August 17, 2007

Go and Make Disciples / John Valenti

Renovaré: Ecumenism at work

“Thank God there are those whose faith is strong enough to freely share it with others.”

That is an often quoted statement from retired Bishop William Houck of Jackson, Miss. He had the privilege of chairing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization during the time that Go and Make Disciples, A National Plan and Strategy For Catholic Evangelization in the United States was written.

Bishop Houck was also fond of welcoming new Catholics from other faith traditions during the Rite of Election with a smile saying, “Don’t think that we, as Catholics, are perfect. We are all on a journey of faith. You bring giftedness to our community, and I thank you for sharing your faith with us.”

Catholic people who are confident in their faith are able to embrace evangelization and ecumenism because we understand Church as a people of God on the move (Lumen Gentium 2, Conclusion, 8, 9, 48-51). We are neither threatened nor diminished by honest dialogue.

Our Church teaches that the ecumenical process is an adventure of the Holy Spirit, and a spiritual process. Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only. Division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel.

A part of our Christian formation is to be animated by an ecumenical spirit and missionary task in the world and in society. In the life of the faithful, imbued with the Spirit of Christ, the gift prayed for by Christ before his Passion, the “grace of unity,” is of primary importance.

What is helpful in forming good relationships is the care and attention given which draws together the real communion already existing among Christians.

This may be seen in our reverence for Scripture, the inspiring, living Word of God and our common profession of faith in the triune God and in the redemptive action of Christ, the son of God made man.

It finds expression in the various creeds that Christians share. It is embraced in the one sacrament of baptism which constitutes the fundamental bond between them. It directs us all to full visible unity and a common destiny in the one kingdom of God.

We desire to share these elements which Christians of other faith traditions hold in common. Spiritual ecumenism means, therefore, the teaching of Scripture, of the living tradition of the Church, and of the outcomes of ecumenical dialogues that have been personally and totally assimilated, filled with life, and becoming light and strength in our everyday life.

Catechesis will have an ecumenical dimension if it arouses and nourishes a true desire for unity and still more if it fosters real effort, including efforts in humility to purify ourselves, so as to remove obstacles on the way. We need only aim at that perfect unity which the Lord wills, and by using the means that he wills.

On Sept. 14-15, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis is joining 26 other Christian Churches and denominations in a conference for spiritual renewal.

Renovaré, from the Latin which means “to renew,” articulates a balanced vision of spiritual life and faith, and seeks to give a practical strategy for spiritual growth.

For more on the conference, go to the archdiocesan Evangelization Web site, which is located at

(John Valenti is the associate director of Evangelization and Faith Formation for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. E-mail him at †

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