Before Pope Francis it was ‘Lent without Easter’ with people ‘ put off by a church with closed doors and closed minds – 2013 National Gathering of Adult Formators

Sr Dr Gemma Simmonds CJ, Senior Lecturer in Pastoral and Social Studies and Theology at Heythrop College, University of London, was the keynote speaker at the 2013 National Gathering of Adult Formators. According to the Bishops Conference press release the  National Gathering of Adult Formators brings together Catholic leaders in adult formation and catechesis from across England and Wales.

Sr Dr Gemma Simmonds CJ said:

Evangelii Gaudium is a breath of fresh air. It isn’t that Pope Francis is saying anything radically new, but he says it convincingly because he embodies in his actions what he is teaching.  Instead of a faith lived ‘like Lent without Easter’ he invite us all to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ.  He reminds us of the joy that lies amid the little things of life and of the many people who are open to such an encounter but put off by a church with closed doors and closed minds.’

“His preference for ‘a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security’ echoes the pastoral experiences of so many evangelisers on the ground. ‘The joy of evangelising always arises from grateful remembrance’ and there is so much in our own faith journeys that we can remember with gratitude.  This is the core of precious personal experience from which we are encouraged to evangelise others with confidence and joy.”

Blessed John Paul II wrote about the role of personal experience in proclaiming the Faith in his encyclical Catechesi Tradendae, paragraph 22

‘It is useless to play off orthopraxis against orthodoxy: Christianity is inseparably both. Firm and well-thought – out convictions lead to courageous and upright action, the endeavor to educate the faithful to live as disciples of Christ today calls for and facilitates a discovery in depth of the mystery of Christ in the history of salvation.

It is also quite useless to campaign for the abandonment of serious and orderly study of the message of Christ in the name of a method concentrating on life experience. “No one can arrive at the whole truth on the basis solely of some simple private experience, that is to say, without an adequate explanation of the message of Christ, who is `the way, and the truth, and the life’ (Jn. 14:6).”(51)

Nor is any opposition to be set up between a catechesis taking life as its point of departure and a traditional doctrinal and systematic catechesis.(52) Authentic catechesis is always an orderly and systematic initiation into the revelation that God has given of Himself to humanity in Christ Jesus, a revelation stored in the depths of the Church’s memory and in Sacred Scripture, and constantly communicated from one generation to the next by a living, active traditio. This revelation is not however isolated from life or artificially juxtaposed to it. It is concerned with the ultimate meaning of life and it illumines the whole of life with the light of the Gospel, to inspire it or to question it.

That is why we can apply to catechists an expression used by the Second Vatican Council with special reference to priests: “Instructors (of the human being and his life) in the faith.”(53)’

Readers of Protect the Pope,  please compare and contrast the excerpts from Sr Dr Gemma Simmonds CJ’s address to the  2013 National Gathering of Adult Formators and paragraph 22 of Blessed John Paul II’s encyclical Catechesi Tradendae.

 

44 comments to Before Pope Francis it was ‘Lent without Easter’ with people ‘ put off by a church with closed doors and closed minds – 2013 National Gathering of Adult Formators

  • Wake Up England

    Ask any Catholic under 50 to explain the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and they will almost all get it confused with the doctrine of the Virgin Birth.

    Or ask them to recite the Ten Commandments: they might get half right.

    “Catechesis” is a theory. If it were an actual reality amongst children and young adults, the under 50s would not suck their fingers and look lost when one asks them to explain briefly The Church’s teaching on (say) Indulgencies.

    It’s meaningless to gush forth opinions on catechesis, when, in reality, it hardly ever happens.

    Our Catholic schools and colleges should teach the Faith. Every child of 10 should know the Ten Commandments.

    • ms Catholic state

      I completely agree with you WUE. No child should be allowed to make their First Holy Communion until they know the 10 Commandments by heart. When a local builder had his mobile phone stolen in the local Catholic PRIMARY school (with all his contacts in it)….great shame was brought on the school. But had the children ever even heard the 10 Commandments, never mind knowing them off by heart?! It was in fact Catholic adults who were to blame for this.

      No wonder Muslims are so dismissive of us.

