Monsignor Denis Biju-Duval is the President of the Institute
Redemptor Hominis at the Lateran University,and the author of several works including ‘Croire n’est pas si compliqué’ (Éditions Emmanuel).
Offering people a practical path for growth
Explanation by Monsignor Denis Biju-Duval
Do not wait for people to come to Church, go out to them! Let us develop initiatives that bring about the meeting.
Questions about love, marriage, family and education lead to many encounters with the Church. However, those who do not practice, young people who want to be married in the Church, parents who want their children baptized, to enroll them in catechism classes and sometimes seeking help in their education, couples in difficulty, all perceive that the Church can help them. It is a sign that God never ceases to meet man in his most sensitive relationships. We must measure up to the challenge. These requests are made in very precarious situations – ignorance of Christ and of the Gospel, lack of reference points in the exercise of freedom and where people are wounded by chaotic family, emotional and sexual experiences.
The Church has a long missionary history – in the proclamation of the Gospel to those who do not know it, in the catechumenate and in sacramental initiation. It is true that in most of these things people are already baptized, and the catechumenate does not concern them directly. Yet there are more and more non-baptized people asking for them. Moreover, the catechumenal path offered by the Church also meets the needs of many of those already baptized. They have received almost nothing, either in terms of the first proclamation, or in terms of catechesis and sacramental initiation. When they received just a little, they forgot almost everything. And their experience of the life of the Church is almost totally lacking. As for those who come from more structured Christian backgrounds, they are often so damaged by their environment that they also need to start again at the most fundamental level. How can we move forward from this state of affairs?
- Do not wait for people to come to Church: go out to meet them: Let us further develop initiatives that allow us to meet and reach out to people where they are. Let us unconditionally proclaim the love of Christ to them, and offer them a practical path for growth. If necessary, let us be inventive, according to the situations encountered and the charisms present in our communities. Prayer groups, schools for couples or for parents, offers to help and student hostels have been developed in recent decades. We must go even further, guided by our pastoral charity and the indications of the Holy Spirit.
- Let us return to their primary evangelization: announce to whoever does not know it and make present by acts the victorious love of Christ over sin and death. This is not only the ‘kerygmatic’ point of departure, it is also an ever-present event in the catechumenal path that the Church offers to those whom the Lord comes to touch, and more widely to all Christians.
- Make this proclamation concrete in an educational offer to aid human growth: help people to find out who they are as men or women, as parents or as young people, and offer them places in the community where they can experience and structure their growing freedom.
Within the framework of this maturation, the question of the Sacraments becomes meaningful. The catechumen who is still waiting for his baptism does not see it as a refusal but as an invitation to move towards it with the community supporting him. Similarly, many people and couples who initially experience problematical situations will be able to accept the postponement of their full sacramental reconciliation or Eucharistic communion as a dynamic of desire and hope, as a time needed for a reconstruction where they are accompanied by brothers and sisters.