The Future of the Church

The Pope has been repeating it over and over again.

Evangelization. New evangelization. What does it mean? It means simply that the man of today, at the threshold of the year 2000, needs to listen again the good news of Jesus Christ! In the midst of today's confusion and muddled values, where there are too many people suffering because of economic and political systems which fail to solve the real problems, Jesus Christ must be presented anew. Christianity believes that it possesses the real answer to man's anguish.

Well over a decade ago Pope Paul VI had the courage to state and to repeat that the Church must be built again psychologically and pastorally afresh. And the present Pope is reiterating over and over again the need for a new proclamation of the Gospel, even and especially in countries where Christianity has roots going back down the ages. This evangelization has to be "new as regards its ardor, its methods and in its expressions".

Something somewhere has gone wrong! The values which motivate our lives are not evangelical. Religion is more of a tranquilizer than a driving force. A bishop was once heard to lament : "Wherever Jesus went there was a revolution; wherever I go, people serve tea!" The majority still seek the sacraments but few make an authentic journey of faith and conversion.

In our Western world, we are basically faced with two challenges. On the one hand a secularized culture that shelves God from its conscience and gives priority to the acquisition of material goods and immediate pleasure, with the obvious result that gradually we become allergic to anything that is transcendental. And, on the other hand spiritual disorientation because the fast growing idols of success, comfort and money beguile man's heart to such an extent that one finds himself lost and confused.

Hence a radical solution is needed. When the pond dries up and the fish are lying on the parched land, to moisten them with one's breath or damp them with spittle is no substitute for flinging them back into the lake... remarks Anthony de Mello. Consequently it is not a question of multiplying masses and devotions or even of a basic intellectual transmission of more doctrine. Neither it is a question of organizing ourselves better. The Church in many places is running the risk of becoming too clustered with structures and organization. The priest is becoming more and more an administrator and less and less a shepherd.

What is really needed is on-going catechises capable of leading Christians (and priests are Christians, too!) to a progressive rediscovery of the faith and of the Christian life as a following of Christ. This is not a luxury reserved to a particular elite but the basic vision of any healthy pastoral outlook. Without ignoring children, such activity must be directed with particular attention to adults - they are the first witnesses and educators of the young. Faith transmits itself by osmosis in any family!

How can one work a valid on-going catechises with the fundamental objective of forming mature Christians? It is the one million dollar question which has quite a simple answer!

The Church has always considered the experience of the Christian life as a journey of faith. From the very first centuries, there was a concern to accompany and sustain those who wanted to become the Lord's disciples through an exacting journey of faith. This was the reason why the catechumenate as an extended and progressive insertion into the mystery of Christ and into the Church mission was born.

Even today this catechumenate remains the model for forming adult Christians. It comprises the various factors which make up a pedagogical and organic process of conversion - the acceptance of the 'good news' of Christ, the deepening of the Gospel message, the celebration of the sacraments in renewed efficacy, and the commitment to share the burden of the ecclesial mission. God has already inaugurated this reality not only through the RCIA but also through a new charism called the Neocatechumenate which is already giving abundant fruits in more than hundred nations worldwide.

Our mission is not to create new projects but to discover his plans and to work on them. He is such a creative artist!

(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.