    • Nicolas Bellord

      It is always fun to tackle those who deny the existence of Original Sin. Well do you believe in the Immaculate Conception then?

    • Jacob

      Are you under the impression that people your age are well catechized?

      In fact, most people your age seem like pathetic, wannabe hippies who have completely lost touch with reality and are responsible for most our problems.

      • Wake Up England

        Jacob:

        Hmmm, well I suppose in order to make that comment with any integrity, you’d need to know how old I am, wouldn’t you?

        I can assure you, judgemental Jacob, that most people of my age are not “Pathetic Wannabe Hippies”. By the timbre of your yelping, I assume you’re about 14; anyone older wouldn’t be so daft.

    • To be fair the Immaculate Conception has only been dogma since 1854
      and the name is confusing it should really be called
      the Immaculate Conception of Mary by Saint Anne
      but I guess that wasnt as catchy?

      Aren’t we due for another marian dogma yet? – it’s been a bit quiet since 1950 on the dogma front

      • Wake Up England

        Anthony Miller:

        The Church has Always believed in the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady.

        The fact that it was solemnly declared as a dogma in the 19th Century is a formality.

        had Our Lady NOT been conceived free from Original Sin, She would have passed-on the inheritance of said Original Sin to her biological Son, Jesus.

        And then His Sacrifice on Calvary on behalf of the Human Race would not have been perfect.

        Most beliefs of the Church have not been solemnly defined.

        I think your comment belies a fundamental misunderstanding of Catholic teaching and Truth.

  • confused

    Religious Education (“wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character”) is compulsory in every school in the land.

    Regardless of arguments as to whether schools should (or even if they can) indoctrinate belief, basic facts about the Christian religion should be known by all children. I would call that education rather than catechesis

    (BTW, what was a builder doing with a mobile phone in a primary school? Someone needs to review their child protection policies)

    • ms Catholic state

      Most schools ignore this dictat.

      The builder in this Catholic school was going about his job refurbishing the school. You would want to be careful before insinuating things about the character of others. As far as I know…it’s against the law.

      • confused

        I wasn’t implying that the builder was up to no good. I was suggesting that the school might not have been following best practice in requiring all visitors to surrender their phones when signing in at the school office.

      • Ioannes

        A tradesman who is probably self-employed needs a mobile phone in order to conduct his business. What on earth has this to do with ‘child protection’? All the over-the-top ‘policies’ in the world will not prevent the next case of child abuse, which will happen in a domestic situation under the noses of Social Services, who will then say “we must learn from this” and then carry on as before.

  • John Fannon

    I find these remarks so insulting. It was sooo baaad, how did we survive?

    I also suspect that there are quite a few in the Church who wish to airbrush ‘baaaad’ Benedict out of history. I noted that Zenit had tried this earlier this year and therefore I refuse to donate to them any more.

    Fr Ray Blake in his blog comments that he has found Evangelii Gaudium quite difficult to read – so maybe it’s less than a breath of fresh air.

    As WUE remarks, if you look at the results of wishy washy happy clappy ‘nice’ catachesis, you see the fruits of the labour of the liberals. 96% of Catholic children apostasise after leaving school (reported by Pro Ecclasia et pro Pontifice ).

    The liberals have made a desert and they want to call it Easter.

  • Shaun the Sheep

    John can you link me to the Zenit article you mentioned? Thanks in advance.

    • John Fannon

      Shaun – it was Rorate Caeli who alerted me to this in March this year; see the incredible Pope who disappeared

      Unfortunately the link provided by Rorate gives a Zenit article in French, though I am sure I’ve seen it in English. Anyway I know enough French to read that the article is rather gushing.

      The comments on Rorate are quite illuminating from a distance of 9 months.

  • Lynda

    Most of the so-called “formators” are apostates and deform people in the Faith.

  • Ioannes

    The difference between Bl. John Paul II and Gemma Simmonds is that the former was without doubt the greatest man of the last quarter of the 20th century, a profound thinker and a saint, whereas few people will have heard of the latter or be remotely interested in what she has to say. EG has some good insights but it is over-long, repetitive and rambling, and in many cases obscure as to meaning. I don’t envy the department of Latin Letters which will have to produce the official version for the Acta Apostolicae Sedis. Furthermore, Peronist economics might still resonate with Argentinians, but for the rest of us Peron was a South American crackpot dictator whose first wife was the subject of a 1970s musical. Thankfully EG didn’t mention ‘las Malvinas’.

