not flee from the resurrection of Jesus, let us never give up, come what will. May nothing inspire more than his life, which impels us onwards! The books of the Old Testament predicted that the joy of salvation would abound in messianic times. The prophet Isaiah exultantly salutes the awaited Messiah: He exhorts those who dwell on Zion to go forth to meet him with song: The prophet tells those who have already seen him from afar to bring the message to others: All creation shares in the joy of salvation: Break forth, O mountains, into singing!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Perhaps the most exciting invitation is that of the prophet Zephaniah, who presents God with his people in the midst of a celebration overflowing with the joy of salvation. I find it thrilling to reread this text: This is the joy which we experience daily, amid the little things of life, as a response to the loving invitation of God our Father: What tender paternal love echoes in these words! A few examples will suffice. In her song of praise, Mary proclaims: When Jesus begins his ministry, John cries out: His message brings us joy: Our Christian joy drinks of the wellspring of his brimming heart.
He promises his disciples: He then goes on to say: Why should we not also enter into this great stream of joy? There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved. I understand the grief of people who have to endure great suffering, yet slowly but surely we all have to let the joy of faith slowly revive as a quiet yet firm trust, even amid the greatest distress: Sometimes we are tempted to find excuses and complain, acting as if we could only be happy if a thousand conditions were met.
I also think of the real joy shown by others who, even amid pressing professional obligations, were able to preserve, in detachment and simplicity, a heart full of faith. In their own way, all these instances of joy flow from the infinite love of God, who has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ. We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization. For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?
The delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing. Goodness always tends to spread. Every authentic experience of truth and goodness seeks by its very nature to grow within us, and any person who has experienced a profound liberation becomes more sensitive to the needs of others. As it expands, goodness takes root and develops. If we wish to lead a dignified and fulfilling life, we have to reach out to others and seek their good. In this regard, several sayings of Saint Paul will not surprise us: The Gospel offers us the chance to live life on a higher plane, but with no less intensity: A renewal of preaching can offer believers, as well as the lukewarm and the non-practising, new joy in the faith and fruitfulness in the work of evangelization.
The heart of its message will always be the same: God constantly renews his faithful ones, whatever their age: He is for ever young and a constant source of newness. Jesus can also break through the dull categories with which we would enclose him and he constantly amazes us by his divine creativity. The real newness is the newness which God himself mysteriously brings about and inspires, provokes, guides and accompanies in a thousand ways.
This conviction enables us to maintain a spirit of joy in the midst of a task so demanding and challenging that it engages our entire life. God asks everything of us, yet at the same time he offers everything to us. Nor should we see the newness of this mission as entailing a kind of displacement or forgetfulness of the living history which surrounds us and carries us forward. The joy of evangelizing always arises from grateful remembrance: The apostles never forgot the moment when Jesus touched their hearts: Some of them were ordinary people who were close to us and introduced us to the life of faith: The new evangelization for the transmission of the faith.
The Synod reaffirmed that the new evangelization is a summons addressed to all and that it is carried out in three principal settings. The Church, in her maternal concern, tries to help them experience a conversion which will restore the joy of faith to their hearts and inspire a commitment to the Gospel. Lastly, we cannot forget that evangelization is first and foremost about preaching the Gospel to those who do not know Jesus Christ or who have always rejected him. Many of them are quietly seeking God, led by a yearning to see his face, even in countries of ancient Christian tradition.
All of them have a right to receive the Gospel. Christians have the duty to proclaim the Gospel without excluding anyone. Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, they should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet. The scope and limits of this Exhortation. I was happy to take up the request of the Fathers of the Synod to write this Exhortation. Countless issues involving evangelization today might be discussed here, but I have chosen not to explore these many questions which call for further reflection and study.
Nor do I believe that the papal magisterium should be expected to offer a definitive or complete word on every question which affects the Church and the world. It is not advisable for the Pope to take the place of local Bishops in the discernment of every issue which arises in their territory. Here I have chosen to present some guidelines which can encourage and guide the whole Church in a new phase of evangelization, one marked by enthusiasm and vitality. In this context, and on the basis of the teaching of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium , I have decided, among other themes, to discuss at length the following questions:.
