Defining Catholic Culture

defining Catholic Culture

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Defining Catholic Culture

Episode 6

Defining Catholic culture might vary for some. One possible definition of Catholic Culture: In setting up a podcast entitled “Evangelizing Catholic Culture” it is important to try and clarify that some aspects, attitudes, and ideals of Catholic Culture need to be re-evangelized. Most of us have been raised in a Church that has overemphasized the Institutional/Sacramental model of the Church to the detriment of the other three models. Many members of the Church were born and have been raised and possess a restricted idea of the nature of the Church. The institutional model entails high levels of authority, organization, visibility, projects, and encountering Christ in the sacraments, “and make sure you get to church” syndrome. So the next number of paragraphs are somewhat ponderous.

A blended model of defining Catholic Culture 

In the following section, I have tried to present a blended model of the Church in order to get a glimpse of what the Church can be in a broader sense, to see briefly that the Church, some of its operational methods, and it’s cultural expressions’’ really need to be evangelized. Sometimes new wine needs new wineskins in order to manifest vintage quality. The approach I present is an attempt to see that there is a real need to evangelize the Catholic Church in its internal operation and its expression in society of its immediate visible cultural format.

What is the Catholic way of life?

There are a good number of definitions of the word culture. The way I am using the definition here is in the sense of “a way of life.” What are some of the visible elements and components of a Catholic way of life? These elements would consist in specific things which describe what a “Catholic Way of Life” could really look like. First off, it would be a visible organized communal structure with legitimate authority, which exists in our society and is visibly clear to others, both within and outside of its visible reality. It would consist in a world-wide universal ethnicity. Its members would profess a clear set of doctrines based on the Gospel way of life and have different roles in these endeavors. Some would be chosen as leaders, and other would not. The use of authority would be based on the imitation of Jesus as a humble servant of the Father’s mercy and love. Yet many would engage in various roles, works, and ministries. The bond would consist in a living faith in the person of Jesus Christ, the heart of which would be a triune spirituality of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; a plenitude of splendid grace where individuals are drawn by the Father, who is manifested and revealed through the person of Jesus Christ, the splendor of the Fathers glory, personal Lord, and Savior. The relational life of its members would be celebrated in sevenfold sacramental communal rites in which there would be opportunities for encountering the living God in and through the person of Jesus Christ. Its celebration would consist in a dynamic grace-filled worship, individual personal relationships with God, and a multiple series of devotions which would be a prayerful means of a loving spiritual growth and worship of the living God.

defining Catholic CultureExperience of God ~ Spirit of the Living God

There would be a mystical (meaning direct experience of grace) dynamic bond with God and one another in the Spirit of the living God. The members of this Body of Christ would be invited to exercise a missionary zeal, in order to invite and assist others in joining the group identified as the church. The members of this community would have a clear vision of revealed truth as a basis for their commitment and service, and they would be required to reach out generously to others who are poor, broken, and in need of ministry and other types of mercy services. Those who grow into maturity would be called disciples of the Lord, humble servants of mercy, with a call to be missionary disciples of the Lord who would bring a sacrificial transforming love to one another, and all other members of the human community where possible.

The Paschal Mystery: The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, states that “The Paschal Mystery of Jesus, which comprises his passion, death, resurrection, and glorification stands at the center of the Christian faith, because God’s saving plan was accomplished once for all by the redemptive death of his Son Jesus Christ. Pope Benedict XVI stated during the Second Vatican Council that the most important and central message of the Council: “The Paschal Mystery is at the center of what it is to be Christian and is therefore at the center of the Christian life…” The wonderful works of God among the people of the Old Testament were but a prelude to the work of Christ the Lord in redeeming humankind and giving perfect glory to God. Jesus achieved his mission given him by the Father principally by the paschal mystery of his blessed passion, resurrection from the dead, and the glorious ascension, whereby “dying he destroyed our death and, rising, he restored our life.” For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth, “the wondrous sacrament of the whole Church” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 5, n. 10, 47, 61).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “The Paschal mystery of Christ’s Cross and Resurrection stands at the center of the Good News that the apostles, and the Church following them, are to proclaim to the world. God’s saving plan was accomplished once for all by the redemptive death of his Son Jesus Christ (CCC 571). The Paschal mystery of Jesus is a real event that occurred in our history, but is unique: “The Paschal mystery of Christ cannot remain only in the past, because by his death he destroyed death, and all that Christ is–all that he did and suffered for all humankind—participates in the “Eternal Now” as well as divine eternity, and so transcends all times while being made intimately and uniquely present in each specific period of time, as well as in all time.

