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It’s worth taking another look at the “Asian Pope Francis”

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For those who watched or witnessed the recent papal visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines, it’s impossible not to have noticed the involvement of Manila’s archbishop, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle. Tagle is easily the most popular Cardinal of the Catholic Church, and not just among Filipinos. He’s been likened to Pope Francis, in wide popularity, yes, but also in his humble demeanor, authenticity and strong pastoral sense.

Much has been written about Tagle since his ordination as bishop in 2001 (now 57, he was a youthful 43 at the time. In comparison, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was made bishop at 56). His appointment as Cardinal in November of 2012 came as a surprise because of his age, but even more significant was the context of that unusual consistory. A month earlier during the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would appoint six new cardinals, which in hindsight, we know was a preemptive move leading up to his resignation on February 28th, 2013. Pope Benedict obviously wanted Tagle in the conclave.

In Pope Francis’ four day trip to the Philippines, nothing was more astonishing than the final Mass he celebrated with six-million-plus faithful Filipinos in rainy conditions. It was a record-breaking spectacle. At the end of the Mass the local bishop spoke a few words of thanks, as is the tradition, and since the celebration took place in Manila, the honor went to Cardinal Tagle.

After thanking the Pope on behalf of the people, Tagle said:

“You arrived in the Philippines three days ago. Tomorrow you will go. Every Filipino wants to go with you! Don’t be afraid, every Filipino wants to go with you—not to Rome—but to the peripheries! We want to go with you to the shanties, to prison cells, to hospitals, to the world of politics, finance, arts, sciences, culture, education, and social communications. We will go to those worlds to bring the light of Christ. Jesus is the center of your pastoral visit and the cornerstone of the Church. We will go with you, Holy Father, where the Light of Jesus is needed. Here in Luneta, the Qurino Grandstand, where heroes are revered, where newly elected presidents take office and popes meet the Filipino people; here in this place of new beginnings, please Holy Father, send us as your missionaries of light! Send us! Before you go, Holy Father, send us to spread the light of Jesus. Wherever you see the light of Jesus shining, even in Rome, even in Santa Marta, remember the Filipino people are with you in spreading the light of Jesus!”

As Cardinal Tagle spoke, he and the Pope looked at each other with great affection. There was a sense of emotion that could be felt, and it was clear to everyone that this was not a meeting of formal protocol, but a meeting of minds and hearts.

The Cardinal’s words are worth noting. They were a clear pronouncement of solidarity with the Pope and his vision of a church with Christ at its center that lives on the peripheries. The roller-coaster pontificate of Pope Francis has shown that that message is not easy to digest for some Catholics, let alone to shout from the rooftops as Tagle did.

But, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Tagle took such a stand with the current Pontiff. Yes, his humility, authenticity and pastoral sense can be likened to Francis. But Tagle has been around for a lot longer than Pope Francis. In other words, the song that Francis is singing is one Tagle knows the words to.

For example, at the 2012 Synod on the New Evangelization Tagle quickly became a major player. His intervention was one of the shortest and most direct, and helped shift the discussion away from a critique of secularism, materialism and the like, to one of genuine self-reflection. He called for a Church that is more humble; a Church that is respectful of every person, especially the neglected; a Church that has the capacity for silence, knowing it does not possess the answer to every problem facing the human family. “The world,” he said, “takes delight in a simple witness to Jesus—meek and humble of heart.”

Last October during the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, I had the chance to interview Tagle after the publication of the infamous “midterm report”. The report, which used unprecedented language of inclusion and welcome regarding people with a homosexual orientation, was criticized by some bishops who wanted to critique and amend it prior to its publication.

In our interview, Tagle defended the content of the document and praised the “spirit” and “creative tension” it communicated, feeling that it was faithful to the week-one discussions. When I asked him about the spirit inside the Synod, he called it, “a spirit of listening… which led me to a rather humble stance.” This humility, he continued, reminded the bishops that the situations families find themselves in today are often complex. Juxtaposed to the ideals of the Church’s tradition, Tagle finished by asking, “Can we allow these two realities to intersect, and allow the [Holy] Spirit to surprise us?”

I reference this last quote in order to bring us back to the original thought: the parallels between Cardinal Tagle and Pope Francis. In his homily during the closing Mass of the Synod, at which Pope Paul VI was beatified, Pope Francis said in almost “Tagle-an” words:

“God is not afraid of new things! That is why he is continually surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways. He renews us: he constantly makes us “new”. A Christian who lives the Gospel is “God’s newness” in the Church and in the world. How much God loves this “newness”!”