  • Venator

    I am getting a bit fed up of the “before Francis era”, its like a mini pre & post Vatican II all over again.

    All of these comments about “breath of fresh air” & “closed doors and minds” are actually quite insulting to Benedict XVI and indeed John Paul II. Certainly Francis has a different style but that does not alter Church teaching and what we do / should be doing.

    I think the cult of personality of the Papacy is becoming too much (not by fault of the Popes themselves). Of course all Popes are different men, with different styles and personalities. That is to be expected! Let’s focus on the teaching and the fullness of things, rather than taking convienient snippets.

    We need to stop treating children / young people as idiots. If you treat them like idiots you will produce precisley that. I think perhaps the biggest challenge is to establish excellent catechisis across the world so that the fullness of faith may be passed on correctly. It’s a challenge that we all need to work on.

    In my experience many people dismiss young people, saying that we’re “unexperienced” or “naieve” or making untrue stereotypes (we’re all binge drinkers, promiscous etc). That attitude can be seriously harmful to the young people who’se faith is a little shaky or unconfident. I was told once at a Catholic function that my opinion (which in this case was the teaching of the Church on contraception) doesn’t count because I have no life experience.

    • Lynda

      Venator, I think the attitude you describe towards young people is intentional, in order to ensure they do not adopt the true Faith and moral law.

    • Wake Up England

      Dear Venator,

      Pay no attention to older people who use age as a weapon against you.

      Never forget: there’s no skill in getting old; trees manage it beautifully.

      It’s sad to say many older people are hugely jealous of those younger than they are; so pay no attention.

      And remember not to be impatient of the young when you, yourself, are older.

    • katherine

      Hello Venator

      For a young person with “no life experience” you make some incredibly perceptive comments. Your defence of Church teaching on contraception sounds spot on to me. Well done. Please pray for those of us who are older, “wiser” and have much “life experience”!

  • Real Pope and virtual Pope, anyone?

  • jacobi

    There are two basic points which occur to me so far about this lengthy exhortation.

    Evangelisation is good, provided you know what the message is. The present day Church, confused and heterodox as it is, is not likely to convince anyone.

    The peripheries are important, I agree. But so is the core, which is still in widespread dissent, and steadily shrinking. This has to be sorted out first.

    Therefore, evangelisation must start with the proper catechesis of the remaining core of the Church, then the other 4/5 who are nominal Catholics, and after that, the peripheries.

    • I agree. The first step for successful evangelization is to ensure that the evangelizers are themselves evangelized. This must begin with many of our bishops and clergy who don’t seem to have a clear idea of what the Church is here for. For example, inviting adulterers to receive Holy Communion is not evangelizing them.

  • pattif

    Sr Gemma cannot have been paying attention for most of the last eight years. ‘Joy’ was the leit-motif of the entire Ratzinger pontificate: not only did Pope Benedict speak constantly about the joy of the faith, he radiated it. That Pope Francis receives such praise for restating the teaching of his predecessor is pleasing; it is only a pity some of his cheerleaders have only now started listening.

  • Kinga Grzeczynska LLB

    Venator
    I am sorry that someone was so rude to you. Everyone is entiltled to his/her opinion but not everyone wants to say it out loud. Your opinon does count.

    Blessed John Paul II must have sensed a wind of change on the horizon. His Encyclicals may prove to be the pillars of strength to uphold the True Faith of Catholicism. We are now beginning to see possible schisms appearing from Bishops of different countries who are opposing The Holy Father’s directives. These Bishops are also ignoring the Encyclicals written to be a support of the Magisterium and clearly a form of ‘tool’ to correct or bring back to the Lord’s Fold the sheep who take with them the lambs and scatter off on their own.

    My opinion is also that Pope Emeritus Benedict XV1 saw the huge problem areas within the Vatican and from dissenting Bishops who in some cases were out of control of The Papal Authority. He provided Holy Mother Church with as much supportive materials, as was possible to him.

