September 21, 2007

Go and Make Disciples / John Valenti

Cast your net to the other side

In an ecumenical gathering on the topic “Forming Spiritual Friendships,” Mindy Caliguire, author of the book, Discovering Soul Care, explained the concept of confession as a spiritual discipline essential to our spiritual growth.

Citing Scripture, she proclaimed, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9).

Caliguire said that faith-sharing in small groups is helpful because there is something valuable about audibly hearing the words, “You are loved and forgiven.” She went on to say that the full expression of this spiritual discipline is found in “the sacrament of reconciliation in the Catholic Church.”

According to our Catholic teaching, that is nothing new. But our presenter was an evangelical Christian minister whose parents were brought up Catholic and were estranged from the Church. In her spiritual quest and authentic discipleship, Caliguire became inspired by the Catholic vision and continues on the road of inquiry.

This gives us great cause to rejoice.

It is possible, according to our Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the ecclesial communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church. There are elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them which are gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ and which impel us toward Catholic unity.

Communities in Christian dialogue believe Jesus instituted one, holy and Catholic Church as professed in our common creed. It follows that these separated Churches and communities are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation.

In fact, the spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church.

Our Catholic doctrine states that these communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of orders and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church.

Being deprived in this case is to be denied something meaningful, and to be deprived of the Eucharist and other means of sacramental grace is to be deprived of life.

As catechists, we do not wish to deprive anyone from the means to grow in sacred knowledge. The mission of Catholic education is to teach, which is an essential ministry modeled by Christ. Our ministry is a spiritual work of mercy to instruct those who lack knowledge. New members are also a source of renewal and inspiration to us all.

Knowledge begins with concrete experience, but requires other factors not given in experience in order to reach its perfection. Knowledge requires thought, observation and interpretation, abstracting the contents of experience from the conditions which individualize them, and goes to the core of reality, which is faith, hope and love.

This is a challenge of Catholic education and faith formation, which is a lifelong process of Christian initiation.

There are 153 million non-Catholic professed Christians in the United States.

Therefore, we teach.

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

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