Great commentary by Fr. Barron. Just wondering though…..shouldn’t the Eucharist also be an essential part of evangelization? It is the Source and Summit of our Faith and it is certainly part of our joy as Catholics. I recall Dr. Brant Pitre in one of his talks, suggested that when Jesus told his apostles ‘And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ He might have been referring to the Eucharist. Protestants speak of a personal relationship with Jesus. How much more of a personal relationship can we have with Jesus than in the Eucharist!
>Just wondering though…..shouldn’t the Eucharist also be an essential part of evangelization?
Personally, I would say “No.” Absolutely not.
Evangelism is a practical affair, not meditative or mystical. It is approached on a number of front – relational, pastoral and apologetic. The Eucharist is for those who are ALREADY converted. Indeed, full members in full Communion with the Catholic Church.
In the earliest days of the Church, under persecution, the Eucharist – indeed, even Baptism, were reserved until a Catechumen was confirmed as a full member in the Church. And also, to check whether or not the candidate was a spy. It did happen. So they did not meet with the full membership of the local Church until after a long period of catechesis and checking. That’s why many were baptised only by blood in the days of the Roman persecutions. (Stand by for many in the West to do likewise.)
The Eucharist was reserved only for those were perceived to be:
a) Trustworthy b) Had full knowledge and understanding of the nature of the Eucharist.
As Dave Armstrong has put it, the Eucharist is advanced Christianity. It is the central act of our worship. It is, indeed, mystical and Western Christians do not do mystical – unless it is a false, New Age mysticism – and it will be lost on them.
I am a teacher in a country where the national education program is 100% pure memory. Nothing, absolutely nothing is taught in terms of skill unless it is extra-curricular. I have to teach the students how to do critical reasoning and present an argument. I also live in a country where the local culture is “Your elder says it so you believe it.” You do not question those in authority. Very eastern.
You can imagine the trials I go through trying to re-orientate them. I give them an essay to do, they give me a memory dump. I show them who to do counter argument, they did me a newspaper opinion piece. Logical argument is lost on them – certainly to start with. i have to start with what the students understand FIRST! So I teach essays and logic in the form of a mathematical equation (Math being the THE single subject the students are forced to learn and pass on pain of death)
A+B+C=D Where A = Thesis statement B = Reasons C=Evidence and D = A valid conclusion.
It works quite well. But I have to start with where the students ARE and not where I want them to be.
Well the unchurched, those in the West, especially, is like that. Their theological knowledge amasses to whatever distortions Hollywood has pumped into them along with the MSM as a whole. Take an unchurched person along to a Mass and all they will see is a ‘pagan rooted act of superstition.’ People now interpret the spiritual in the light of the misinformation from the media. You have de-program people before you can actively evangelise them. I used to live in the UK where the programming runs deep. So deep you can predict peoples response to religion to eight decimal places. Sadly, its got to the point where an admission to being Christian could lead to a literally violent reaction – certainly loud cheers as you are verbally abused. The Mass would be like taking a five year old and trying to teach them Quadratic Equations.
One of the great barriers to Evangelism, I contend, is that we tend to focus on the Mass for everything. We need non-Eucharist services for people who are unchurched to come and be led into, step by step. I fear we have actually cheapened the Eucharist, personally, by offering it too openly, too freely. But, be that as it may, the Eucharist is not normally an evangelistic aid. It is the reward/return for conversion.
Catholics, God bless us, love the Eucharist. As a result, I think we tend to try and use it for everything. Not every problem is a nail…
Thank you. Some very good points. To be sure I was not talking about a ‘cheaping’ of the Eucharist and offering Holy Communion as evangelization but as a part of our dialogue and to share the knowledge of why Jesus instituted the Sacrament and of the Graces received. Fr. Barron is speaking of the encyclical the Joy of the Gospel and as you allude to, the Eucharist for Catholics, is a part of that Joy. Also I had protestants in mind in my post and in that regard there have been instances where the Mass has been an instrumental factor in conversion to the Catholic Faith. I live in an area where there seems to be a protestant church on every corner and Catholics are very much in the minority. So when you speak of a non Eucharist service that would be just another protestant service in my mind. Evangelization of non believers or unchurched as you say would of course start at a different level as you point out so well.
oops…..not an Encyclical…..an Apostolic Exhortation.
I think we are in general agreement. But I am thinking less of Protestants and more of the unchurched full stop – they are the growing mass in the West. Discussion and overlap among Catholics and Protestants is a different matter.
>So when you speak of a non Eucharist service that would be just another protestant service in my mind.
Well, yes and no. It depends on how it is done. Having attended the excellent prayer and ministry, non-Eucharistic ‘services’ run by Cor Lumen Christi (a lay Catholic movement) in the UK, they could not mistaken for Protestant.
But also, why not use that which is good in Protestantism as we have with Paganism? A more ‘Protestant’ style service for non-Catholics trying out the waters makes some sense! This was how the Early Church did things do a large degree. Catachumens did not go near the Eucharist until due time. Obviously, for fully paid up members of the Church the Eucharist comes first. But, for the truly unchurched, a non-Eucharistic service aimed at Evangelism gives a bridge into the Church.
I mean, if I wanted to bring a non-Christian into the Church I would not start with the Mass. Too advanced.
That’s my general take. That the Eucharist nourishes us and enables us, that I concur.
But yes, we agree from the respective positions. For engaging the already Churched the Mass has a place. for the unchurched, we have to start waaaayyyyyy back.