Cor ad Cor Loquitur

Ted and I were talking in class yesterday—a seminar class, mind you, so we were supposed to have been talking—and the topic arose of how we can effectively convey the reality of the Catholic faith to those who do not believe it. Really, there are two ways to convey faith: by institutions (i.e. appeals en masse) and by individual contact (i.e. appeals to the heart). Both methods are important and truly indispensable, unable to exist without one another, but sometimes a tendency for one over the other in a certain situation can be a helpful starting point for conversion of heart. When speaking of institutions within the Church, I mean things like doctrine, Sacred Scripture, the papacy, etc. In other words, things that exist and must exist for the Church to be what She is, and that are concrete realities. By individual contact (or perhaps better, an appeal to the heart), I mean the one-to-one relationship that can form either between a person and another person, or a person and God. This reality is much less ‘static’ than the institution, but is also very much subject to the truth which the institutions define and present.

If I’ve lost you, just hold on. Here’s the gist of it…

Concerning the appeal to the heart, we as Catholics always have the obligation to continually renew and rethink our approach to the world we live in; we have an obligation to preach the Gospel in terms that human beings can understand, while at the same time retaining the Tradition the Church holds as authoritative in its understanding of God’s will. For the contemporary Catholic, this responsibility to preach the Gospel in ‘relevant’ terms must first and foremost take into account the popular modern notion of individualism. Here, I say ‘relevant’ knowing full well that it is a word that has been misused and misunderstood, especially since the 1960’s and 70’s. “Relevant” no longer means, “closely connected or appropriate,” as the dictionary would suggest, but rather “fully acculturated by whatever means necessary”; in short, our society is losing a true sense of relevance, one that can be positive instead of simply bending to the whims of current trends, which may or may not be conducive to accurate portrayals of an objective faith.

If I’ve lost you again, re-read it. This is exactly what we often fail to understand as Catholics!

Once someone has a solid grasp on how to be ‘relevant,’ while at the same time remaining, above all, faithful to the Church’s teaching, then—and only then—can they begin to preach the Gospel in truly effective terms. This authentically Catholic way of encountering the core of another human being is precisely what I first meant by an appeal to the heart: Cor ad cor loquitur; “Heart speaks to heart.” But, our heart is only prepared to speak to another if we first form it well in the truth of the faith. Thus, the institutions of the Church described initially work to substantiate the efforts of the individual Christian, whose living profession of faith is ultimately the greatest method of true evangelization.

In all truth, a tendency toward the relational aspect of conversion might be precisely what is in order for us to successfully engage the world we live in today. Through it all, however, we must continually keep in mind and heart the truth of the deposit of faith, which the Church in Her wisdom provides for us so beautifully and consistently.

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    # by Anonymous - December 12, 2007 at 1:12 PM

    "Once someone has a solid grasp on how to be ‘relevant,’ while at the same time remaining, above all, faithful to the Church’s teaching, then—and only then—can they begin to preach the Gospel in truly effective terms."
    Andy, I see what you're driving at, or at least I think I do...that we can't sell the store just to be 'relevant'. OTOH, fortunately God didn't wait to convert me or help me convert others until I had a firm grasp of Church teaching.
    I say fortunately because He generally uses what He can get. Me & my fam were dragged kicking & screaming into the Church through the back door. We attended a liberal Catholic church for many years until the true teaching wisdom of the Church began to sink in but the Lord in his goodness was able to multiply our ungenerous response & bring us finally to the feet of Peter.
    So, to say "then & only then" isn't accurate really, at least in our case.

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    # by Andrew Haines - December 12, 2007 at 3:16 PM

    Thanks for your comment. I see what you mean, and thank you for your insight. You are absolutely right about God taking what he can get to convert souls to himself; even the most devout and well-instructed Catholic still lacks in perfection, which needs to be filled up by the grace of God.

