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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Theology of the Church

The following questions were compiled and presented to our "parish teaching committee" of which Dave and I are members. The teaching committee is kind of a sounding board for a persepctive priest named Aaron who is studying Theology at the St. Paul Seminary. He is preparing a paper about the theology of the church and asked for input from the members of the committee. The following are our responses; we thought some of you might be interested in the responses.

What is church?
Dave: The People of God – Christians
Linda: The Church is the result of the successful, apostolic succession instituted by Jesus Christ; He instructed the disciples to “go out into the world” and make disciples of all nations by baptizing them…” Consequently, Church is the fellowship of believers; we are Jesus’ disciples. The Church is to serve mankind’ it is to teach and provide the keys by which we come to know our Lord and Master and culminating in joining Him in Heaven. And to end our journey with God “is the whole purpose of man’s history.” CCC 450

What would make it cease to be church?
Dave: No disciples left in the world.
Linda: Church will cease to be church when it no longer:
1. Promotes the truth about God, Heaven and all of Creation
2. Evangelizes or catechizes others about the Good News
3. Cares for or fails to be the voice for the needy, the poor, unfortunate
4. Teaches others to be amazed by man’s worth and dignity. “The name of this amazement is Gospel or Good News (par 10 of Redemptoris Hominis). In other words, goes along with society’s penchant for trivializing aspects of human life through abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, same sex marriage, divorce, contraception, etc.
5. “Directs man’s gaze, to point the awareness and experience of the whole of humanity towards the mystery of God to make all aware of the profoundity of the Redemption..” Par 11 &12.

What should be the relationship between the pope and bishops?
Dave: Bishops should be obedient to the Pope in faith and morals.
Linda: They should be in full unity with each other. Pope is the head; the spokesman for the universal Church and leader of the college of Bishops. The Bishop is the head, spokesman and leader of the local Church. (diocese)There should be no dissent between the two offices. The Pope and His Bishops must lead the universal and local churches so we are not left like “sheep without a shepherd”. They must be solid, strong, charismatic; they must be the strong, loving, faithful voice of Jesus Himself.

What should be the relationship between the universal church and the local church?
Dave: The local church is to submit to the authority of the universal church.
Linda: They are to be in full unity in matters of faith and morals with each other.

What should ministry look like in the church?
Dave: Serving others.
Linda: It should look like this:
1. Lead people to the truth without adding confusion or personal doubts. The message must be clear, consistent and ordered with the universal Church.
2. Lovingly help people to understand the truth even though the message may be counter-cultural. Help people formulate a Christian Worldview that is necessarily different than a secular worldview.
3. Be faith in action helping those in need.
4. Be bold as it proclaims Christ; must imitate the original enthusiasm of the apostles who stated: “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” CCC 425.

What does it mean that we are a missionary church? How does that look globally? Locally?
Dave: Evangelize others about Jesus Christ regardless whether its’ a global or local effort.
Linda: The Church’s mission is to evangelize first and then to catechize (bring light, truth, understanding) where previously there was none or very little. The missionary effort must “extend the invitation of faith to non believers in order that they enter into the joy of having a communion with Jesus Christ.” CCC 425. This end result differs little whether the efforts are local or global. The means by which they achieve the end result must be culturally pertinent, specific and sensitive. Global missionary work means that we extend this invitation beyond our shores. Local missionary work means that we extend this invitation to those beyond our church doors including those who have left the church.

What is the purpose of the Sacraments in the Church? How do they relate to the “life” of the Church?
Dave: The purposes of the Sacraments are the means to receiving grace (blessings from God) on multiple occasions and continuously (Eucharist, Penance). They are primary to the life of the Church.
Linda: The sacraments were instituted by Christ and the Church is obliged to carry them out for our sake – to receive grace. The Sacraments commission us to become disciples who are faithful to Christ. They help us take the necessary steps between birth and death to reach Heaven. Consequently, they are the important first (baptism and confirmation), second, and final public steps (sacrament of the anointing of the sick) taken by believers that proclaims their belief in God.

What do you think is the vision of local Catholic Church? Namely what is the focus or emphasis with which you think activities, liturgies, and events are planned?
Dave: Vision: provide a School, faithful liturgy. This becomes its focus and emphasis.
Linda: I think the vision is to be a Sacramental Church and this becomes its focus: to provide the sacraments to a whole group of individuals. It is also the urgency to "go out and become active" Disciples of Christ after they receive the sacraments. The church initiates the people well but the follow-up and expectation of living a Christian life after initiation is compromised by competing interests among busy lives. For example: many churches don't have any youth or teen outreach that is solidly ‘gospel based” because youth are so busy -- and then their catechesis lags. . Also, adult catechesis after confirmation is non- existent as well with the exception of occasional Lenten or Advent speakers - again in part due to busy lives.
Many parents think that the local Catholic schools provide the necessary faith and catechesis for students but a recent survey pointed out that protestant schools do a better job of emphasizing faith whereas catholic schools emphasis is generally on academics not faith formation. We need to consider our young people as the mission fields. this proposal targets new parents, parents of teens and parents of college bound students.