By Members of Our Lady's Warriors
Commentary Copyright 1999 by Our Lady's Warriors. All Rights Reserved.
Note: Watch words and phrases are underlined; commentary is presented following Renew 2000 text.
In the past two Seasons of RENEW 2000, we have focused on who God is and the love that God has for us as well as on our ongoing need to change, that is, to put on the mind of Christ. We not only are called to a loving relationship with Jesus Christ, but also we are invited to reach out to others to share that relationship and bring the Good News of salvation through Christ to the entire world. The Bishops of the United States, in their national plan and strategy for evangelization in the United States, Go and Make Disciples, have rephrased Pope Paul VI's words by saying that evangelization "means bringing the Good News of Jesus into every human situation and seeking to convert individuals and society by the divine power of the Gospel itself. Its essence is the proclamation of salvation in Jesus Christ and the response of a person in faith, both being the work of the Holy Spirit." In their document, they articulated three major goals of evangelization:
In this third Season of RENEW 2000, the focus will be on reaching out to others through evangelization. We will look at reaching out in the ways in which we live our lives and through our witness. John Paul II calls us to a "new evangelization," "new in its zeal, new in its methods, new in its expression"-one in which we meet people in the ordinary circumstances of their lives and share the Good News of salvation with them. As members of the Catholic Church, we experience the richness of our faith tradition in our parish communities. We welcome those who are interested to come and share in what we are experiencing. Our hope is that, in time, they will come to share our vision of the Church as divinely founded and inspired and will appreciate Christ's continuing action in the community -- especially in the Mass and sacraments.
Frequently, in our parishes, an informal small community of believers provides an excellent first contact and entry point for the inquirer. Our evangelizing efforts go beyond outreach to individuals and also include our endeavor to evangelize our culture and all of society. In this evangelizing activity, the Spirit is the principal agent who leads and guides us. Pope Paul VI, in his Apostolic Exhortation On Evangelization in the Modern World, called upon Mary, the first disciple, to be the "star" of evangelization. We can look to Mary to learn how to evangelize for she was there at the moment of Pentecost. Like Mary, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to continue to bring forth the Good News of God's love to all the world.
For us, as Catholics, evangelization may be a difficult concept. If we have not been evangelized ourselves, then we will not know how to evangelize others. In these sessions, we will focus on some concrete approaches to becoming more evangelized persons, communities and parishes so that we can reach out and share the Good News with others. After Week 2, each person is encouraged to reach out and invite someone to come to the third session. This is a practical step that we can take to evangelize. The concluding weeks of Season III will focus on our call as Catholics to have an ecumenical perspective. In Week 5, we will reflect on the importance of Christians from various congregations coming together. Seasons IV and V will offer opportunities for those in small communities to gather with Christians from other congregations in an ecumenical setting.
When we gather as Christians to share our faith and grow together in community, it is important that we adhere to certain principles. The following Theological Principles and Small Community Guidelines will keep your community focused and help you to grow in faith, hope and love.
Each person is led by God on his/her spiritual journey. This happens in the context of the Christian community.
Christ, the Word made flesh, is the root of Christian faith. It is because of, in and through Christ that we come together to share our faith.
Faith sharing refers to the shared reflections on the action of God in one's life experience as related to Scripture and the faith of the Church. Faith sharing is not discussion, problem solving or Scripture study. The purpose is an encounter between a person in the concrete circumstances of one's life and a loving God, leading to a conversion of heart.
The entire faith-sharing process is an expression of prayerful reflection.
RENEW 2000 Small Community Leaders are...
RENEW 2000 Small Community Leaders are not...
Gathering as a small community to share life and faith is an important aspect of parish life. This is a sacred time. When you come together, it is important that you take time to get to know one another; therefore, in the first session, begin with introductions. In the subsequent weeks, if you have anyone new to the small community, again take the necessary time for introductions. It will help you to get to know one another if you take about 10 to 15 minutes to talk a little about what has happened during the week.
Hospitality and environment are very important to the small community process. Be sure that each of you has a heart open to the others and to any newcomers. When possible, try to have a reflective environment with as few distractions as possible. You may want to have a candle and Bible where you gather in order to create a reflective atmosphere.
