We have the answers, but… are people asking the right questions?

As baptized members of the Catholic Church we have all the answers, according to Professor Douglas Bushman of the Augustine Institute. But how do we get people to ask the right questions?

Bushman addressed this topic during an April 8 lecture, “’Gaudium et Spes’ (‘Joy and Hope’) and the Apologetics of Meaning: Christ is the Answer to All of Man’s Questions.” This—the final installment of the Archbishop’s Lecture Series for the season, covering the four apostolic constitutions of Vatican II—was delivered in Bonfils Hall on the campus of the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization in south Denver.

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Gaudium et Spes,” promulgated in 1965, focused on the role of the Church and her members in the modern world, and ultimately points to finding authentic meaning in Christ, stating: “It is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear” (n. 22).

The document was widely quoted by Pope John Paul II during his pontificate, more than any other text to come out of the council. While Pope Francis doesn’t feel the need to “quote Vatican II three times in every sentence” like John Paul II, according to Bushman, it is “exciting to see how seriously our pope is taking Vatican II.”

“What is the meaning of life after all?’” Bushman said in opening comments. “(People) are asking that question.”

The Church must understand people’s joys, hopes, fears and their fundamental categories of thinking, he said, to carry on a dialogue.

“She should be able to answer the ever-recurring questions that men ask about the meaning of this present life, and of the life to come, and how one is related to the other.”

While Christ provides the answer, secularism aims to exclude God, he said.

“People are made for God and they’re trying to live without him,” Bushman said, comparing one’s need for oxygen for physical existence to the need for God’s love for spiritual existence.

He encouraged the faithful to prioritize quiet time for their spiritual lives, versus being preoccupied with worldly tasks.

“The devil has home-field advantage when we’re outside ourselves all day, every day—balancing our checkbook, getting to the second job, taking care of all of the material things that we have,” he said. “God has home-field advantage when we’re men and women of the heart. When we … open ourselves up to the unique words that only God can speak.”

God’s word reaches people in “oases of silence,” he said.

Bushman encouraged Catholics to read “Gaudium et Spes.” He highlighted how the text is influencing the ministry of Pope Francis and the priority to serve the poor, in quoting the first line of the document: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.”

“Does that sound like Pope Francis to you?” he asked. “For all I know he’s got that laminated on his desk, and he’s already found 150 ways to say the same thing over and over again.”

In closing, Bushman mentioned the extraordinary synod on family and evangelization to be held Oct. 5-19 at the Vatican. That assembly of bishops, as well as the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia Sept. 27-27, 2015, will inspire the next series of talks in the Archbishop’s Lecture Series, to be scheduled for next fall.

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.


Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash