Breakthrough for Family-Led Sacraments Model in Dublin

Nov 12, 2020 | 1 comment

Pope Francis and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, 2014

Dublin families who participated readily in a greatly changed model of preparation of children for early sacraments in 2020 have expressed a new appreciation for these sacraments – resulting in a ‘no going back’ attitude for all – clergy included.

Smaller scale and more intimate ceremonies led by families, amidst the unexpected restrictions of the pandemic, allowed for online listening to parents – and then, in response, full engagement  in preparing their children at home.

A traditional school-centred model of sacramental preparation had been unable to capture the interest of many parents, over many years. The result had been unconvincing participation and interest in the ceremony itself for too many of those present. For practising parishioners this had therefore become increasingly a cause of despondency and dissatisfaction.

The need to move towards a parish-and-family model had already been agreed in Dublin when the Pandemic struck early in the year, but new and challenging circumstances added an extra dimension to that change.

The involvement of parents in a prior listening and preparation process by parish workers had greatly raised their appreciation of and motivation for the ceremonies themselves, and given parish personnel new insight into, and respect for, the commitment of parents to the task of forming their children for a happy, caring and responsible adult life, and for committed, loving relationships.

The resulting assessment of the Dublin Diocesan  Sacraments Implementation Group  (SIG) began with:

” There was a universal, strong positive feeling about the 2020 sacraments – celebrations that were smaller, simpler, more intimate, and more prayerful, without the usual fuss and fanfare. Priests were struck by the amount of appreciation expressed by parents. There was a sense of ‘there’s something in this’. Parishes want to hold on to this next year and not go back. They are encouraged in this by the reactions of both parents and schools to this years’ experience.”

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin insists also that due to the shock of the Pandemic more widely for the church, and also what has been learned from it, there can be no question of a return to ‘the way things used to be’.

“I believe that we will be experiencing the most far-reaching change in the religious culture of Irish society since Vatican II.”

The vivid detail of this first experiment in family and parish preparation given in the documents Dr Martin has circulated (listed and linked below) makes them probably of historic importance in documenting a turning point in the life of the church in Ireland’s biggest diocese. We neither can, nor should we want to, go back to the ‘low-energy’, ‘low-interest’ and ‘whatever’ way things used to be.

And that is true everywhere, not just in Dublin.

REFLECTIONS OF ARCHBISHOP DIARMUID MARTIN – 9th November 2020
REFLECTIONS OF ARCHBISHOP DIARMUID MARTIN – 10th November 2020
DOCUMENT ONE: LISTENING PROCESS UNDERTAKEN BY THE SIG
DOCUMENT TWO: WORK-IN-PROGRESS REPORT, OCTOBER 2020
LISTENING TO AND LEARNING FROM PARENTS
MEETING POINTS (ASSESSING AFTERWARDS WHAT HAD HAPPENED THIS YEAR)
THE POINTERS WE SEE FOR SACRAMENTAL PRACTICE

REFLECTIONS OF ARCHBISHOP DIARMUID MARTIN (1)
ON THE CURRENT COVID 19 SITUATION
LISTENING TO PARENTS

9th November 2020

When the current pandemic broke out earlier this year, very few of us imagined that we would still be living with many restrictions months later as we prepare for Christmas.

The current Level 5 restrictions have had very serious effects on our ability to carry out normal liturgical life in the Archdiocese of Dublin. This follows on similar restrictions that had earlier affected those parts of the diocese in counties Kildare and Laois and then in County Dublin.

The indications are that these measures are having some effect on controlling the spread of the virus, but this is not yet the case in some parts of county Dublin. It is vital that everyone takes his or her responsibilities seriously and that we work together in curbing the virus. None of us is to second-guess the severity of the situation. None of us is authorised to self-exempt from the public norms. None of us is authorised to place people’s health at risk.