    In the end, I still hold to my general point. Saying that Catholics who desire 'relevance' also need to have a grasp on the doctrine of the faith for 'truly effective' evangelization simply means that, in order to initiate (by way of their witness) an effective change of heart toward the fullness of the Catholic faith, a member of the Church needs to know what that faith is. That isn't to say that any number of 'non-informed' yet 'relevant' acts cannot lead another to eventually come to see the truth of the faith; that is precisely what you exemplified with your own testimony: it wasn't the inital instruction that was authentically Catholic in the fullest sense, but only later instruction from those who knew their faith well.

    Perhaps it's an overly technical point, I apologize if it seems that way. I think that your insight is very indicative of a different way to view the same situation, which I did not address in my post. Ultimately, though, I think we agree on the eventual outcome of this idea: true faith cannot be taught by disconnected 'relevance,' but only by one who knows and lives the faith he or she professes in Jesus Christ and his Holy Church.

    Let me know what you think...

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    # by Anonymous - December 12, 2007 at 3:47 PM

    What a beautiful story about your conversion and everyone's need for continual conversion, no matter where we are on our journey of faith.

    It seems to me that Andy was speaking about the effective preaching of the Gospel while anonymous was speaking about God's mysterious ability to take us wherever we happen to be. I don't see any contradiction in what both of you are saying rather I think you are both speaking on two different points that are related yet distinct. Andy's being about effective preaching and evangelization and anonymous' about God's ability to work with all of us despite our lack of formation from ineffective preaching.

    That's my 2 cents. I enjoyed the post and am glad to see some discussion going on here. This could turn out to be a great blog.

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    # by Anonymous - December 12, 2007 at 4:11 PM

    Interesting comments. It seems to me that the gospel story is based on God's desire for a "relationship" with his creation. "For God so loved the world..." and as a woman who has been married for 30 years, there is nothing that can kill a relationship faster than a need to be "right"! So often I have seen the the need for "right" doctrine come from people with rigid hearts...both in the Cathotic and Protestant Traditions? Why is this? Truth without love is a rather cold thing and true relevance will always nurture a soft heart where the truth of God can grow.
    I Cor. 13.
    What does Ted have to say?

    Mary

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    # by Anonymous - December 12, 2007 at 5:13 PM

    Commenter #3 is probably right in that what Andy & I were discussing is a "both-and" situation.
    But he's wrong to say "this could turn out to be a great blog" because it already is...definitely a step above most Catholic blogs:)

    Anon#1

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    # by Ted Martin - December 12, 2007 at 5:20 PM

    Mary,

    Thanks for the comment and asking what my thoughts are on this discussion. A Scripture passage comes to my mind and it is the the woman caught in adultery from John 8. Here we find our Lord doing two things. First, He shows her extraordinary mercy by not only humbling the scholars of the law, who wanted her punishment that would have ended in death, but he also does not condemn her. "Neither do I condemn you..."

    As we know, the story doesn't end there. It would be to easy to cut the story short and thus drain it of its full significance and beauty. So we ask, "Where is the truth?" The Truth that is always difficult for us sinners are Jesus' next words to her "Go, and do not sin again."

    I believe this text from Scripture summarizes well what we are trying to get at here; although my analogy isn't perfect for what Andy wrote on. Nevertheless, Jesus always, as Pope Benedict says in "Spe Salvi", tempers judgement with grace.

    I think this model of our Lord should flow over into our discussions/debates, etc... We must certainly be unwavering in standing with the Truth, who is Jesus, as we receive it from the Church. We can always speak the Truth with grace, humility and charity though.

    I respect greatly people who think they are right. However, I can't stand it when someone says that they are right and is not open to listening and trying to understand someone else's point of view. Stubbornness of this sort is what I think you are getting at.

    I hope that makes sense to you.

    In Christ,
    Ted Martin

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    # by Ted Martin - December 12, 2007 at 5:20 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.
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    # by Ted Martin - December 12, 2007 at 5:22 PM

    I accidently posted my last one twice, that is why there is a deleted post.

    In Christ,
    Ted

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    # by Anonymous - December 13, 2007 at 8:20 AM

    Thanks guys.
    Your blog really got me thinking about all the different ways God has brought his truth into my life. It IS a marriage of heart and truth...maybe because God is both the chicken and the egg.
    Have a great day! and Merry Christmas!

    Mary