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SPRING 2006
Vol 40 No 3





Editorial:
THE CHALLENGE OF COMMUNICATION

Barry Brundell MSC
DRAW THEM WITH THE BONDS OF LOVE: THE PRACTICE OF HEART SPIRITUALITY

Gerard Kelly
A PAPACY COMMUNICATED: POPE JOHN PAUL II

Thomas Groome
BRINGING LIFE TO FAITH AND FAITH TO LIFE: FOR A SHARED CHRISTIAN PRAXIS APPROACH AND AGAINST A DETRACTOR

Anthony Gooley
WHAT’S IN A NAME? PART I: ‘MINISTRY’ AND ‘COMMON PRIESTHOOD’

Daniel Ang
SUSTAINABLE YOUTH MINISTRY: EXPLORING THE ROLE OF THE SPIRIT

John O’Carroll and Chris Fleming
GOD AND PHENOMENOLOGY: RE-READING JEAN-LUC MARION

 



 

Editorial:
The challenge of communication


A THEME RUNNING through the early contributions of this issue of Compass is the challenge of communicating the Good News. Australia is a particularly challenging terrain for this endeavour. Our people are often pre-Christian or once-were-Christian, and only the strongly-committed Christians persevere in living their faith at any depth. In our culture the Christian voice and message often—but not always, it is good to be able to say—struggles to get a sympathetic hearing.

Christ, the Australian bishops pointed out earlier this year in their pastoral letter on the Church and the Media, Go Tell Everyone, was the ultimate communicator. That is also the theme of John’s Gospel. It is recommended that we read St John’s Gospel at a sitting, keeping in mind as we read that Jesus is the revealer of his Father, and every word and deed of Jesus is expressive of God in our world. The climactic revelatory event, the ultimate communication of the Good News, was his ‘hour’, when he was lifted up on the cross for us, having spent all his blood and yielded up his spirit, having given everything he had to give. He spoke the Word fully on Calvary.

Every Christian is sent to ‘go tell everyone’. We are sent to communicate what we have come to know to all the nations in whatever age or culture we find ourselves. Communicating is much more than just speaking or even shouting. Communicating means reaching and teaching across the psychological and cultural divides there may be between ourselves and our potential hearers. It means learning to speak other people’s ‘language’ or, at least, speaking our own language choosing words that others might be able to relate to and understand.

Thus the Lord’s command to go and teach all nations expressed only half of what he was telling us to do: he meant that we had to reach and teach all nations. In the words of Pope Paul VI, quoted in the Australian bishop’s pastoral letter already mentioned:
…the evangelical message should reach vast numbers of people, but with the capacity of piercing the conscience of each individual, of implanting itself in his [sic] heart as though he were the only person being addressed, with all his most individual and personal qualities, and evoke an entirely personal adherence and commitment. (Evangelii Nuntiandi, n.45.)

Communication of the Good News has been a challenge in every age. At the first Pentecost Peter needed the Spirit’s gift of courage before he could stand up and tell people about Jesus of Nazareth and how he had risen from the dead. Today we face immense challenges. According to the bishops in their pastoral letter the challenges have ‘never been greater’.

The recent report of the findings of The Spirit of Generation Y project (2003-2006) on the attitudes and beliefs of young people in Australia lends support to this judgment of the bishops. (To access the report enter ‘genyrep’ in Google.) This report outlines the findings of a national study of spirituality among Australian young people in their teens and twenties (born between 1976 and 1990) conducted by researchers from Australian Catholic University, Monash University and the Christian Research Association.

The first conclusion from the research is that ‘Generation Y are what their parents and Australian culture have made them’. They have known only the pluralism of ‘the post-traditional social order’, they share a sense of greater risk, are affected by rampant consumerism, often come from dislocated families, and are presented with a smorgasbord of ‘spiritualities’.

Like their elders Generation Y are often secular humanists (31%). The percentage of the whole population that attends religious services at least monthly has dropped from 39% in 1960 to 20% in 1998, consequently the majority of Generation Y have not lived in a context of frequent church attendance.
A large proportion of Generation Y have little appreciation and indeed, a diminishing appreciation, of transcendence of any kind. They make their own choices, do things their way, believe and do what they choose and consider it to be no business of anybody else as long as they are not hurting anyone. Many see little truth in any religion. They rely purely on friendship networks which they find or make for themselves.

Generation Y, we might say, as we read about these findings, are the new Australia. One feels like calling it the Brave New Australia. It is a depressing scene for Christians who know that there is so much more to life and reality than this representative generation of Australians believes. In the words of the opening prayer for the Twentieth Week in Ordinary time, after praying:

…that the love of God
may raise us beyond what we see
to the unseen glory of his kingdom.
…we pray:
God our Father,
May we love you in all things and above all things
And reach the joy you have prepared for us
Beyond all our imagining.


We are called to tell them, all these pre-Christians and once-were-Christians, about the gift of God, how Wisdom is spreading a feast and we are all invited. We are to tell them about the goodness of God that is beyond and above our wildest dreams, that God is offering us something that is very important and necessary, something sublime. It is not something anyone can afford to be off-handed about.

We need to tell them that they are called to join us in the People of God, called together—ecclesia, ‘church’ means ‘called’—to form a community that is God’s creation. We are not a free association of people finding our own support networks; we are answering an invitation and allowing ourselves to be led by the Spirit of God to belong to God’s own People, for our benefit and completeness.

We need good communication skills since we have such a great message to share.

—Barry Brundell MSC, Editor