Whereas it is expected that measures will be relaxed in the first weeks of December, it is not to be excluded that restrictive measures may have to be imposed again after Christmas. It is likely and indeed understandable that the numbers of those who will be permitted to attend religious services over the Christmas period will be restricted. Many will wish to attend Christmas Mass, though the numbers may not be huge. Many people will still be anxious about attending any large gathering of people.

I notice in some United States dioceses that it is being suggested that a greater number of Masses be celebrated on Christmas Day. This would require ensuring that Churches can be sanitised, numbers of those attending be monitored, and that sufficient time be allotted between each celebration. In order to avoid people having to be turned away from Churches, the idea of some form of advanced booking might be proposed. People might be encouraged to attend Mass on different days during Christmas week. These are just suggestions from the US.

We should also be looking at other possibilities. I believe that we could encourage families with their children to visit the Christmas crib for private prayer. Each parish could provide some short prayer that could be recited on the occasion. To foster an authentic Christian culture of Christmas, in addition to online Masses, parishes could provide online ceremonies of Christmas music and readings. These could include celebrations for and by children, while respecting current restrictions. We could consider a simple parish Christmas greeting, to be delivered to families.

The traditional RDS Christmas Day lunch for the homeless which has been held for many years by the Knights of Saint Columbanus, cannot be held this year, but a number of central distribution points will provide take-away food for the homeless on Christmas Day. Parishes might be able to provide some services to reach out to the homeless and the lonely on Christmas Day. The Capuchin Day Centre has continued to provide food on a take-away basis right throughout the lockdown, even using the Church building as a possible place for the homeless to sit and eat their food.

In situations of a sharp rise in the numbers contracting the virus, the limitation of public worship can be justified. This has been reasserted in these days in Great Britain and by French Courts. This restriction however should be limited to the shortest period necessary. The effort of our parishes to prepare our Church buildings and to supervise attendance has been extraordinary and the level of risk in our Churches is very low. However in addition to attendance at Mass, the questions of the movement of people and the maintenance of social distancing on arrival and departure and the presence of a high proportion of vulnerable people at Mass are considerations that the public health authorities cannot ignore.

The four Archbishops have made representation to the Taoiseach regarding reopening Churches for public worship at the earliest opportunity. While being sympathetic to our request, the Taoiseach did not feel in a position make any definitive commitment at this moment.

It is interesting to note that Pope Francis has ceased holding his weekly General Audience in public and has noted that his Christmas liturgies will be celebrated with very limited public attendance.

One way or another, for the foreseeable future public participation at Masses will remain limited. This is the situation in which we will have to live and carry out ministry for the coming months and possibly even longer. As I said recently, while attendance at public worship is suspended, the Christian life is not suspended. The life of the Church must go on and must go on with renewed vigour. Our wounded society needs the witness of authentically lived Christian lives. We have to be creative in finding new ways of reaching out especially to young families.

Over the next few days, I hope to be able to open a dialogue on how we may be able to proceed and I would appreciate receiving your suggestions. The Sacraments Implementation Group, established by the Council of Priests, has provided me with feedback from their Deanery Consultations with some recommendations about how we should prepare for the celebration of the First Holy Communion and Confirmation next year. I will forward these to you soon.

I know that the current situation has challenged each one of us in our ministry and indeed in our own lives. We need to intensify our sense of common purpose and a pastoral response to a situation we had never foreseen. Let us remember each other in our prayers.

+Diarmuid Martin November 9th 2020

REFLECTIONS OF ARCHBISHOP DIARMUID MARTIN (2)

ON THE CURRENT COVID 19 SITUATION
10 November 2020

Yesterday I mentioned the work of the Sacraments Implementation Group (SIG) established by the Diocesan Council of Priests and the feedback that the group gathered at recent Deanery Meetings. I follow up today by sending you two documents:

• A short summary of the working procedure used by the Group
• A longer document summarising the feedback received.

It is a lengthy documentation. I believe that it can form the basis for realistic reflection on how we hope to prepare for and celebrate the Sacraments in the coming years. I recognise that each parish is different. The numbers presenting for Sacraments in some parishes is huge, and would require an extremely large number of smaller ceremonies.

