A NEW PENTECOST IN THE MAKING


In several places in the world I have seen examples of a new Pentecost, in the form of scripture/spirit as source, and worship as summit. In these cases, the source of inspiration is NOT the Sunday liturgy and its homily but reflections on scripture, usually in small groups. It is the Spirit that is the source, not the church-made liturgies. Second, when people are prepared by weekly scriptural readings, Sunday worship is the summit to which they converge; then people want to attend, because they experience attendance as spiritual growth. Spirit and church-as-body-of-Christ cannot be separated; they are one but not the same. Sunday worship is not necessarily liturgical; praise and worship services can be as vibrant as liturgical services.

The pre-Vatican II church was strong when the source of inspiration was devotional piety in family and devotional groups. Then the Sunday Latin Mass was community devotionalism and most people felt the need to attend. Once devotions faded away without being replaced, the Sunday liturgy often became a hollow shell.

Two exceptional EXAMPLES:

At Rick Warren's Saddleback church, 'More people attend Saddleback small groups in an average week [meeting weekly in homes] than attend the weekend services." There are over 20,000 on Sundays. So, if in your parish there are 2,000 at the Sunday Mass, there should be 2 500 people meeting in homes during the week. That would be a recipe for parish renewal.
          This nmodel is followed by throusands of churches in the U.S. and abroad.

At the St. Alphonse parish in Kinshasa, Congo, there are about 30-35 neighborhood communities meeting weekly in homes for prayer and reflection, Each community consists of about 30-40 people. On weekdays, Monday through Friday, there are about 2,000 people at the morning Mass, according to the pastor. The early Sunday Mass begins at 6;30 am. When I arrived at exactly 6:30 there was not a single seat left in the 2000 seat church. Here too personal piety fosters community participation.
          This parish has been the flagship of renewal for the last 30 years.

In the U.S. and Guatemalan, I visited quite a few parishes with small communities meeting in homes. The arrangements were very diverse, but the results were the same: private commitment fosters public participation.

My diagnostic: lack of personal personal religiosity and spiritual insights of the clergy by not realizing that the liturgical spirituality of the hours is for monks or agrarian societies, and not replacing the traditional devotions with anything

At least three factors seem necessary for successful parish renewal: strong life of personal faith on the part of the clergy and the faithful, attractive and inspiring community celebrations (not just Sunday Masses), and a proper reading of the signs of the times. The emphasis on restoration and orthodoxy of the last three decades was ill-inspired.

Today the future seems grim. Since Vatican II private devotions have been neglected and not replaced, the Sunday liturgies are often isolated "summits" within the weekly secular desert, and there is no visionary reading of the signs of the times. As a result Catholics, young and old, are leaving the church.

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