The suggested time for each session is about 90 minutes. (Week 1 may require an extra half hour to give time for introductions and reading the introductory materials.) Since the six weeks do not have exactly the same structure, we suggest the leader work out a time schedule prior to the session. Generally, it is important to have a balance of prayer, reflection, sharing and talking about how we are living our faith. It is important to be flexible. For example, a suggested time schedule for Week 2 would be as follows:
5 min. Introductions
5 min. Opening Prayer
10 min. Living Our Faith Sharing
1 min. Focus of the Session
15 min. Sharing Our Experience and Small Community Sharing
10 min. Listening to the Word and Reflection
25 min. Reflection and Small Community Sharing
10 min. Living Our Faith
10 min. Closing Prayer
Ordinarily, it is good to have about 15 minutes of prayer. We have tried to suggest different styles of prayer; the community itself may want to use other forms of prayer. It is helpful to try varied ways of praying because some may be more comfortable with one style while others are with another. We hope that the community will be open to different styles and open to growth into deeper union with God.
Silence is also an important part of the small community process. Taking a few minutes of quiet for reflection throughout the process may be helpful. Generally, the sharing time is about 40 to 45 minutes. This will give each person who wishes to share the opportunity to do so. It will be important for the community to recognize that each person needs the opportunity to share; therefore, no one person should dominate. Also, no one needs to share unless he or she wants to do so. It is important for the community as a whole as well as the leader to be aware of the balance in sharing.
One of the key components of faith sharing is how we take what we hear and share and live it out in our own lives. Therefore, each week offers an opportunity to make a commitment to live our faith and then to share how we did with that commitment the following week. We live in a hectic, busy world, so taking time for additional activities is not always easy. This may be a good time, however, to reassess our priorities and see how we are living our faith in our activities. We may want to change some of those activities. In addition, we may need to look at how we are living our faith in the totality of our life: in our families, in our relationships, in our work environment, etc. We may not need to do more; we may need to do less. This is a time to look at how we are living the values of Jesus and perhaps to identify new behaviors and attitudes.
Most small communities enjoy some simple refreshments after the formal session. The total time for the meeting is generally about two hours, 90 minutes for the formal session and about 30 minutes for some social time after the session.
Excerpts from Renew 2000 text are presented in italics.
We not only are called to a loving relationship with Jesus Christ,
Renew 2000 has consistently focused on a generic undefined type of "loving" relationship. A loving relationship is indicated, but that never seems to be described in the simple terms what that really means. But Jesus tells us directly in the Bible, the word that Renew never mentions - that word is obedience. For if the work obedience were used, then they would have to admit the unchanging Truth taught by the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ.
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. ... He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him." ... "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me." (John 14:15,21,23-24).
As members of the Catholic Church, we experience the richness of our faith tradition in our parish communities. We welcome those who are interested to come and share in what we are experiencing.
Renew continues to focus on experiential religion. Our Faith is not one of experience, but is a gift from God. Based on the modernism rampant in many parishes, it certainly is the case that many do not "experience" the Catholic Faith as handed down by the Apostles. We certainly do want to welcome non-Catholics, but not for the experience but rather for them to obtain the gift of Faith.
CCC #153 - When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come "from flesh and blood," but from "my Father who is in heaven." [Mt. 16:17, cf. Gal 1:15; Mt. 11:25] Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. "Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and 'makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.'"[Dei Verbum]
Pope Paul VI, in his Apostolic Exhortation On Evangelization in the Modern World, called upon Mary, the first disciple, to be the "star" of evangelization. We can look to Mary to learn how to evangelize for she was there at the moment of Pentecost. Like Mary, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to continue to bring forth the Good News of God's love to all the world.
Renew mentions that the laity are to evangelize, but leaves open what is proper to do. The focus is on experience sharing (covered above). But true evangelization is not that. To better understand what to do, see the key sections on Pope Paul VI's Apostolic Exhortation on Evangelization in the Modern World below. One very important point made in #70 below is that lay people are not to develop ecclesial community, which instead is a job for the pastor.