We have to be aware that when the current pandemic situation ends and we return to something like normal, the situation will be quite different to what we have been used to. I believe that we will be experiencing the most far-reaching change in the religious culture of Irish society since Vatican II. This will require radical change, but it will be an opportunity to renew our Church, involving greater participation of lay men and women sharing in our common pastoral mission.

You might like to discuss these documents with various grouping in your parish and send me your reactions. The material could be discussed then at the December Deanery Meetings.

DOCUMENT ONE: LISTENING PROCESS UNDERTAKEN BY THE SIG

The SIG then began a process of listening to parishes’ experience of the sacraments in 2020. Over 30 parishes shared with us. We then invited VFs to share feedback from the October deanery discussions of the sacraments. This feedback was very much along the same lines as what we had been hearing and can be summarised as follows;

1. There was a universal, strong positive feeling about the 2020 sacraments – celebrations that were smaller, simpler, more intimate, and more prayerful, without the usual fuss and fanfare. Priests were struck by the amount of appreciation expressed by parents. There was a sense of ‘there’s something in this’. Parishes want to hold on to this next year and not go back. They are encouraged in this by the reactions of both parents and schools to this years’ experience.

2. At the same time, many parishes still have to complete 2020 sacraments. They are concerned about that (and about Christmas), not about 2021 sacraments. The suggestion of taking a ‘breather’ now was received positively (as well, parents and schools are not thinking about dates). Parishes are uncertain about 2021; they find it hard to visualise how the 2021 sacraments will work out. They are focused on practicalities rather than pastoral strategy for the future.

3. Looking ahead, the strongest pastoral concern was for outreach to parents. The main thread in this was about ‘people resources’; local leaders, trained to accompany parents. The accompaniment was usually spoken of in catechetical terms.

4. Parishes envisaged themselves in a continuing relationship with the school. There is a sense that a move from school-led to parish-led sacraments has begun, but that it will be gradual. Parishes value the school’s role and do not want to lose it. Some want to push ahead with the transition. Others feel quite dependent on the schools.

5. Where it came up, parishes were receptive to the idea of parish-based registration and to being helped with setting it up. Some already have it in place; others are exploring it for next year. It was also clear that it will not be doable at this stage in all places.

6. Parishes see the need for online ways of connecting with families, as well as for support in developing this capability.

DOCUMENT TWO: WORK-IN-PROGRESS REPORT, OCTOBER 2020

PREAMBLE

Family sacraments during and after the Covid pandemic

In December 2019, the Archbishop initiated a move from a school-based to a parish -based approach to the family sacraments, setting up the Sacraments Implementation Group (SIG). Within a few months, the Covid pandemic had fundamentally disrupted the normal pattern for the sacraments during 2020. Parishes had to manage as best they could, without school supports. This resulted in ceremonies (where they could happen) that were smaller and simpler. These were well received by both parents and parish personnel.

There is huge uncertainty about what can happen in 2021. However, from our work in the SIG, a few things are clear.

Firstly we had in 2020, by accident rather than design, an intimation of the future of the sacraments that parishes now want to sustain. This is not just our view; it is the view of parish personnel across the diocese. Secondly, while our brief in the SIG is to plan for the longer term implementation of parish-led family sacraments, we cannot ignore the specific challenges arising for 2021.

It is our sense that both of these actually align. We believe that 2020 was already a stepping stone towards a new way of doing the family sacraments. We believe that 2021 can be a further stepping stone. We believe it is achievable to have a practical approach to managing the family sacraments for the coming year that also progresses a new vision for them – family-centred, parish-led, with home-based preparations.

What follows offers an elaboration of that vision and a view on how it can be progressed in 2021. Part (1) gives the background to our work. Part (2) reports on our listening to parents exercise. Part (3) reports on the October deanery discussions and identifies meeting points between what the deaneries and the parents are saying. Part (4) draws out pointers from this for future practice. Part (V) sketches what that practice might look like. The Appendix is a summary of what parents said in the listening exercise.

