In this third post about the New Evangelisation of England I want to focus on an element which is implicit in both previous posts about this subject. If the most important aspect of the New Evangelisation is people, and people who are switched on, alert to the call and trying to respond, then those people need appropriate formation, both human and Christian. Catholics today can't rely on the surrounding culture to form them, although it seems that such a project is widespread. We need to create within the Church the vision, skills and competence to engage in formation for evangelisation. In fact, the vision has already been discerned by the Church, it remains for the Church in England to embrace this vision and then build itself upon that vision. I remember John Paul II, during the last "Ad Limina" visit of the Bishops of England and Wales, using the word "bewildered" of the people/Church of Britain. The vision and the teaching of this great architect of the New Evangelisation is key the building of the Church in Britain at this time.
So, it is necessary for us to put in place some essential elements of formation so that we are able to form and equip ourselves to take part in the New Evangelisation. My experience tells me that the Ecclesial Movements have been at the forefront of trying to respond to the need to offer formation. And, I am aware that many young people have sensed their own need for formation and have gone to those who have been offering it. These have included the Sion Community, Youth 2000, Faith, SPES, Opus Dei, Community of St John, Beatitudes Community, Craig Lodge and Maryvale. Some of these organisations and groups only exist abroad, and others in our own country offer only sporadic resources. And apart from some notable parishes in the land there still remains a culture in the Church where formation is basically absent. It is essential in the New Evangelisation that this culture change.
I think that there are two inadequate notions abroad. First, we rely upon Catholic schools and colleges to form our young people. By and large, our Catholic schools and colleges are not Catholic and do not impart Christian formation. Secondly, we hold back from offering direct formation, thinking that this is something that a person aquires along the way. This indeed maybe the case, but such an attitude actually has let us down, both in our individual need and the need of the Church as a whole to be lead progressively to embrace the Mystery of Faith and live by it, and to take our part in the Mission of the Church today.
Both the Mystery of Faith and the Mission of the Church seem to be very remote to the bewildered people of Britain.
In fact, there is now an urgent need for centres of formation throughout the land at many different levels. The old centres of formation appear to offer little more than neo-Pelagianism: Ceramics, Enneagrams and other Psychosystems. On the other hand what we need is top quality Catholic Sixth Form Colleges which give real Christian Formation, Centres of Catechsis for Catechumens and baptised adults, Centres of Spirtuality and Prayer, Centres for offering the Gospel of Life, Centres for teaching personhood and the Theology of the Body, for the formation for young people in relationships and pre-marriage formation, Centres for the Family, Centres to resource home-schooling, Centres for formation for Evangelisation, for Media, for Liberal Arts in a genuine Catholic perspective, a Catholic University and renewed seminaries to train priests for the New Evangelisation. We have needed all of this for some time now.