With the powerful image of these two bishops in front of us, we might say that a good test of humility—and faith—is the degree to which we are open to and able to be surprised by God. In the context of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, that means precisely putting the reality of complex pastoral situations in dialogue with the Church’s tradition and allowing for new possibilities to emerge. What happens at part-two of the Synod in October and in the coming years is anybody’s guess; Tagle was re-appointed last November as one of the presidents for the 2015 Synod by Francis. What we do know is that with Cardinal Tagle, Pope Francis isn’t the only “voice crying out in the wilderness” (John 1:23)

The exception to the rule: Vatican diplomacy

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Before departing for Sri Lanka on Monday, Pope Francis delivered his annual address to the diplomatic corps, providing an occasion for reflection on the matter of politics and the Church and more specifically—in light of the recent revelation of Vatican involvement in the easing of USA-Cuba relations—on the Catholic Church’s role in global politics.

2014 was a busy year for the Church diplomatically. One example was the signing of a new agreement with the government of Cape Verde on the juridical status of the Church in the predominantly Catholic island off the coast of West Africa. The deal grants a substantial degree of freedom to the Church in its charitable works and social influence. On April 3rd the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin called the deal a “historic event” and nine months later the Pope announced that in February of 2015 Bishop Arlindo Gomes Furtado will be made the first Cardinal in the country’s history.

As a general rule, foreign affairs and international diplomacy rank high on any government’s political and economic agendas. When it comes down to it, the highly complex and interdependent global economy of today can take much of the credit for that. But, as recent worldwide events of violence show, the question of security is also a factor.

The general unpredictability and instability of both economics and war/violence foster in governments an understandably defensive, if not selfish, attitude of national protectionism. It’s quite common, for example, in the aftermath of a significant incident that affects multiple nations, to hear a minister of foreign affairs, a secretary of state or a head of state say forcefully from the outset that, “we will act according to our nation’s best interests.”

Obviously, these interests will differ from nation to nation and even from one political party to another. But no degree of separation between parties would change that almost instinctual, political response of national protectionism that is a defining quality of the world of nation-states that we inhabit.

Well, almost. The Vatican is officially a nation-state, or more accurately a city-state, according to the 1929 Lateran Treaty signed with Italy that gave the Pope full sovereignty and jurisdiction over a small territory in the heart of Rome. It was a significant loss of territory, in fact—known historically as the ‘Papal States’—that was the price of this unequivocal sovereignty. At the time, the loss could be considered a great blow to the influence and prestige of the Catholic Church. But considering the complexity of our current global political reality, the signing of that treaty and the emergence of the modern Vatican City State could be seen as providential.

Consider the recent diplomatic efforts of the Vatican between long-time adversaries Cuba and the United States. Pope Francis took the initiative by sending heads of state Barack Obama and Raul Castro a letter calling for a closer, more open relationship, after which the Vatican in October hosted a delegation from each country to examine new possibilities. In separate December 17th press conferences the two presidents acknowledged the Vatican’s efforts and personally thanked Pope Francis.

Generally speaking, what has to be recognized today is the utter exceptionality of the Vatican City State as a voice in global politics. Granted, Vatican City State is not the same thing as the Holy See, that is, the primatial See or ‘chair’ of Roman Catholicism. As the pontificate of Pope Francis has demonstrated rather pointedly, the Bishop of Rome is primarily a pastoral office, concerned with serving the spiritual needs of Catholics around the world and presiding over the local churches in charity (See the Pope’s first address, March 13, 2013).

But, interestingly enough, it is exactly this pastoral mandate that in turn gives so much freedom and potential to the diplomatic arm of the Vatican City State. When we reasonably presume that the first words out of the mouth of a political leader regarding foreign affairs will be, “we will act according to our nation’s best interests,” we can also presume they would be the last words out of the mouth of the Pope. Because the “best interests” of the Church are simply the wellbeing and progress of the human family itself, it is able to mediate as a nation-state between nation-states in a uniquely trustworthy manner.

It would be a mistake to conclude, as some have done in the aftermath of the USA-Cuba announcement, that this kind of approach is entirely the result of “the Francis effect”. Granted, the impetus for easing restrictions between the US and Cuba may not have come at this time otherwise, the Vatican’s approach has been consistent for many years.

