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Catechism Project, #39-49

Several years ago when I was still new to the job I currently hold I had a meeting with my then-boss to go over a presentation I was to give up our management chain.  When I mentioned my discomfort at “not knowing their language” she gave me a quizzical look, as if I had suggested the meeting would be held in Swahili.  I explained I didn’t mean the language of English, but the particular words and phraseology that allows those “on the inside” to say accurately in two words what those on the “outside” take twenty to create a barely recognizable facsimile.  I didn’t know, as I told her, their “trigger words” and that was going to make getting my point across much more difficult.  It may not have been in Swahili, but it was definitely a distinct dialect of English which I had only just barely begun to learn.

Similarly, we as Catholics often find ourselves talking in “code” – using terminology that is not only confusing but meaningless to those on the “outside”.  That doesn’t make us sound smart, it makes us sound stand-offish to some and aloof to others.  As a catechist this can be dangerous, which is bad but relatively limited in scope as the people to whom we talk are at least already somewhat interested in what the Church has to say.  As an evangelist this flaw can be fatal, and this applies to every single one of us.  We all are called to evangelize even if without words.  We must constantly check our vocabulary to make sure we are talking to the person in front of us rather than to ourselves as projected onto that person.

While the Church is confident “in the possibility of speaking about [God] to all men and with all men” (CCC #39), it also admits that “[s]ince our knowledge of God is limited, our language about him is equally so.” (CCC #40)  We must start, as discussed in the post on the previous section, with nature and with man himself.  I think this quote from CCC #41 offers us a wonderful starting point when talking with those who do not already share our faith:

The manifold perfections of creatures – their truth, their goodness, their beauty – all reflect the infinite perfection of God.  Consequently we can name God by taking his creatures’ perfections as our starting point, “for from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.” (Wis 13:5)

Start always with what the other can understand and relate to, but never forget or deny “God transcends all creatures.” (CCC #42)  Express the God we know while admitting we do not know everything about him and celebrating the fact there will always be more to know.  St. Paul talks of having “become all things to all men … for the sake of the gospel”; I truly believe today this type of evangelization is needed more than ever.

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