(1) THE STORY SO FAR

In general terms, the diocesan decision to move from school-based to parish-based sacraments would make for a new situation where;
– There is direct communication between parish and parents.
– Participation is deliberate rather than automatic, parents voluntarily opting in or out.
– Celebrations are smaller-scale, more intimate, and not based on the school class unit.
– All this would make for some reduction in the number of parents wishing to participate.

The research and consultations of 2019 indicate that ‘the mind of the diocese’ is that we do not want to continue with the current system of ‘automatic’ access. At the same time, there is little wish for ‘raising the bar’ in a way that could lead to a church ‘for the few’.[1] There is a desire not to lose contact with the majority of families, who are not regular churchgoers.

The way forward, then, is to find new ways to maintain contact with families, ways that both they and the parish find meaningful. But the context is complex and it will be quite an achievement to do this, to steer a path between an approach that makes high demands and one that makes hardly any.

The key to this, as we see it, is a shift to focusing on parents, within the parish-based approach. It is clear that their interest and motivation are critical to what happens in the sacramental process.

But parents are not an homogenous group. We identified three categories: churchgoers; not churchgoers but open; not interested.[2] There is not ‘one size fits all’. Differentiated goals and approaches are called for.

The great majority of our parents are not regular churchgoers. Of these, a substantial portion are in the category ‘not churchgoers but open’. Perhaps more than half are in this category? In the new situation sketched above, they could well be the main category of parents.

Familiar approaches, both here and elsewhere, are geared to churchgoers and churchgoing. The terms ‘catechesis’ and ‘adult religious education’ apply to these. Only very few parents respond. The experience is that most parents (not only non-churchgoers) are not attracted by these approaches. Their experience is often one of ‘captive audiences’ and ‘jumping through hoops’.

What kind of approach might be more fruitful? We felt that our next step should be to listen to these parents. This would be in the spirit of Francis’ vision of parish; ‘it really is in contact with the homes and the lives of its people, and does not become a useless structure out of touch with people’.[3] A listening exercise would seek to learn about their world. That might yield indications as to what kind of approach would connect with them.

(2) LISTENING TO PARENTS

The listening exercise we carried out consisted of 40-minute one-to-one zoom conversations with 25 parents. All had had their children baptised and most had experienced or were about to experience First Communion. Over 80% of these parents were not regular churchgoers. They mostly represented the category of ‘not churchgoer but open’.

The parents were first invited to say a little about the story of their lives. Then they were asked about what matters most to them now, e.g., Who are the most important people in your life? What do you enjoy most? What stresses you most? How important is success? What does it mean to live a good life? How have these things changed over the years?

They were then asked about their beliefs. What are your sources for figuring out right and wrong? Do you believe in God? Where do you experience God? Do you pray? Finally they were asked about the Baptism/First Communion of their children. Why did you choose it? What was good about the experience? Was there anything less positive? Is there anything you would like to say to the diocese about future practice around these sacraments?

The appendix (separate document) offers a summary of what parents actually said; reading it will bring to life the learnings listed here.

What we learned from parents:

1) We came to an appreciation of the depth and richness of their lives, the seriousness with which they live their lives.
2) Family is absolutely central in their lives. They have readjusted the balance of their lives and their priorities to this end. The experience of bringing up a family is teaching them about the meaning of life.
3) They have a deep appreciation that ‘success’ in life goes beyond the material. It is about the quality of relationships and about values-inspired living.
4) While they are not regular churchgoers, faith is not absent from their lives. This varies, from a weaker sense of God and prayer to a strong sense of an option deliberately thought out.
5) The faith element is most evident in their deep sense of values, particularly of being an other-centred person. This echoes strongly with the core values of the gospel, even though there is little explicit reference to Christ.[4] 6) There is a strong desire among these parents to instil in their children what they themselves value. They want their children to be formed in the values they believe in. They also desire that their children grow up with a sense of God and of prayer.
7) The family sacraments are highly valued by these parents. They value them as family events, as key moments in an ongoing family tradition. They hope that the church would honour and respect all that is sacred to them in this.
8) Within this family context, they see the sacraments as part of the process of communicating to their children their own sense of values, of God and of prayer.
9) Their disposition towards church is complex. There is a lingering fondness for what they were brought up in. But Mass/church is not where the spiritual connection is now happening for them. Their experience has led them to low levels of confidence in the church. Mass-going does not work with a young family. Most of them do not experience church as geared towards including, welcoming and affirming them as young parents. In addition, they feel an alienation from its language and its teachings.[5] 10) These parents strongly affirm the direction in which the diocese is moving with First Communion. They particularly welcome an approach where parents are invited to opt in and actively play their part.