In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI was received in Cuba by Raul Castro, and then met privately with his brother and former president Fidel Castro. He was blasted by political—and some Catholic—conservatives in the US for giving the communist brothers any time of day. Ahead of the trip Benedict did criticize communism as an ideology that doesn’t correspond to reality and has failed Cuba, but later denounced the 50-year-old US embargo for its “restrictive economic measures.”

In perhaps his most enlightening comments of the trip, Benedict said of the Church that, “We want to help in a spirit of dialogue to avoid traumas and to help move forward a society which is fraternal and just, which is what we desire for the whole world.”

That, in a nutshell, is what the Vatican and the whole Catholic Church strives for diplomatically. And if we read Pope Francis’ most recent address to the diplomatic corps and the disheartening list of tragedies and conflicts afflicting many parts of the world, we will see that the Church’s political know-how is not only unique, but absolutely essential.

The Francis effect is about ‘accountability and transparency,’ says Alison Smith

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Point of View: Interpreting the Francis Effect is a S+L series that goes deeper into the important questions surrounding the person and pontificate of Pope Francis.  The series consists of a selection of the full interviews from S+L’s original documentary The Francis Effect.

This week: Alison Smith

Alison Smith is a renowned and highly respected journalist best known for her work with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.  She has covered important church events, including the visits of Pope John Paul II to Canada, his funeral in 2005, and the election of Pope Francis in 2013.  She posits that Pope Francis is changing the popular narrative around the Catholic Church, but that his work is still incomplete.  As an outside observer, she perceptively notes that the success of the Francis effect may not be determined solely by what the Pope does, but by what others do in response.  Questions, she says, still need to be asked.

Watch Episode 2 of Point of View: Interpreting the Francis Effect

Airs Sunday, January 11, 2015

8:30 pm ET / 5:30 pm PT

Only on Salt and Light Television

Director of JRS Syria: “We don’t have the right to do nothing”

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The Director of Jesuit Refugee Services in Syria, Fr. Nawras Sammour, SJ visited Toronto last week to speak about the ongoing civil war and refugee crisis plaguing his home country. The event, which was co-hosted by Canadian Jesuits International and Development and Peace, was held at the Jesuit parish of Our Lady of Lourdes in downtown Toronto.

Speaking to close to one hundred people gathered in the parish center, Fr. Sammour outlined the work of JRS Syria which includes emergency and ongoing medical care, and educational and psycho-social treatment. Their centers serve more than 35,000 families.

Echoing one of Pope Francis’ central teachings, Fr. Sammour said that “the most important work we can do is accompanying people. That is our primary responsibility.”

In a country torn apart by more than three years of political and religious sectarianism, the only response for JRS is to stand with those who suffer the most. “We are weak,” he said, “but being the weakest and the lowest is a grace in this regard: that nobody is threatened by us or afraid of us. And so we must use this grace to talk to everyone and try to build a better future for everyone.”

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Jesuit Refugee Services, which is supported in part financially by Development and Peace, does not consider religious or political affiliation when serving refugees. Anyone who is in need can come to their centers, where they will be served by professionals and volunteers who themselves come from diverse backgrounds.

“Parents come with their children and the parents are sick and hungry, but they are seeking care for their children first,” he said, “only on an airplane do you have to put your own oxygen mask on first and then help your children. In Syria the parents come and say, “Please, my children are hungry, help them first.””

While millions of Syrians have fled to neighboring Arab countries including Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, Fr. Sammour reminded everyone that the largest group of displaced persons are still in Syria. They have been forced to flee their homes and move to less-violent areas, and their stories are often ignored or quickly forgotten.

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Against overwhelming odds and dwindling resources, JRS continues its work accompanying refugees in their daily struggles. “We don’t have the right to do nothing,” said Fr. Sammour.

“This is a civil war, but it’s not only a civil war. It is also political, economic and religious… The attitudes that are prevailing refuse to accept a ‘win-win’ situation. In their own minds, they have to win and everybody else has to lose. We are all losers in this catastrophe, the attitudes need to change.”

Jesuit Refugee Services link: http://en.jrs.net/index

Development and Peace link: http://www.devp.org/en

Is your neighbor a Saint?

