of the many issues that came up indirectly at the Daughters of Charity
Provincial Directors Meeting in
weeks ago, I helped a couple whom I shall call Jane and John (not their real
names) prepare a Funeral Service and Mass for Jane’s recently deceased mother.
Jane and John were a very affable couple, though naturally under some
stress. Jane explained to me
that her mother was a person of deep
faith, and a practicing Catholic all her life. She had brought Jane up in the
Catholic Tradition. But she
herself, Jane, had wandered away from the Catholic Church in her late teens, and
when in later years she felt the need of religion and faith, found that the
presence of Jesus Christ eluded her in the Catholic Church, and that the
Catholic Church’s attitude to equality of women was off-putting to say the
least. After some searching, Jane
found a home with the Salvation Army, to whom she has remained committed.
of her mother’s faith, Jane wanted the funeral service to be the full Catholic
Mass. Her husband John, who belonged
to the Uniting Church Tradition, was happy to support his wife and to help in
any way he could. Then Jane produced
the draft copy of the booklet for the Order of Service.
It was as near to perfect as one could get.
She explained that a couple of friends had given some advice, but that
she had basically drawn it up herself.
days later, at the actual Funeral Mass, the liturgy was well carried out, with
Jane, John and others looking after
readings, prayers of intercession, bringing up the gifts and eulogy. Jane
herself went to communion (she believes in the Eucharist). She and other members
of the Salvation Army were there in uniform, and sang beautifully.
It was as prayerful and meaningful a funeral liturgy as I have ever
has Jane really left the Church ? In
the eyes of some, she might be classed as a “cafeteria Catholic”, choosing
what part of the Tradition of Christianity she wants to accept - and should be
“brought back to the faith” in order to have the “truth”. For
my part, I felt that
I myself was being evangelized by Jane and her husband
- and I found it difficult to
believe that Jane is not part of the Church, despite her own claim that she had
left it. Perhaps it is the Catholic
and Christian Tradition which needs to reassess itself ?
1975, Pope Paul VI wrote in Evangelii
Church is an evangelizer, but she begins by being evangelized herself
…….Having been sent and evangelized, she then sends out
In this document, issued before the time the term “New
Evangelization” had been coined, some
fundamentals of a renewed evangelization were laid out by Paul VI.
When we read the document, it is clear that evangelization in our time is
not just shouting the same message in a louder voice, but attempting to announce
the Gospel with freshness and by whatever means are available.
And a basic component for the Church is that it first allow itself to be
evangelized, that it listen to what those in
the Church, and those who claim no affiliation with it – are saying, even when
this does not completely conform to what the Church would like to hear.
One of the many challenges to
the Church at the present time is to listen -
and be evangelized.
our Church Tradition, there are those who have great difficulty in going beyond
what the Tradition has always been for them, and find it very difficult to
listen to what others are saying about developing the Tradition further.
But they don’t need to get stuck in the past !
there are those who call us to go forward to make radical changes in attitudes
and in the way our Christian and Catholic Tradition should develop.
These people are the ones who focus on keeping our Tradition alive, fresh
and relevant – and stop it from becoming dessicated and moribund.
Many of them might be classed as prophets -
and they call us forward.
Some of them will be voices from outside, some from within.
But they don’t need to discard our basic Tradition.
is a tendency in our Church to think that we must follow either one or the other
of the above approaches. Our
Christian Tradition needs stability and foundation, and it also needs
development. So can’t it be
“both/and” rather than “either/or”. In the early Church. Peter
and Paul epitomised this.
in the Vincentian Family …….?
is not difficult to apply this thinking to our own Vincentian Family Traditions.
The members of our Vincentian Family value the heritage left to us by
Louise de Marillac and Vincent de Paul. In
their day, they were prophets, and
we still need prophets now who will hold our heritage up to us for reflection
and dialogue . Vincent and
Louise evangelized one another. Vincent
de Paul was affected by the man from Gannes, the people from
How and when have we ourselves been challenged and evangelized by people and events ?