(3) MEETING POINTS

The SIG then began a process of listening to parishes’ experience of the sacraments in 2020. Over 30 parishes shared with us. We then invited VFs to share feedback from the October deanery discussions of the sacraments. This feedback was very much along the same lines as what we had been hearing and can be summarised as follows;

1. There was a universal, strong positive feeling about the 2020 sacraments – celebrations that were smaller, simpler, more intimate, more prayerful, without the usual fuss and fanfare. Priests were struck by the amount of appreciation expressed by parents. There was a sense of ‘there’s something in this’. Parishes want to hold on to this next year and not go back. They are encouraged in this by the reactions of both parents and schools to this years’ experience.

2. At the same time, many parishes still have to complete 2020 sacraments. They are concerned about that (and about Christmas), not about 2021 sacraments. The suggestion of taking a ‘breather’ now was received positively (as well, parents and schools are not thinking about dates). Parishes are uncertain about 2021; they find it hard to visualise how the 2021 sacraments will work out. They are focused on practicalities rather than pastoral strategy for the future.

3. Looking ahead, the strongest pastoral concern was for outreach to parents. The main thread in this was about ‘people resources’; local leaders, trained to accompany parents. The accompaniment was usually spoken of in catechetical terms.

4. Parishes envisaged themselves in a continuing relationship with the school. There is a sense that a move from school-led to parish-led sacraments has begun, but that it will be gradual. Parishes value the school’s role and do not want to lose it. Some want to push ahead with the transition. Others feel quite dependent on the schools.

5. Where it came up, parishes were receptive to the idea of parish-based registration and to being helped with setting it up. Some already have it in place; others are exploring it for next year. It was also clear that it will not be doable at this stage in all places.

6. Parishes see the need for online ways of connecting with families, as well as for support in developing this capability.

We find that there are strong meeting points or convergences between this and what the parents said, along with some difference of emphasis.

From our interviews it is clear that parents themselves want more intimate ceremonies rather than big events. This was most evident in what they said about baptism but applies to the other sacraments also. The kind of ceremonies we had in 2020 correspond strongly with what the occasions mean to the families. Those kind of ceremonies create a space for the kind of welcome and belonging and affirmation that families appreciate and warm to; a space for a transformed kind of interaction between family and parish.

The parents we spoke with, like the parishes, value the part played by the school. At the same time, most of them welcome the move to parish-based sacraments. They see this as bringing parents more into the picture, asking them to opt in and play their part. This again echoes strongly with what parishes are saying. The move to parish-based registration would be a specific expression of this.

The kind of outreach parents are most likely to connect with is more family-centred than church-centred, connecting with their world. While parishes tend to talk in terms of ‘catechetical’ outreach, this may be more akin to ‘evangelisation’. Catechesis may come later for most parents. This family-centred outreach would seem to have the greatest potential for widespread appeal. It may make quite manageable demands on parish capacity; that would be a significant meeting point with parish concerns about capacity.

(4) THE POINTERS WE SEE FOR SACRAMENTAL PRACTICE

People in parish ministry will see the parent interviews through different lenses. Some will voice their concern about the many parents who seem to have little interest in the meaning of the sacraments. This exercise does not deny that, but it also paints a positive picture, of a strong constituency of parents who live life at depth, who are not regular churchgoers, but who want an intimate experience of the sacraments that speaks to the meanings they find in them.
What we hope will be recognised by people in parish ministry is the correspondence between their experience of the 2020 sacraments – smaller, simpler and more intimate – and what is emerging from the parent interviews.