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Historically speaking, the church had to take root somewhere. When in the early 30’s AD Jesus of Nazareth was executed, rose from the dead and sent his Spirit to be with his little band of disciples, Rome was the dominant political and social player. Peter and Paul brought the faith to Rome before being executed there, and the institutional church has been intimately tied with the city ever since.

Four hundred and fifty years later, the Roman Empire fell and the then predominant Christian religion became the last surviving bastion of Roman memory and culture. It’s with good reason then, that we call it the Roman Catholic Church. The natural result of this planting of the church in a particular city and country has been the ‘Romanization,’ and in modern history the ‘Italianization,’ of the Catholic Church.

Among other things, the Roman and Italian church has produced a huge percentage of our saints and blesseds – men and women held up as models of the Christian life. Many have been influential, not only in the development of the Christian faith, but also in the development of what we know today as the Western world. St. Francis of Assisi is arguably the greatest, and certainly the most beloved example.

Another dominant figure is Benedict of Nursia (“Norcia” in Italian), the founder of Western monasticism. Living some seven hundred years before Francis, Benedict sought refuge from the wild city life of Rome at a place called Subiaco in central Italy before moving to Monte Cassino where he established a monastery based on his Rule.

The vast influence of both Benedict and Francis is undeniable. And so it’s quite remarkable that they were born only a short distance from each other; it’s about 80 kilometers from Assisi to Norcia, through the hills and mountains of Umbria.

I recently made the trip from Assisi to Norcia to visit the birthplace of St. Benedict, and what struck me most was the proximity of the two cities. And, I discovered, Sts. Francis and Benedict aren’t even the only saints in the region! Coming from a country like Canada, where we have only a handful of saints, I was taken aback.

I spoke to the Franciscan Sisters I was with as well as a few of the locals and the question arose as to why Italy has so many saints; so many saints from so many small and peripheral cities! Almost every little Italian town or city, it seems, has its own saint or blessed, most of whom we’ve never heard of and are venerated especially in his or her hometowns.

The fact that the church has been established in Italy for so many centuries was the obvious answer. But then the idea of a simple and practical sanctity arose, and the fact that historically, the Italian people may have a gift for recognizing holiness in others. This, I thought, was a great topic and lesson for those of us from some of the “younger” parts of the world.

Imagine, the ability to see a simple and perhaps a common holiness in the people around us. I immediately recalled those wonderful words of Pope John Paul I, the smiling pope who was known for his simplicity and humility: “Lived holiness is very much more widespread than officially proclaimed holiness… Coming into Paradise, we will probably find mothers, workers, professional people, students, set higher than the official saints we venerate on earth.” (Omnia opera, vol. VI)

There are many things we can do on a daily basis to become better Christians, and the church certainly provides good examples for us in the lives of the saints. Do we need, perhaps, to spend a bit more time recognizing the saints around us: people in our parish, coworkers, community activists, parents, teachers, family members? Could holiness really be an inclusive rather than an exclusive quality? There certainly is a case to be made, as Pope Francis has said, “I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life.” (The Jesuit Interview)

Know the Scriptures, know Christ

At Salt and Light, we make a concerted effort to keep alive the memory of the Second Vatican Council. It’s not, as some might think, because we appreciate history. It’s because we look to the future.

Those Catholics who are familiar with the history and context of Vatican II and with the sixteen official documents it produced can appreciate the courage and wisdom of the Council Fathers to construct a road map for our times on essential issues like the Church in the modern world (Gaudium et Spes) and the role of the Laity in the life of the church (Apostolicam Actuositatem).

But, interestingly enough, a strong argument can be made, and is made, for the primacy of another Council document that at first may not appear to be particularly novel.  It’s the document on Divine Revelation, the word of God (Dei Verbum).

Today access to the Scriptures is taken for granted. We even hear Pope Francis regularly instructing the faithful to carry a little book of the Gospels around, “in your purse, in your pocket, and read a passage from the Gospel during the day.” (Morning homily, Sept. 1, 2014)

But widespread reading and study of the Scriptures is a modern phenomenon. It was indeed a development when in 1965 the Council Fathers urged all Christians:

“…to learn by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures the “excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:8). “For ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” Therefore, they should gladly put themselves in touch with the sacred text itself, whether it be through the liturgy, rich in the divine word, or through devotional reading, or through instructions suitable for the purpose and other aids…” (Dei Verbum, 25)

This document on Divine Revelation is not merely one element of the ecclesial vision of Vatican II. It is a cornerstone, precisely because it is a perpetual starting point; with the Scriptures a church can always be built.