Cross and Resurrection 

The event of the Cross and Resurrection abides and draws everything toward life.” (CCC 1085) It also explains that “The Paschal mystery has two aspects: by his death, Christ liberates us from sin; by his Resurrection, he opens for us the way to a new life. This new life is above all the justification that reinstates us in God’s grace, ‘so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.’ Justification consists in both victories over the death caused by sin and a new participation in grace. This fact brings about the reality that in Christ we truly are sons and daughters of the Father and brothers and sisters to one another. (CCC 654)

Pascal Mystery – 

All human activity is to find its growth and purification in the Paschal Mystery. Christians believe that all human activity is to find its purification and perfection in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Man redeemed by Christ and made a new creation in the Holy Spirit, can and must love the very things created by God, in a spirit of thankfulness and reverence, he uses and enjoys them in a spirit of poverty and freedom, he enters into true possession of the world, as one having nothing and possessing all things, for all things are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. Jesus reveals to us that God is Love, and the human perfection of all is the new commandment of love, in this truth is the transformation of all things, including the whole world and the ordinary circumstances of life. Therefore, we share in the cross and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, to whom all power in heaven and earth has been given, and he is at work in the hearts of all through the power of his Spirit. He awakens in us a longing for the world to come, and inspires, purifies, and strengthens each one of us to have generous desires to make our life more human and to achieve this same goal for others. The gifts of the Spirit are manifold; he calls some to directly witness these longings for eternal fulfillment, and he calls others to dedicate themselves to the service of his brothers and sisters here on earth. Yet he makes all free, so that by denying their inordinate love of self, and taking up all earths resources into the life of humanity, all may reach out to the future, when humanity itself will become an offering acceptable to God. ( The Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, Lent, vol. II, pp. 331-332)

A Brief History of the Church’s Grace of Renewal and Reform:

I am presenting a selected summary of some of the work and power of the Spirit in the life of the Catholic Church over the last one hundred years, to provide a context for us to understand a little better the working of the grace of renewal and reform in our most recent period of time. Pope Benedict XVI in one of his writings mentions that the Church will always need spiritual renewal and reform because of the human condition and the reality of sin. Pope Leo XIII at the turn of the century in the late 1800’s was concerned about the progressive spiritual movements alive in Europe and the young American nation, and gave scholars permission to carefully study how some of the more positive ideas could further a better understanding for the Catholic laity in regard to the practical application of the work of the Spirit in the realm of the Scriptural, liturgical, catechetical movements, and various other issues in the life and teaching of the Church. He was deeply motivated by an understanding that the Church needed to go through a profound spiritual renewal. For fifty years most of this activity unfolded quietly in the areas of study. This was the time the world was caught up in the devastating period of World War I and II. In the 1950’s many of the Church’s leaders realized that some type of spiritual renewal and reform was most necessary in order to lead the Church forward in adapting to the developments in the modern world. Such as the developments emerging after the turmoil of the two world wars, advances in the industrial revolution, the new discoveries in the sciences, and the various movements of secularization, some detrimental to the life and growth of the Church.

All through the first half of the 20th Century, many leaders in the Church could see that the Lord was preparing for some kind of great spiritual enterprise, which was sorely needed. Pope John the 23rd was elected to the papacy in 1958; a jovial relational leader and open to the work of the Holy Spirit, he proclaimed a surprising worldwide Ecumenical Council which began in 1961 and ended in 1965. He died in the middle years of the Second Vatican Council, and Pope Paul VI was elected to bring the Council to conclusion, and then pastor the many changes necessary in light of the pastoral documents and proposals developed in its four years of preparation. And he was chosen to responsibly guide the implementation after its conclusion. In and of itself the Council was a monumental achievement and an obvious work of Divine grace. However, as central and long-standing as this reform would be in the Church it was by no means the only work and activity of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church and in other Christian denominations as well.