    The Good Sister may wish to stand on her podium and advocate her theories and given license to lecture at Heythrop, her words may be regurgitated by her listening students in time to come. Clearly the Encyclicals of the previous Pontiffs did not provide the ‘breath of fresh air’ that she seeks. Perhaps the Good Sister should put away the Woodbines and clear the air and re-read the previous Encyclicals without the haze of femministic surges and experiences.

    Why is it that I can be certain that if I attend a course of anykind at Maryvale – I will hear a high standard of Theology coupled with a experienced learned lecturer who delivers the contents of the lecture in unity with the teachings of Rome?

    Kinga Grzeczynska

    • Trulytruly

      CORRECTION- Please use instead of previous post.

      ” … if I attend a course of anykind at Maryvale – I will hear a high standard of Theology coupled with a experienced learned lecturer who delivers the contents of the lecture in unity with the teachings of Rome.”

      Would that were true.

      Only recently, a homily was given at Maryvale to students at which the priest stated categorically that homosexuality was OK. He (mis)quoted Pope Francis by stating that the Pope had said “Who are we to judge on a person’s homosexual relations? As long as that person is OK with God, then that’s perfectly all right.” While he was saying this, the priest was particular focussing his attention on certain members of the congregation.

      The priest then forgot(???) that Pope Francis actualy went on to say that the teaching of the church is fully contained within the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

  • Joseph Matthew

    What exactly are some of the bishops up to? Are they seriously trying to make Heythrop the centre of Catholic excellence in the UK now that they have successfully brought down certain centres of orthodoxy? If you really care for the salvation of your children, please don’t send them there.

  • Lynda

    “Sr” Simmonds needs to study the Cathechism and read Veritatis Splendor.

  • Ioannes

    Like all public figures, popes now live in a media spotlight. John Paul II was a great man in the real sense of the word, but his predilection for grandstanding was arguably a weakness, in that people concentrated on the personality but ignored the message. Venator, my experience of young Catholic adults is that they are more aware and certainly more orthodox than those of my generation (born 1951) despite the poor catechesis they have received. When I was an undergraduate Catholic groups sat on beanbags and strummed guitars. Now they are more likely to attend Latin Masses and sing Gregorian chant.

  • Catherine

    Kinga,
    ” Why is it that I can be certain that if I attend a course of anykind at Maryvale – I will hear a high standard of Theology coupled with a experienced learned lecturer who delivers the contents of the lecture in unity with the teachings of Rome?”.

    I think you may now need to change the verb in that statement from present to past tense. New regime at Maryvale and unlike former years, Maryvale was represented at that conference, http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=23722

    • Trulytruly

      ” … if I attend a course of anykind at Maryvale – I will hear a high standard of Theology coupled with a experienced learned lecturer who delivers the contents of the lecture in unity with the teachings of Rome.”

      Would that were true.

      Only recently, a homily was given at Maryvale to students at which the priest stated categorically that homosexuality was OK. He (mis)quoted Pope Francis by stating that the Pope had said “Who are we to judge on a person’s homosexual relations? As long as that person is OK with God, then that’s perfectly all right.” While he was saying this, the priest was particular focussing his attention on certain members of the congregation.

      The priest then forgot(???) that Pope Francis actualy went on to say that the teaching of the church is fully contained within the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

      • Nicolas Bellord

        Two interesting quotes from Evangelii Gaudium on the question of correction and what Pope Frances says about judgements:

        The spirit of love which reigns in a family guides both mother and child in their conversations; therein they teach and learn, experience correction and grow in appreciation of what is good. Something similar happens in a homily.

        The Gospel tells us to correct others and to help them to grow on the basis of a recognition of the objective evil of their actions (cf. Mt 18:15), but without making judgments about their responsibility and culpability (cf. Mt 7:1; Lk 6:37).

        • Trulytruly

          Perhaps, I should have been clearer. The way the homily wwas delivered had nothing to do with “The Gospel tells us to correct others and to help them to grow on the basis of a recognition of the objective evil of their actions (cf. Mt 18:15), but without making judgments about their responsibility and culpability (cf. Mt 7:1; Lk 6:37).”