At the same time, there is the great challenge today of educating Christians about the Scriptures. Valid questions from our contemporaries can be asked of any of us: how well do you know the Scriptures? What does it mean to know the Scriptures? How do you interpret the vicissitudes of history in light of the Scriptures? What do the Scriptures say in the context of our world today? How are they unique from other religious texts or holy books?

In our educational series The Church Alive, the Scriptures are brought to life in the context of our ongoing discussion on the New Evangelization. The accompanying study guide contains thirteen in-depth biblical reflections for personal use or group study sessions. It was natural for us to include this most essential element in the project. As the Bishops at the 2012 Synod on the New Evangelization wrote:

“Frequent reading of the Sacred Scriptures… is not only necessary for knowing the very content of the Gospel, which is the person of Jesus in the context of salvation history. Reading the Scriptures also helps us to discover opportunities to encounter Jesus, truly evangelical approaches rooted in the fundamental dimensions of human life: the family, work, friendship, various forms of poverty and the trials of life.” (Message to the People of God, 4)

Today there are all kinds of programs and self-help initiatives designed to help people live more deeply meaningful or happy lives. In the Church we are encouraged to practice spiritual exercises, to participate in the sacraments and pray on a daily basis.  An informed and educated frequent reading of the Scriptures should be near the top of that list.  And remember, there are two moments of encounter with the Real Presence at Mass: in the Eucharist, and in the word of God.

Evangelizing the culture

One of the differences between The Church Alive and other S+L series is that it wasn’t filmed in our own studios.  Admittedly, from the outset Cheridan and I succumbed to the “go big or go home” syndrome, because we were convinced that any serious attempt to appeal to young people and non-Catholics meant being visually on par with the best secular media productions.

So we reached out to the biggest and, in many ways, the best television production company in Toronto: the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).  We ended up with a team of about twenty people, many of whom work on popular programs like The National and Hockey Night in Canada.  Apart from being extremely professional and efficient, we found them to be curious (dare I say interested) and highly supportive of what we were trying to do.

When we returned to our S+L studios after each day of filming, we would always comment to each other on this delightfully unexpected experience.  And it was affirming for us that such an organization, which from the outside looks indifferent or at least neutral to all matters Catholic, has within it people open to hearing about how God is working in the world.

The Catholic Church has a great story to tell, but it has to be told well.  And when we “do our thing” with confidence and joy, the results are staggering.  This is what I call evangelizing culture.  It sounds like a broad, theoretical idea.  But it’s really about one-on-one encounters and fostering relationships.

As you’ll see from this latest promotional video for The Church Alive, it was our desire for visual quality that brought us to the CBC studios.  Without them the series wouldn’t have happened.  I can’t help but think, in the context of the New Evangelization, that maybe our best and most penetrating work is done in collaboration with those outside the church as well.

The Gospel for the 21st century

How do you take the timeless truths of the Gospel and present them in new ways to the world of the 21st century?  Our new series The Church Alive seeks to start a discussion around that question.  But it’s not just about raising questions; we didn’t want to keep the New Evangelization in the philosophic sphere.  No, we also wanted to tell stories of where the New Evangelization is happening!

In this clip from our first episode entitled: What is the New Evangelization?, we bring you one of these stories about a hand written, hand illuminated Bible for the 21st century commissioned by the monks of Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota.  As you’ll see, a mixture of faith, creativity, tradition and love can be very potent, and can indeed bring life and light to a world in desperate need of the good news.

Inside the Basilica of Saint Francis: a lesson in catechetics

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St. Francis weds Lady Poverty in the presence of the risen Christ (From the main apse in the lower church of the Basilica of St. Francis)

Protruding from the mountainside town of Assisi is the medieval Basilica of Saint Francis. From a distance the basilica looks almost as big as the town itself; a simultaneous testament to the Saint’s widespread influence and modest origins.

Still, the basilica is what most moderns would expect from an important medieval church: majesty, stunning architecture and extraordinary artistry. But look a little closer and the details also reveal a living spirit, with a keen pastoral and theological sense, and a bold effort to evangelize and catechize by adapting the timeless teachings of the Gospel to the lives of ordinary people.