Also in the life of the Church in the first half of the 20th Century under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit, a number of spiritual and evangelical movements of a pious nature were developing. Some of these were focused on achieving personal holiness, and others aimed more at catechetical development, humane services, and mercy work. However, at the conclusion of the Council, a surge of the empowering activity of the Holy Spirit also came to the fore in a notable fashion. For example, the Cursillo movement which began in Spain and quickly moved to the United States and other parts of the world. Also Antioch for young people, Focolari and others. However, the one that made the most impact in the United States and worldwide in the Catholic Church was the Charismatic Renewal. This movement leads participants to experience a refreshing empowerment of the Holy Spirit, along with the experience and use of the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit. Once this “new anointing” of the Spirit is experienced, it begins a natural and supernatural process which significantly affects one’s personal relationship with the Lord. This effectiveness in grace spreads gradually to all the dimensions of one’s spiritual life, and if one is faithful in developing a life of prayer this actualizing grace positively effects the personal growth of Christian holiness and maturity in all areas of one’s human endeavors. However, this consistency is not always the case. It is like many other opportunities of growth, if one does not foster and focus on a process of conversion, growth in personal holiness, and generous service to others, it can easily lose its vitality. Initially receiving this empowerment should lead one to a deeper experience of a personal relationship with Christ, and to a more attentive awareness of the presence and operation of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. For many over the last 50 some years this has been the case. In fact, this refreshing experience of the Holy Spirit has generated a good number of ministries, special communities, and other forms of service and mercy work in the life of the Church. This podcast is presented to provide a context to consider more specific areas in the life of the Church which may need some significant attention.

May we pray!
Lord Jesus, to know you is eternal life. I believe You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. I love You and I place my trust in You. I am sorry for all of my sins and for withholding myself in any way from You. Please forgive me as you bring healing to my life, and heal any pain I have caused others. I forgive anyone who has hurt me, and I ask You to bless them. In Your Name Jesus I renounce anything in my life that is not of You that I have welcomed into my mind and heart. Wash me in mercy and fill me with Your Precious Blood and the Holy Spirit. Father, all of my need for love and affection is found in Your embrace. May I never leave my home in Your heart again. By your grace and most intimate love, I resolve to remain in Your shelter and abide in Your shade, where You restore to me the joy of Your salvation. Amen. (Fr. John Horn)

Comments

  1. Oliva ofs says:

    It is good to hear more specifically about “Catholic Culture” that goes beyond the range or limits of the 33,000 Christian denominations (quoted on many websites) present in the world today.

    From this episode I gleaned that the Catholic Culture in all its various modes experienced, is a “sacramental sign”, an outward (visible sign) “instituted by Christ to give grace”.  This “sign” is the Catholic Church whose members are inserted into the mystical dimension, that is, the Pascal Mystery, which is the divine impetus for dynamic and creative outreach to those who have not yet heard the Good News, have not “seen” Him, nor have experienced Him.

    Being a missionary disciple is “on the job training” for the followers of Christ.  We are all called to spiritual maturity, that is, to become saints. (1 Cor 1:2)  We are a work (of God) in progress; for none of us can say we have arrived while we are still on the way.

    I think of the steward of the vineyard who went out around the 11th hour and found people standing around and saw fit to hire them also.  What is so amazing is the Lord of the vineyard gave them the same pay as all the others!  Matt 20:1-8. Imagine getting the same pay as your favorite Saint!

    In every Church age the Lord has sent out laborers into his vineyard.  Even though it seems very much like the 11th hour, we are being sent too!

    Thank you for this episode, Fr. David. Got me to thinking … we’ve got a lot of glorious work to do!

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