I have dealt extensively with these topics, with a detail which some may find excessive. All of them help give shape to a definite style of evangelization which I ask you to adopt in every activity which you undertake. In this way, we can take up, amid our daily efforts, the biblical exhortation: Evangelization takes place in obedience to the missionary mandate of Jesus: In these verses we see how the risen Christ sent his followers to preach the Gospel in every time and place, so that faith in him might spread to every corner of the earth. Abraham received the call to set out for a new land cf.
To Jeremiah God says: The Gospel joy which enlivens the community of disciples is a missionary joy. The seventy-two disciples felt it as they returned from their mission cf. Jesus felt it when he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and praised the Father for revealing himself to the poor and the little ones cf. This joy is a sign that the Gospel has been proclaimed and is bearing fruit. Yet the drive to go forth and give, to go out from ourselves, to keep pressing forward in our sowing of the good seed, remains ever present. Once the seed has been sown in one place, Jesus does not stay behind to explain things or to perform more signs; the Spirit moves him to go forth to other towns.
The Gospel speaks of a seed which, once sown, grows by itself, even as the farmer sleeps Mk 4: The Church has to accept this unruly freedom of the word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking. The joy of the Gospel is for all people: That is what the angel proclaimed to the shepherds in Bethlehem: Taking the first step, being involved and supportive, bearing fruit and rejoicing.
An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first cf. Let us try a little harder to take the first step and to become involved. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. The Lord gets involved and he involves his own, as he kneels to wash their feet. He tells his disciples: An evangelizing community is also supportive, standing by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be. It is familiar with patient expectation and apostolic endurance.
Evangelization consists mostly of patience and disregard for constraints of time. An evangelizing community is always concerned with fruit, because the Lord wants her to be fruitful. It cares for the grain and does not grow impatient at the weeds. The sower, when he sees weeds sprouting among the grain does not grumble or overreact. He or she finds a way to let the word take flesh in a particular situation and bear fruits of new life, however imperfect or incomplete these may appear.
Finally an evangelizing community is filled with joy; it knows how to rejoice always.
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It celebrates every small victory, every step forward in the work of evangelization. Evangelization with joy becomes beauty in the liturgy, as part of our daily concern to spread goodness. The Church evangelizes and is herself evangelized through the beauty of the liturgy, which is both a celebration of the task of evangelization and the source of her renewed self-giving.
Pastoral activity and conversion. I am aware that nowadays documents do not arouse the same interest as in the past and that they are quickly forgotten. Nevertheless, I want to emphasize that what I am trying to express here has a programmatic significance and important consequences. I hope that all communities will devote the necessary effort to advancing along the path of a pastoral and missionary conversion which cannot leave things as they presently are.
Paul VI invited us to deepen the call to renewal and to make it clear that renewal does not only concern individuals but the entire Church. Let us return to a memorable text which continues to challenge us. There are ecclesial structures which can hamper efforts at evangelization, yet even good structures are only helpful when there is a life constantly driving, sustaining and assessing them. An ecclesial renewal which cannot be deferred. The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community.
We must admit, though, that the call to review and renew our parishes has not yet sufficed to bring them nearer to people, to make them environments of living communion and participation, and to make them completely mission-oriented. Other Church institutions, basic communities and small communities, movements, and forms of association are a source of enrichment for the Church, raised up by the Spirit for evangelizing different areas and sectors. Frequently they bring a new evangelizing fervour and a new capacity for dialogue with the world whereby the Church is renewed. But it will prove beneficial for them not to lose contact with the rich reality of the local parish and to participate readily in the overall pastoral activity of the particular Church.