41. Without repeating everything that we have already mentioned, it is appropriate first of all to emphasize the following point: for the Church, the first means of evangelization is the witness of an authentically Christian life, given over to God in a communion that nothing should destroy and at the same time given to one's neighbor with limitless zeal. As we said recently to a group of lay people, "Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses." St. Peter expressed this well when he held up the example of a reverent and chaste life that wins over even without a word those who refuse to obey the word. It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesusóthe witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity.
42. Secondly, it is not superfluous to emphasize the importance and necessity of preaching. "And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?... So faith comes from what is heard and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ." This law once laid down by the Apostle Paul maintains its full force today. ...
43. This evangelizing preaching takes on many forms, and zeal will inspire the reshaping of them almost indefinitely. In fact there are innumerable events in life and human situations which offer the opportunity for a discreet but incisive statement of what the Lord has to say in this or that particular circumstance. It suffices to have true spiritual sensitivity for reading God's message in events. But at a time when the liturgy renewed by the Council has given greatly increased value to the Liturgy of the Word, it would be a mistake not to see in the homily an important and very adaptable instrument of evangelization. ...
44. A means of evangelization that must not be neglected is that of catechetical instruction. The intelligence, especially that of children and young people, needs to learn through systematic religious instruction the fundamental teachings, the living content of the truth which God has wished to convey to us and which the Church has sought to express in an ever richer fashion during the course of her long history. No one will deny that this instruction must be given to form patterns of Christian living and not to remain only notional. Truly the effort for evangelization will profit greatlyóat the level of catechetical instruction given at church, in the schools, where this is possible, and in every case in Christian homesóif those giving catechetical instruction have suitable texts, updated with wisdom and competence, under the authority of the bishops ...
45. Our century is characterized by the mass media or means of social communication, and the first proclamation, catechesis or the further deepening of faith cannot do without these means, as we have already emphasized.
When they are put at the service of the Gospel, they are capable of increasing almost indefinitely the area in which the Word of God is heard; they enable the Good News to reach millions of people. The Church would feel guilty before the Lord if she did not utilize these powerful means that human skill is daily rendering more perfect. It is through them that she proclaims "from the housetops" the message of which she is the depositary. In them she finds a modern and effective version of the pulpit. Thanks to them she succeeds in speaking to the multitudes. ...
46. For this reason, side by side with the collective proclamation of the Gospel, the other form of transmission, the person-to-person one, remains valid and important. The Lord often used it (for example, with Nicodemus, Zacchaeus, the Samaritan woman, Simon the Pharisee), and so did the apostles. ...
47. Yet, one can never sufficiently stress the fact that evangelization does not consist only of the preaching and teaching of a doctrine. For evangelization must touch life: the natural life to which it gives a new meaning, thanks to the evangelical perspectives that it reveals; and the supernatural life, which is not the negation but the purification and elevation of the natural life. This supernatural life finds its living expression in the seven sacraments and in the admirable radiation of grace and holiness which they possess. ...
70. Lay people, whose particular vocation places them in the midst of the world and in charge of the most varied temporal tasks, must for this very reason exercise a very special form of evangelization. Their primary and immediate task is not to establish and develop the ecclesial communityóthis is the specific role of the pastorsóbut to put to use every Christian and evangelical possibility latent but already present and active in the affairs of the world. Their own field of evangelizing activity is the vast and complicated world of politics, society and economics, but also the world of culture, of the sciences and the arts, of international life, of the mass media. It also includes other realities which are open to evangelization, such as human love, the family, the education of children and adolescents, professional work, suffering. The more Gospel-inspired lay people there are engaged in these realities, clearly involved in them, competent to promote them and conscious that they must exercise to the full their Christian powers which are often buried and suffocated, the more these realities will be at the service of the kingdom of God and therefore of salvation in Jesus Christ, without in any way losing or sacrificing their human content but rather pointing to a transcendent dimension which is often disregarded.
71. One cannot fail to stress the evangelizing action of the family in the evangelizing apostolate of the laity.
At different moments in the Church's history and also in the Second Vatican Council, the family has well deserved the beautiful name of "domestic Church." This means that there should be found in every Christian family the various aspects of the entire Church. Furthermore, the family, like the Church, ought to be a place where the Gospel is transmitted and from which the Gospel radiates.