The Second Vatican Council made the unprecedented decision of issuing a document that would look carefully at the Church’s relationship with the modern world. There is no authoritative document quite like Gaudium et Spes in the history of the Church. But it is not the first time an attempt to bridge the Church and the contemporary world has been made. The Basilica of Saint Francis is a perfect example.

The basilica consists of three levels: the upper church, the lower church (which was designed as a crypt), and the tomb of Saint Francis that lies beneath. Today it is quite common to see the old Romanesque arches and vaulted ceilings in churches across Europe. The lower church of the Basilica of Saint Francis was, in fact, one of the first major ecclesial structures to be built entirely in that style.

Both the upper and lower levels are lined with beautiful 13th and 14th century frescos depicting the life of Christ juxtaposed to the life of Francis. They are the largest medieval frescos, in terms of surface area, in the world.

Never in the history of Christian art had the life of an individual been so clearly compared with the life of Christ. The anonymous Italian painter known as the “Master of St. Francis” was, together with the Franciscan community, making a powerful and provocative statement about Francis.

The frescos themselves had a very practical purpose: they were the teaching tools for the people. In a world where very few could read or write, catechesis was done through images. The four-paneled apse of the lower basilica is a masterful work of pastoral and theological catechesis. The panel behind the altar depicts Francis enthroned in glory surrounded by the heavenly host. The painting is such that the angels appear in three dimensions, a technique which would define the Renaissance period approx. one hundred years later.

The other three panels depict the cardinal virtues of Franciscan life: poverty, chastity and obedience. They are filled with symbolism and images that must have sparked the imagination and provoked deep reflection. For the first time in Christian art we see images in the context of the natural world, that is, with trees, vines, grass and flowers in the background. This was a development, and a highly appropriate one considering Francis’ love of the natural world.

Many of the frescoes depict secondary characters and bystanders in the clothing of the day. This can easily go unnoticed, but the people of the 13th century would have recognized, for example, the familiar Florentine dress on the three magi above the right transept.  Imagine today walking into the church of a contemporary saint and seeing characters painted in jeans or a suit and tie!

The objective of these marvelously talented 13th artists was quite simple: bring the people of their day into the story of St. Francis, which was really the story of Christ. Spark the imagination of the masses and open the path of discipleship to anyone and everyone.  We might do well to think a bit more outside-of-the-box and take risks in order to entice and inspire the people of our time with our timeless message.

Check out Sebastian’s first post from Assisi! 

What is a Catholic education anyway?

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Regardless of background, ethnicity or faith tradition, almost everyone in our society today would argue that education is important.  We all acknowledge that becoming an “educated” person is worthwhile.  We spend a huge portion of our earnings and savings (or all of them and more!) on achieving that goal.  But, what does it mean to be an educated person?

This is an especially important question for those seeking a “Catholic” education.  What does a “Catholic education” look like in 2014?  What is its goal?  How is it unique?

There has been a trend, of sorts, developing in the area of Catholic institutions across North America and particularly in the United States whereby a school tries to be more Catholic by becoming more isolated or removed.  An attitude of protectionism from the disintegrating culture drives these initiatives.  Granted, there aren’t many of them, but there are enough to draw attention and sway popular opinion towards a presumption that the attitude behind them is, in fact, that of the mainline Catholic Church.

In his address during the plenary session of the Congregation for Catholic Education in February of this year, Pope Francis warned that this kind of isolationism is not the answer to the problems facing our societies today, but rather, Catholic institutions must “know how to enter, with courage, into the Areopagus of contemporary cultures and to initiate dialogue, aware of the gift they are able to offer to all.”  He went on to say that “education in our times is guided by a changing generation, and that, therefore, every educator – and the Church as a whole is an educating mother – is required to change, in the sense of knowing how to communicate with the young.”

When the topic of education arises, especially regarding Catholic education, it is important to be aware of these two approaches: the isolationist and the dialogical-adaptive.  Catholics must ask themselves – not least because we are frequently being asked by others – what is a Catholic education?  It is clear how Pope Francis would answer the question.

This question is also the theme of one episode of Salt and Light’s series The Church Alive.  In the episode, we go to the foundation of the Church’s teaching on education and discuss how it must adapt to the modern world in order to effect change.  This program is essential for educators at the high school and university levels, and for adult faith formation groups at parishes.

Purchase The Church Alive at the Salt and Light store