Each particular Church, as a portion of the Catholic Church under the leadership of its bishop, is likewise called to missionary conversion. Its joy in communicating Jesus Christ is expressed both by a concern to preach him to areas in greater need and in constantly going forth to the outskirts of its own territory or towards new sociocultural settings. The bishop must always foster this missionary communion in his diocesan Church, following the ideal of the first Christian communities, in which the believers were of one heart and one soul cf.
To do so, he will sometimes go before his people, pointing the way and keeping their hope vibrant. At other times, he will simply be in their midst with his unassuming and merciful presence. At yet other times, he will have to walk after them, helping those who lag behind and — above all — allowing the flock to strike out on new paths. In his mission of fostering a dynamic, open and missionary communion, he will have to encourage and develop the means of participation proposed in the Code of Canon Law,  and other forms of pastoral dialogue, out of a desire to listen to everyone and not simply to those who would tell him what he would like to hear.
Yet the principal aim of these participatory processes should not be ecclesiastical organization but rather the missionary aspiration of reaching everyone. Since I am called to put into practice what I ask of others, I too must think about a conversion of the papacy. It is my duty, as the Bishop of Rome, to be open to suggestions which can help make the exercise of my ministry more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelization.
The papacy and the central structures of the universal Church also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion. Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities. A proposal of goals without an adequate communal search for the means of achieving them will inevitably prove illusory. I encourage everyone to apply the guidelines found in this document generously and courageously, without inhibitions or fear.
The important thing is to not walk alone, but to rely on each other as brothers and sisters, and especially under the leadership of the bishops, in a wise and realistic pastoral discernment. From the heart of the Gospel. If we attempt to put all things in a missionary key, this will also affect the way we communicate the message.
We need to be realistic and not assume that our audience understands the full background to what we are saying, or is capable of relating what we say to the very heart of the Gospel which gives it meaning, beauty and attractiveness. Pastoral ministry in a missionary style is not obsessed with the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines to be insistently imposed. When we adopt a pastoral goal and a missionary style which would actually reach everyone without exception or exclusion, the message has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary.
The message is simplified, while losing none of its depth and truth, and thus becomes all the more forceful and convincing. All revealed truths derive from the same divine source and are to be believed with the same faith, yet some of them are more important for giving direct expression to the heart of the Gospel.
In this basic core, what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead. First, it needs to be said that in preaching the Gospel a fitting sense of proportion has to be maintained. This would be seen in the frequency with which certain themes are brought up and in the emphasis given to them in preaching. For example, if in the course of the liturgical year a parish priest speaks about temperance ten times but only mentions charity or justice two or three times, an imbalance results, and precisely those virtues which ought to be most present in preaching and catechesis are overlooked.
Just as the organic unity existing among the virtues means that no one of them can be excluded from the Christian ideal, so no truth may be denied. The integrity of the Gospel message must not be deformed. What is more, each truth is better understood when related to the harmonious totality of the Christian message; in this context all of the truths are important and illumine one another.
When preaching is faithful to the Gospel, the centrality of certain truths is evident and it becomes clear that Christian morality is not a form of stoicism, or self-denial, or merely a practical philosophy or a catalogue of sins and faults. Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others. Under no circumstance can this invitation be obscured!
All of the virtues are at the service of this response of love. It would mean that it is not the Gospel which is being preached, but certain doctrinal or moral points based on specific ideological options.
A mission embodied within human limits. The Church is herself a missionary disciple; she needs to grow in her interpretation of the revealed word and in her understanding of truth. For those who long for a monolithic body of doctrine guarded by all and leaving no room for nuance, this might appear as undesirable and leading to confusion.
But in fact such variety serves to bring out and develop different facets of the inexhaustible riches of the Gospel. With the holy intent of communicating the truth about God and humanity, we sometimes give them a false god or a human ideal which is not really Christian.
In this way, we hold fast to a formulation while failing to convey its substance. This is the greatest danger. All of this has great relevance for the preaching of the Gospel, if we are really concerned to make its beauty more clearly recognized and accepted by all. Faith always remains something of a cross; it retains a certain obscurity which does not detract from the firmness of its assent.