In a family which is conscious of this mission, all the members evangelize and are evangelized. The parents not only communicate the Gospel to their children, but from their children they can themselves receive the same Gospel as deeply lived by them.
And such a family becomes the evangelizer of many other families, and of the neighborhood of which it forms part. Families resulting from a mixed marriage also have the duty of proclaiming Christ to the children in the fullness of the consequences of a common Baptism; they have moreover the difficult task of becoming builders of unity.
The concluding weeks of Season III will focus on our call as Catholics to have an ecumenical perspective.
Renew's version of ecumenical perspective is one of pluralism, that is accepting other's beliefs via dialogue, all based on a faith of experience (covered above). In fact, later Renew will ask you to pray yet more pagan Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist prayers. Fortunately these are better than the Prayer of Directions discussed in the Leaders Manual #2. Shown below are some key sections of Vatican II's document on Ecumenism that describe what is proper ecumenism. Therefore, a Catholic ecumenical perspective really means to being non-Catholics into the one true Faith by having a "proper grounding" in our Faith and the approval from the Bishops for a theological discussion, this being required so that the "purity of Catholic doctrine" does not suffer loss in the dialogue.
#1. The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council. Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only. However, many Christian communions present themselves to men as the true inheritors of Jesus Christ; all indeed profess to be followers of the Lord but differ in mind and go their different ways, as if Christ Himself were divided. Such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature.
For it is only through Christ's Catholic Church, which is 'the all-embracing means of salvation,' that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation. We believe that Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God.
#2. In order to establish this His holy Church everywhere in the world till the end of time, Christ entrusted to the College of the Twelve the task of teaching, ruling and sanctifying. (Cf. Mt. 28, 18-20, collato Jn. 20 21-23.) Among their number He selected Peter, and after his confession of faith determined that on him He would build His Church. Also to Peter He promised the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Cf. Mt. 16, 18, collato Mt. 18, 18.), and after His profession of love, entrusted all His sheep to him to be confirmed in faith (Cf. Lc. 22, 32.) and shepherded in perfect unity. Christ Jesus Himself was forever to remain the chief cornerstone (Cf. Eph. 2, 20.) and shepherd of our souls. (Cf. 1 Petr. 2)
Jesus Christ, then, willed that the apostles and their successors - the bishops with Peter's successor at their head - should preach the Gospel faithfully, administer the sacraments, and rule the Church in love. It is thus, under the action of the Holy Spirit, that Christ wills His people to increase, and He perfects His people's fellowship in unity: in their confessing the one faith, celebrating divine worship in common, and keeping the fraternal harmony of the family of God.
The Church, then, is God's only flock; it is like a standard lifted high for the nations to see it: (Cf. Is. 11, 10-12.) for it serves all mankind through the Gospel of peace (Cf. Eph. 2, 17-18, collato Mc. 16, 15.) as it makes its pilgrim way in hope toward the goal of the fatherland above. (Cf. 1 Petr. 1, 3-9.)
#4. The term "ecumenical movement" indicates the initiatives and activities planned and undertaken, according to the various needs of the Church and as opportunities offer, to promote Christian unity. These are: first, every effort to avoid expressions, judgments and actions which do not represent the condition of our separated brethren with truth and fairness and so make mutual relations with them more difficult; then, "dialogue" between competent experts from different Churches and Communities.
#9. We must get to know the outlook of our separated brethren. To achieve this purpose, study is of necessity required, and this must be pursued with a sense of realism and good will. Catholics, who already have a proper grounding, need to acquire a more adequate understanding of the respective doctrines of our separated brethren, their history, their spiritual and liturgical life, their religious psychology and general background. Most valuable for this purpose are meetings of the two sides-especially for discussion of theological problems-where each can treat with the other on an equal footing-provided that those who take part in them are truly competent and have the approval of the bishops. From such dialogue will emerge still more clearly what the situation of the Catholic Church really is. In this way too the outlook of our separated brethren will be better understood, and our own belief more aptly explained.
#11. The way and method in which the Catholic faith is expressed should never become an obstacle to dialogue with our brethren. It is, of course, essential that the doctrine should be clearly presented in its entirety. Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false irenicism, in which the purity of Catholic doctrine suffers loss and its genuine and certain meaning is clouded.
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