We propose that the diocese develops an approach that keeps these parents in mind, but which would also be attractive to parents in other categories. We would take where they are at as our starting point and build from there. The approach would be appreciative of what is real and good in their lives; conscious of what is present in their lives and not just of what is absent.

This would be in the spirit of Francis’ accompaniment, where mission removes its sandals before the sacred ground of the other. This accompaniment begins in listening to the reality of people’s lives. [6]It begins, not so much by ‘bringing’ God to people, but rather by speaking with them about the God who is already there in their lives.

These could be described as parents with high family values and low church connection. In line with this, the approach we propose is one where the ‘direction of travel’ is different from usual. It is one where the church focuses on the family rather than trying only to focus the family on the church. This might make for a ‘bridge’ where there is traffic going in both directions.

The goal would be that parents experience a powerful ‘resonance’ of the core good news of the gospel with the core of their family lives.[7] This is the spirit of ‘accompanying’; communicating the good news in a way that is ‘in tune’ with the depth in people’s lives. It may be more akin to ‘evangelisation’ than ‘catechesis’. They would experience the church affirming what is precious to them, rejoicing in and celebrating the grace in their lives.

The hope would be that this in turn could generate a sense of belonging to and confidence in the church, where church becomes a stronger part of their identity. This may not lead to churchgoing for many of them, but it would be a connection that could be built on subsequently. Once such a connection is made (evangelisation), there might be an opening to what we know as catechesis – as a further stage in ‘accompanying’.

Vatican II called Eucharist the ‘source and summit’ of the Christian life.[8] These pointers may be asking us to attend to the ‘source’ aspect. The sacramental experience can be seen as ‘facilitating’ a journey and not just as its completion.[9] If the experience is such that parents feel affirmed and honoured; if they feel more identified with the faith community; then something has been initiated that can be built upon afterwards.

(5) 2021 AND BEYOND: AN OUTLINE

As of now a range of scenarios seem possible for 2021. At the most positive end, it may be possible to complete our sacramental programme over the year, albeit on the smaller, simpler scale as achieved in 2020. (With the new lockdown this now looks more problematic). If the pandemic continues on its current trajectory we may have to cut back on or postpone our programme for the year. Given that broader picture, our listening to parents and parish personnel indicates a practical convergence on how we can approach the sacraments in 2021 and beyond. There are three core elements to this:

1. Parish personnel are looking for simple, practical models of sacramental celebration that can work within Covid restrictions and parish capacity.
2. Parish personnel are also looking to engage the parents more deeply in the preparations.
3. Parents are looking for more personal forms of the celebrations that give expression to their sense of these as significant family moments.
These point to the sacraments as potentially fruitful connecting points between church and family life. For that to work they need to accommodate two-way traffic; allowing the parish to communicate its sense of the significance of the moment, and for the family to communicate its sense. We see three moments around each of the sacraments where these connections can be developed.

A. Preparation

 For all the sacraments, the families register their interest with the parish. This entails in turn a parish capacity to develop and manage such a register.
 There are a range of catechetical resources, many of them on-line, which parishes can offer to parents to help them appreciate more the meaning of the sacraments. In 2021 this may be the only form of catechesis that is possible. However that still represents only one part of the two-way communication.
 We also need resources that bring family life and meanings to the sacraments. These are less readily available and we will need to generate them. But there are some examples. For Baptism, a template that can allow the families to express prayers of thanksgiving and hope for the new child. For Reconciliation and First Communion, simple home-based activities (posters, drawings) that capture something of family life and love. For Confirmation, templates for the candidates to express their hopes for their future for themselves, for how they will care for others, for how they will relate to God.
B. Ceremony
The exigencies of the moment and the desire of parents point in the same direction; smaller, simpler and more personal ceremonies that bring together the voices of the family and parish. Drawing on what worked well in the 2020 experience, on resources generally available and on resources that we generate, we will offer;
 Models of celebration adhering to Covid and diocesan guidelines;
 Models for how the home-activity is incorporated simply into the ceremonies;
 Models of homilies that speak to family life as represented in the ceremonies and communicate the good news of the gospel.
C. Follow-up

