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.