Pope Benedict recently spoke to the bishops of Portugal. He had a really great point regarding something I wrote about back in March regarding the need for us to be personally present online - not just our stuff.
“When many people consider that the Catholic faith is no longer the common patrimony of society, and see it as a seed threatened and obscured by the ‘gods’ and masters of this world, only with great difficulty can the faith touch the hearts of people by simple speeches or moral appeals, and even less by a generic call to Christian values. The courageous and integral appeal to principles is essential and indispensable; yet simply proclaiming the message does not penetrate to the depths of people’s hearts, it does not touch their freedom, it does not change their lives. What attracts them, above all, is the encounter with believing persons who, through their faith, draw others to the grace of Christ by bearing witness to Him”. - Pope Benedict XVI [source]
It’s easy for us to rely too much on principles, great books, moral appeals and other excellent Catholic resources in evangelizing the world. But often times, if we’re honest, we lean on those things too much out of laziness. What truly attracts people to the truth, above all, is seeing it in action…is meeting it in Person.
Pope Benedict, in this speech, also gave some encouragement to bishops to support those in public life who stand up as “authentic witnesses to Jesus Christ”:
‘May all those who defend the faith in these situations, with courage, with a vigorous Catholic outlook and in fidelity to the Magisterium, continue to receive your help and your insightful encouragement in order to live out their Christian freedom as faithful lay men and women”.
I hope he is reminding all other bishops of the same thing as well! The silence from some of them - in publicly supporting courageous witnesses and in correcting those who cause public scandal - has far too often further obscured the already “threatened” seed of the Catholic faith.
But I also liked the emphasis the Church, and Pope Benedict in this same speech, continue to give to the importance of the laity. He said:
“The times in which we live demand a new missionary vigor on the part of Christians, who are called to form a mature laity, identified with the Church and sensitive to the complex transformations taking place in our world.”
The word “mature” jumps out and grabs me every time I read that sentence.
The laity has often called for more relevance and influence within the Church. But then we run off like children, making our own rules and attempting to drag the Church with us. And we, too, end up obscuring our Catholic faith to the world. It’s a lack of maturity.
But Pope Benedict does appreciate the significance and “gift” of such influence from the laity:
Turning then to consider the movements and new ecclesial communities, which he described as “new springtime” for the Church, the Holy Father said: “Thanks to their charisms, the radicality of the Gospel, the objective contents of the faith, the living flux of Church tradition, are all being communicated in a persuasive way and welcomed as a personal experience, as free adherence to the mystery of Christ”.
He went on: “Naturally, it is necessary that these new groups should desire to live in the one Church, ... and submit themselves to the leadership of her bishops. It is they who must ensure the ecclesial nature of the movements”.
As bishops, he explained, we “must feel responsibility for welcoming these impulses which are gifts for the Church and which give her new vitality, but, on the other hand, we must also help the movements to find the right way, correcting them ... with a spiritual and human understanding that is able to combine guidance, gratitude and a certain openness and willingness to learn”.
This absolutely applies to how the Church embraces new technology and applies it to her ministry. The laity are going to play a huge role in this…mostly because we are most often in the best place to. But we must be a “mature laity.” And we must “find the right way” with guidance from our bishops, fidelity to the Magisterium and submission to the Church.