What do you think of these 4 statements?
Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with … a person, Jesus Christ.
A developed and mature Christian faith requires knowledge of the scriptures.
We have to know the scriptures, to love the scriptures, to understand the scriptures, to prayerfully read the scriptures. All of us have to learn to take up the scriptures every day.
It is in an encounter with the God who is totally other, but who became incarnate as one of us, that we are able to know ourselves more fully and find our true identity.
Jesus focused; Bible focused; major emphasis on authentic personal faith. Written by some well known evangelical?
Well you might be surprised that the opening line is a quote from Pope Benedict. And the points are drawn from a speech by the Archbishop of Dublin, Dairmuid Martin at the launch of “SHARE THE GOOD NEWS”: The National Directory for Catechesis in Ireland
If faith centres on a personal relationship with Jesus, this will have radical implications for the rule-bound approach of traditional Catholic catechesis.
If young people are going to develop in a personal authentic faith there will mean “revolutionising all our structures” including a fundamental reordering of the reliance on school-based religious instruction in Ireland to a rediscovery of the role of the local parish and of parents.
This will need “a new group of lay people” to be voluntary catechists in their parishes.
All this is needed because “we can no longer assume faith on the part of young people who have attended Catholic schools” or who come from Catholic families.
Once again, it is Archbishop Martin who (virtually alone among the Irish hierarchy?) is articulating both the nature of the monumental challenges facing the Irish Catholic Church; seeing the need for truly revolutionary change; and arguing that such change can only begin with a spiritual encounter with the living God through his Word.
But here’s a question, and I may get in trouble for putting it this way. I’d welcome comments, especially from those who grew up within Irish Catholicism.
He doesn’t use these words, but he’s addressing, within a Catholic framework, the legacy of Irish Christendom. A legacy that did ‘assume faith‘ at every step of life:
– Assumed regeneration and membership of the church through baptism
– Assumed receiving of Jesus in First Communion
– Assumed a real personal active Christian life via a sacramentalism that valued attendance at Mass above all else
– Assumed knowledge of faith and the Scriptures through Catholic-controlled schooling
– Assumed mature commitment to Jesus and reception of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation
And at every step such assumptions worked against the 4 points at the start of this post. Personal faith was marginalised and actively discouraged, as was reading of the Bible. The system, in good modernist / Christendom style did it all for you. Everyone was ‘in’ from the get go, the rest of the Christian life became an optional extra.
And now, as Irish Catholicism faces unprecedented decline and crisis those assumptions are rightly being questioned. Archbishop Martin is right, revolutionary change is needed. I pray and hope great spiritual renewal does arrive out of the present brokeness.
But at the same time I wonder if the very structure of Catholicism has an ‘inbuilt resistence’ to the very hopes that the Pope and Archbishop Martin give voice to. The theological framework that gave rise to those assumptions is all still in place and not going to change.
I know this may sound like the arrogance of a non-Catholic evangelical, but there is plenty of discussion of the weaknesses of evangelicalism on this blog, so I hope not.