          The recent Maryvale homily was quite clear in its message that as long as we are OK with God, and trust in Him, then it is perfectly all right to have homosexual relations.

  • Venator

    Lynda & Kinga Grzeczynska LLB, thank you for your comments. I wasn’t too bothered by the ignorance I encountered because I’m relatively confident in my faith. However for someone less so it could have really hurt them. People don’t realise the peer pressure that young people are under to conform to a certain lifestyle. You do have to have a good grounding in the faith to “survive” in the secular world. People are endlessly asking me why the Church teaches X, Y & Z and why I don’t induldge in the stereotypical lifestyle of someone my age. So really a little encouragement and warmth goes a long way. Virtually all the Priests I have come across have been nothing short of fantastic.

    Ioannes: I think you’re right to a certain extent, though the devotion to latin / gregorian I don’t think is huge. From chatting to a number of other young people it seems quite rare they’ve ever been to an EF Mass. Having said that I’ve only been to approx 5 over the past two years. I would go more if they were more readily available. However there is certainly an openness to these things, a willingness to “go and see” whereas my parents generation will slap it down as being outdated.

  • ConofChi

    As I tell parents who are seeking baptism for their babies ‘Faith is Caught not Taught’!!

  • Michael B Rooke

    Joy was the subject of homilies, discourses, encyclicals, angelus, letters, messages and apostolic exhortations by Blessed Pope John Paul II 2285 times.
    For Pope Benedict XVI 1605 times.

    A couple of random examples
    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/youth/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20120315_youth_en.html

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/angelus/1979/documents/hf_jp-ii_ang_19790325_en.html

  • katherine

    Catherine, Kinga, TrulyTruly – yes I think from the small snippits of information out there that Maryvale is no longer the beacon of hope for the Church that it used to be. Can anyone throw any light on whats going on?

  • Kinga Grzeczynska LLB

    I do not think for one moment that His Holiness meant his words to be interpreted, with regards to homosexuality, as being ‘OK’.

    My understanding is that God loves us all, despite our wrong doings and ‘falls’ and despite our actions or perhaps actions that we should have taken.

    Sexuality of a person is a complicated issue for many people. It is not a matter to be judged, ridiculed or to throw stones at. His Holiness is saying that as Holy Pontiff, he may not wish to judge a person’s sexuality and leaves this matter up to God Himself. If a homosexually inclined person is living in unity
    with God, – and this is the important part of His Holiness’ statement – in unity i.e. not sexually active and performing grevious sin as per the Teachings of the Catholic Church – then His Holiness accepts and understands that there are persons other than hetrosexuals.

    At no time does His Holiness state that a practising homosexual is not in a state of mortal sin. The opposite is clear – and the Teachings of Holy Mother Church are clear.

    Taking into full account of the whole statement of His Holiness – and not just snippets that cause front page news and are sensationalism – then everyone should be able to clearly understand what the Holy Father is saying.

    As for comments on Maryvale, I am sorry to hear of troubles and I hope they soon pass.
    As for SHAG week and free condoms at Heythrop – Bishops where are you to stop this? If any clerical or Religious individual is promoting or taking part in such matters – then take then to task and stop them.

    Kinga Grzeczynska

  • Bob Hayes

    Meanwhile ACTA’s diocesan coordinator for Birmingham has published her response to the Family Synod questionnaire. This extract gives a flavour of the general tone:

    ‘[Response] 1D: The Church teaching [on the value of the family] is known and widely mocked as further proof that Christians, and Catholics in particular, are intellectually bankrupt. As I said before, it is not so much cultural factors that hinder the full reception of Church teaching, but the fact that Church teaching is empirically and experientially wrong.’

    http://antipopejoan.wordpress.com/2013/11/

    • Wow – such hubris on show at that link.

    • Rifleman819

      For Bob Hayes,

      I read your link just now-this person has the arrogance and pride to think that she matters and her thoughts should be the doctrinal ones!
      The sooner our bishops develop the testicular attributes to tackle ACTA the better-no sustenance for heresy whatsoever.

      Until you face down Satan you will always be afraid of him.

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