The Gospel is our Guide

by M. Isabell Naumann ISSM

The place of the inaugural session in the Sala Protomoteca del Campidogli, “the civil and institutional heart of Rome”[1], was symbolically important in that it conveyed the significance of communication within the secular. The word, the good news, ought to be proclaimed within the secular, within the world of politics, economics, and multimedia. It is a message that needs to be communicated from the roof tops and in all possible forms – architecture, digital media, literature etc., but most importantly it presupposes the ability to listen to the languages of the soul.[2]     

Within this context the essential task of the Plenary Assembly, as mentioned in the Address of Pope Benedict XVI, became clear: “To listen to the men and women of our time in order to promote new opportunities to proclaim the Gospel. Thus, listening to the voices of the globalized world, we notice the profound cultural transformation that is taking place with new languages and new forms of communication, which also foster new and problematic anthropological models.” And I think to this end the Plenary Assembly achieved its purpose.

In particular the contributions of the musician Ennio Morricone, the film critic Mons. Dario Vigano, Pietro Scott Jovane, the CEO of Microsoft Italy, Fr. Lloyd Baugh’s introduction of the African Jesus Film “Son of Man” and Father Robert Barron’s demonstration of the educational function of the internet in regard to the communication of faith to the next generation, highlighted the necessity of the Church’s dialogue with cyber-media and the arts – cinema, poetry and music. In this context “the listening to the languages of the soul” requires of the Church a continual updating of its understanding and interpretation of languages and the cultural values they represent.[3]

Aware of this indispensable task, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of “problems” that “sometimes seem to increase when the Church turns to the men and women who are far away or indifferent to an experience of faith. The Gospel message reaches them in a feeble and non-inclusive way” indicating “the incapacity of language to communicate the profound sense and beauty of the experience of faith” that “can contribute to the indifference of many people, especially the young, it can become the reason for estrangement… Today many young people, stunned by the infinite possibilities offered by computer networks or by other forms of technology, establish methods of communication that do not contribute to their growth in humanity. Rather they risk increasing their sense of loneliness and disorientation.”

To counteract such a development, the Church “seeks to avail herself of the new languages and new forms of communication with a renewed and creative spirit, but also with a critical eye and attentive discernment. “

In the Plenary Assembly another important dimension came into play, that of the significant role of liturgy within the context of mystagogy, so appropriately expressed by Enzo Bianchi, the Prior of the Community of Bose, in his presentation.[4] The liturgy in its cosmic dimension takes up all living and non-living beings; it takes us and everything out of the banality of everyday life in a transformation of everyday life. Here the important role of art, images and symbols –so prevalent in the liturgy’s long tradition- need to be again, in view of a contemporary cyber-media-conditioned mentality, the focus of specific consideration.

In a world that is limited to what is visible and empirical, the question arises: what can help the contemporary person to find a way to the mystery. In liturgy everything can become a process that takes the person into the mystery, into the sphere of true beauty with its properties of integrity, proportion and clarity. Although liturgy is basically not geared toward evangelisation, it can lead the non-believer to inquiry and can re-centre the faith of the believer. Pope Benedict XVI too drew attention to the liturgy in his address: “The rich and concentrated symbolism of the Liturgy in particular must shine out with all its power as a communicative feature to deeply touch the human conscience, the heart and intellect. The Christian tradition, moreover, has always closely connected the language of art to the Liturgy, whose beauty has a special communicative power."

The specific focus of this Plenary Assembly was well addressed by the different presenters and in relevant contributions from the participants. In view of the work ahead and the theme for the next Plenary Assembly different important aspects were mentioned:

·        To become more acquainted with the grammar of the digital media and place it at the service of the Church

·        To address relevant anthropological issues  e.g., fluidity of life, individualism, new atheism, in view of a new anthropological model

·        The ongoing dialogue within a inter-generational setting

·        To counteract the Internet’s anti-sacramentalising influence and the de-realizing of reality with an new integral approach to life, to the individual and to the community (e.g., sacred art) and a new apologetics – the internet can be one important place for the Church’s ongoing way into the digital culture.

Thematically the different aspects of a nouvelle athéisme seem to be an appropriate topic for the work ahead in addressing the various areas of the Church’s engagement with the digital culture. 

For me Pope Benedict’s address was extremely relevant to the work of the Assembly. Therefore in conclusion I would like to quote again his words addressed to us on 13 November 2010: “In today’s culture of technology too, the Gospel is the guide and the permanent paradigm of inculturation, purifying, healing and elevating the best features of the new languages and the new forms of communication. For this difficult and intriguing task, the Church can draw on the extraordinary patrimony of symbols, images, rites and acts of her tradition…. Yet the beauty of Christian life is even more effective than art and imagery in the communication of the Gospel Message. In the end, love alone is worthy of faith and proves credible. The lives of the Saints and Martyrs demonstrate a singular beauty which fascinates and attracts, because a Christian life lived in fullness speaks without words.”

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Address to participants in the plenary assembly

[2] Cf, Round Table Listening to the Languages of the Soul in the City with the Participants Patrick De Carolis (Former Director General of France Televisions), Aldo Grasso (Università Cattolica di Milano, Television critic of Corriere della Sera) and Fr. Lloyd Baugh, SJ (Pontifical Gregorian University).

[3] Ennio Morricone,  Mons Dario Vigano, In Dialogue with an Artist; Fr Lloyd Baugh, Culture, Gospel, Inculturation: An African Jesus Film “Son of Man”; Fr Robert Barron, Communicating the Faith to the Next Generations : memory, creativity and relation; Pietro Scott Jovane ,Inform@t Inter-@-connected Inter@ctive: What Language to Engage the Person?

[4] Enzo Bianchi, Mystagogical Communication: symbol and art for the liturgy and evangelisation.