The challenge of transmitting the Catholic Faith today
HANDING ON THE FAITH IN AN AGE OF DISBELIEF
by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
(Ignatius Press, 2006, 169 pp, Hardback, $39.95. ISBN: 978-1-58617-143-7. Available from Freedom Publishing)
This book was released originally in 1983, but its contents are as relevant today as they were over 30 years ago. Over the years the secular agenda in public life throughout the Western world has advanced but the issues remain the same.
In this book, Cardinal Ratzinger, then head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and later Pope Benedict XVI, with three other Church leaders, Cardinals Danneels and Macharski and Archbishop Dermot J. Ryan, respectively Archbishops of Brussels, Krakow and Dublin, explore the topic: Why does it seem so hard to transmit the Catholic faith today?
The original lectures were given at the Church of Notre Dame de Fourvière in Lyons and at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
The central questions remain of concern today as they were then: Are science, technology and the mass media automatically at odds with Christianity? What are the obstacles that hinder men, women and children from hearing and embracing the Gospel?
To address these, four prominent churchmen addressed two conferences in France in 1983. This book includes the conference lectures along with commentaries by four French and Belgian scholars: Pierre Yet, Bernard Bro OP, Georges Bonnect and Jacques Guillet SJ.
In addition, there is a candid interview with (then) Cardinal Ratzinger about the pressing problems associated with teaching the Faith.
He reminds us: "The fact that there can be long-lasting periods of decline in the Church, is, unfortunately, plain enough from history. Yet history also shows that the totality of the Church - which extends through the whole world and through all times, and is held together and embodied by the role of the Holy Father - bears within itself the powers of regeneration, so that it rises again and again from the dust to proclaim the message of salvation."
In a way, these lectures anticipate the new evangelisation proclaimed by Pope John Paul II some years later.
The new evangelisation is directed not first and foremost at the traditional unbelievers but at men and women living in nations evangelised long ago. Lately these people have abandoned their faith or seen their Christian convictions leached away by the relentless advance of the secular agenda in public life and the suffocating reach of the mass media.
The central focus of the new evangelisation is on the person of Jesus Christ, including His life, claims, miracles and teachings, as well as the Paschal Mystery of Jesus' death and resurrection, relived during each Easter.
The person of Jesus confronts a modern Western world "bored with Christianity", as Cardinal Danneels expressed it.
Pope Francis has taken as his model the "Poor Man of Assisi" and St Francis' God-given mission to "rebuild My Church" in a range of initiatives aimed at capturing the spirit of the new evangelisation.
This book is essential academic and seminary reading.