Papal transition: Opportunity to showcase the faith

| Stephen Kent | March 13, 2013 | 0 Comments

Satellite trucks and a riser for television journalists are seen at the foot of Via della Conciliazione, the road leading to the Vatican, Feb. 12. CNS photo/Paul Haring

It was another one of those conversations that have occurred with some frequency in the past few weeks.

“So, who do you think will be the new pope?” some asked. “I don’t know, they haven’t called,” I said, forfeiting any claim to being a prestigious Catholic journalist in the know. The interest in who will be pope appears to surpass the interest in the teaching and philosophy of the Church that the new pope will lead.

There are more than 4,400 journalists accredited to the Vatican for the conclave, added to the 600 permanently accredited. That means there are about 5,000 media types in the tiny city-state. They are drawn by the pageantry, certainly, with the colorful vestments and liturgies, more so this time because it is not overshadowed by mourning for a deceased pope.

Conveying joy

With so much interest in the leader, how can we capitalize on this moment? How can we Catholics transmit the joy of our faith?

This moment in time can be used to begin a conversation that otherwise might have been uncomfortable for someone. For example, we could include a particular aspect of our faith in conversation by saying “as long as you asked.”

There is an interest currently in all things Catholic. However, “aggressive secularization” is often doing a more effective job in telling us what we believe — which really isn’t what we believe.

At a recent luncheon of our Catholic university alumni, a table companion asked what happened “since our time” until now, when many young people are not active in the faith. She referred to it as a rejection of the faith into which they were baptized and educated. I responded that it is more of a disinterest than a rejection, stemming from the time when there was more emphasis on catechesis than on formation.

Obviously it is important to know the articles of faith, but it is supremely important to think of who we are as Catholics. A Catholic is not just a member of an institution. A Catholic is who we are as people.

“Most of us need to rethink our relationship with the Church. If we perceive the church as an institution — the entity where we go for sacraments or for Catholic school, we are missing the point,” Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila told the Living the Catholic Faith Conference.

All called to evangelize

In the luncheon conversation, a term was used that is sometimes heard today — “fallen away” Cath­o­lic. It is a good metaphor if you think of a leaf fallen away from a tree. It withered and dried for lack of support and nourishment from the trunk.

This disinterest could be overcome.

“Every Catholic is called to evangelize others by their lives, in what they say and do,” Archbishop Aquila said.

The amount of media coverage in the next few weeks, some feel, will help get the Church’s message out. Perhaps. But think about what is more effective. Is it a message coming from the media or one delivered by a friend or neighbor?

Kent, retired editor of archdiocesan newspapers in Omaha and Seattle, writes for Catholic News Service.

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