A positive experience of the sacrament creates an openness to further engagement. While the practicalities of this in 2021 may be difficult, we will be offering models of best practice regarding how parishes have managed to stay connected with young families after each of the sacraments. A core resource here will be the parish family register which will enable the parish to have direct on-going contact.

________________________________________
[1] The sentiment is from Francis, Querida Amazonia, 27.
[2] This is similar to Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 14; ‘New evangelisation’ happens in three principal settings, (a) the faithful who regularly take part; plus those with a real faith who don’t take part in worship, (b) the baptised who lack a meaningful relationship with the church, (c) those who do not know Christ.
[3] Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 27.
[4] Compare Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 68; It would show a lack of trust in [God’s] free and unstinting activity to think that authentic Christian values are absent where great numbers of people have received baptism and express their faith and solidarity with others in a variety of ways … The immense importance of a culture marked by faith cannot be overlooked… An evangelised popular culture contains values of faith and solidarity capable of encouraging the development of a more just and believing society, and possesses a particular wisdom which ought to be gratefully acknowledged.
[5] See Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 63; We must recognize that if part of our baptised people lack a sense of belonging to the Church, this is also due to certain structures and the occasionally unwelcoming atmosphere of some of our parishes and communities, or to a bureaucratic way of dealing with problems, be they simple or complex, in the lives of our people. In many places an administrative approach prevails over a pastoral approach, as does a concentration on administering the sacraments apart from other forms of evangelisation.
[6] Evangelii Gaudium 169.
[7] Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 35; Pastoral ministry in a missionary style is not obsessed with the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines… the message has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary. The message is simplified, while losing none of its depth and truth, and thus becomes all the more forceful and convincing.
[8] Lumen Gentium 11.
[9] This is in the spirit of Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 47; The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open… Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason. This is especially true of the sacrament which is itself ‘the door’: baptism. The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness. Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators.

But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.

1 Comment

  1. Sean O'Conaill

    Pauline Connolly posted this to our info email address:


    Thank you for all your efforts in Christian renewal and metanoia.

    Yes, it is encouraging to see we now recognise Parents can lead: they
    did during my childhood…. Would my or your parents recognise our
    Christian community today including our leaders, I doubt.

    Yes times are different…is that enough to blank out our Creator. “Without a
    vibrant sense of Incarnate Presence the Human and Divine we will drift
    away from each other,”and as W.B.Yeats warns us “all evidence of
    Incarnation will be erased from the earth”

    My hope is some inspirational ways will be prepared and widely
    circulated on the Birth of Jesus and the real basic meaning, heart,
    wonder, miracle and redemptive nature of same, the small crib tells an
    astonishing story in the midst of the hype, frenzy and commercialism
    taking place today is the Nativity scene and all the excitement
    preparing it to be seen in homes today and Why not?

    There are suitable persons out there who would present writings in
    simple yet authentic, attractive ways…in a magnetic manner to arouse
    interest and follow up. (leaving aside all the theological
    presentations)

    Patrick Kavanagh, W.B.Yeats, Daniel O’Leary could do it . What a
    reflection on present Christian leaders with so much digital and
    social media and snippet radio, tv plays etc, can we not participate
    and witness to Incarnation in its richness and Cosmic dimension for as
    P. Kavanagh says “the light of the stable lamp was a star, And the
    frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle”.

    At this rich and absorbing period of Advent and Christmas many are
    hungry for the message, lets bravely and boldly in deep faith and
    trust relaunch out to the depts.

    Advent, Christmas blessings, peace, joy and happiness to you all.

    Pauline Connolly

    Many thanks, Pauline – a heartening message that is very precious to us just now!

    Reply

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