Some things are understood and appreciated only from the standpoint of this assent, which is a sister to love, beyond the range of clear reasons and arguments. In her ongoing discernment, the Church can also come to see that certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some which have deep historical roots, are no longer properly understood and appreciated. Some of these customs may be beautiful, but they no longer serve as means of communicating the Gospel.
We should not be afraid to re-examine them. It ought to be one of the criteria to be taken into account in considering a reform of the Church and her preaching which would enable it to reach everyone. Moreover, pastors and the lay faithful who accompany their brothers and sisters in faith or on a journey of openness to God must always remember what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches quite clearly: A small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties.
We see then that the task of evangelization operates within the limits of language and of circumstances. It constantly seeks to communicate more effectively the truth of the Gospel in a specific context, without renouncing the truth, the goodness and the light which it can bring whenever perfection is not possible. It never closes itself off, never retreats into its own security, never opts for rigidity and defensiveness.
It realizes that it has to grow in its own understanding of the Gospel and in discerning the paths of the Spirit, and so it always does what good it can, even if in the process, its shoes get soiled by the mud of the street. A mother with an open heart. Going out to others in order to reach the fringes of humanity does not mean rushing out aimlessly into the world.
Often it is better simply to slow down, to put aside our eagerness in order to see and listen to others, to stop rushing from one thing to another and to remain with someone who has faltered along the way. At times we have to be like the father of the prodigal son, who always keeps his door open so that when the son returns, he can readily pass through it.
The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One concrete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door. There are other doors that should not be closed either. Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason.
The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.
Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems. If the whole Church takes up this missionary impulse, she has to go forth to everyone without exception.
But to whom should she go first? When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: There can be no room for doubt or for explanations which weaken so clear a message. We have to state, without mincing words, that there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor. May we never abandon them. Let us go forth, then, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ. I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.
I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and which then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life.
More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: Before taking up some basic questions related to the work of evangelization, it may be helpful to mention briefly the context in which we all have to live and work. Nor would we be well served by a purely sociological analysis which would aim to embrace all of reality by employing an allegedly neutral and clinical method.
What I would like to propose is something much more in the line of an evangelical discernment. This involves not only recognizing and discerning spirits, but also — and this is decisive — choosing movements of the spirit of good and rejecting those of the spirit of evil. I take for granted the different analyses which other documents of the universal magisterium have offered, as well as those proposed by the regional and national conferences of bishops. In our time humanity is experiencing a turning-point in its history, as we can see from the advances being made in so many fields.
At the same time we have to remember that the majority of our contemporaries are barely living from day to day, with dire consequences. A number of diseases are spreading. The hearts of many people are gripped by fear and desperation, even in the so-called rich countries. The joy of living frequently fades, lack of respect for others and violence are on the rise, and inequality is increasingly evident. It is a struggle to live and, often, to live with precious little dignity.
This epochal change has been set in motion by the enormous qualitative, quantitative, rapid and cumulative advances occuring in the sciences and in technology, and by their instant application in different areas of nature and of life. We are in an age of knowledge and information, which has led to new and often anonymous kinds of power. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion.
Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded.
It can also happen that we look for excuses to water down the clear meaning of the text. An ecclesial renewal which cannot be deferred . The responses also mentioned other requests which parents in irregular situations make of the Church. Generally speaking, the responses call for a better formation of pastoral workers in this field so that the faithful may be duly assisted. Many times the children are the ones who evangelize their parents.
It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.
To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us. One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies.
The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf cf. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few.
This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power.
To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.
No to a financial system which rules rather than serves. Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside the categories of the marketplace.
When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement. A guide for group study is included at the end. Cameron Lee, Beyond Family Values: This book was written to replace some of the stereotypes with reality, using quotes from PKs who graciously allowed me to interview them. My first book was—yes—based on my dissertation. I caught the passion for studying and writing about ministry families from two of my mentors, Jack Balswick and the late Dennis Guernsey, and this book was the result.
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