Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hispanics and the Future of the Catholic Church Part II

Oswald Sobrino was born in the USA. His parents emigrated from Cuba shortly before his birth, settling in New Orleans. He studied there and has moved to Ann Arbor Michigan, where he is obtaining a Master's Degree in Theology in the Seminary. He has been active in the Charismatic Renewal, so prevalent there in Ann Arbor, and authors the blog Catholic Anaysis.

He spoke as a guest lecturer from Nassau Communtiy College Center for Catholic Studies. He is pictured here with Dr. Varacalli, chair of the Center for Catholic Studies at Nassau Community College. His talk was based upon research by the Pew Research Center on Hispanics and Religion. He discussed the face of Hispanic Catholicism in the USA, and how the growing number of Hispanic Catholics in this country offered and opportunity for renewal in the Church, if Anglos (that's anyone with European heritage, like me) would welcome them.

One of the most encouraging books on religious trends which I have read is Dr. Philip Jenkins' The Next Christendom in which he counters popular ideas, such as that in Patrick Buchanan's terrifying The Death of the West, that Muslims are reproducing at a rate which will make them the dominant religious and cultural force in the world. Dr
Jenkins begs to differ, pointing out the vast gains Christianity has made in the Global South, what we used to call the Third World. Those Christians, which of course include Catholics, are more traditionally oriented in terms of religious orthodoxy (morality, belief in traditional doctrine) but their style of worship is charismatic, highlighted by clapping, shouting, hand raising, and calling upon the Holy Spirit in healing prayer and exorcisms.

Mr. Sobrino states that 54% of Hispanic Catholics in America are charismatic, versus 12% of Anglos. Now before my traditional readers write off the charismatic renewal, please read what two prominent men considered traditional by most, had to say about the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger,then prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, in his introdution to Cardinal Suenens book warned the ecclesial ministry not to let this movement pass them by, but urged them to welcome it fully, with the caveat that those in the renewal should cherish their link to the whole Church, and be guided by their pastors. This would be a warning not to establish a separate identity, or attempt to 'convert' the rest of the Church to a more charismatic worship style, but merely use one's gifts in the service of the layman's role to bring Christ into the marketplace.
Dr Peter Kreeft says in his book Fundamentals of the Faith: Essays in Christian Apologetics: When Paul visits the church in Ephesus (Acts 19), he notices something missing
-- I think he would notice exactly the same thing in most of our churches and
preach the same sermon -- and he asks them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit
when you believed?" (Acts 19:2). Why would he ask that unless he saw a power
shortage? Why did twelve fishermen convert the world, and why are half a billion
Christians unable to repeat the feat? The Spirit makes the difference . . . .
[p. 142]We have received the Spirit by faith and baptism. "Anyone who does not
have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him" (Rom 8:9). But we need the
release, the empowering, the anointing of the Spirit. Such empowerment is probably what the New Testament means by baptism in (or of or with) the Holy Spirit. It is supposed to happen at confirmation. Apparently, it usually does not.
Millions of confirmed Catholics receive it afterward, usually in charismatic prayer meetings or seminars. The charismatic movement is obviously God's answer to Pope John XXIII's prayer for a new Pentecost. Popes Paul VI and John Paul II both blessed it but said that it will fulfill its purpose only when, like the early liturgical movement, it ceases to have a separate identity of its own and is absorbed into the whole Church. In other words, every Catholic should be a charismatic, baptized in the Spirit, empowered like the apostles."
Mr Sobrino asserts that Hispanic Catholics, strangers in a strange land, poor and struggling for survival, often cling to the charismatic renewal seeking the healing power of the Holy Spirit. They have much to offer the routine Catholic who may have been sacramentalized, but not evangelized. Ask a typical American Catholic about their faith, and you are not going to see enthusiastic description of their love for Christ, why not? If our Church has the full deposit of the Faith, and we can receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus every Sunday at Mass, why aren't we excited? Mr. Sobrino wondered if we can go absolutely ballistic about football games, and rock stars, doesn't Our Lord's presence at Mass merit at least some excitement?

Another point made by Mr. Sobrino is that Catholics are turned off by 'Anglo-Light Liturgy', the kind of happy mass, where the emphasis is on the community congratulating one another, rather than the awesome presence of Christ among us. Charismatic praise focuses on "isn't God great" not "aren't we great".The Hispanic faith is very much focused on the suffering Christ, and His Blessed Mother. One can see that looking at Hispanic Liturgical Art, with it's dramatically wounded Crucifixes, and sorrowful mother images. (This Spanish crucifix may be ordered here)These images are often deleted from liturgy lite, or liberal churches, leaving Hispanics (and me) cold. Each Spanish speaking country was a separate approved Marian apparition, most of whom are dedicated as the patronesses of that particular nation. For example, the partoness of Cuba is Our Lady of Caridad de Cobre.
Hispanics, even when they leave the Church, still plead the intercession of Our Lady and the saints, in numbers that would shock their Protestant pastors!
Hispanics, according to the Pew Research, are overwhelmingly dedicated to the Culture of Life. I know that from 20 years of teaching English as a Second Language, when I mention in class that abortion is legal throughout the nine months of pregnancy, my Latino students recoil in horror. A majority of Hispanics, 57% believe that abortion should be illegal, and this percentage declines the longer they are in this country, subject to the influence of our liberal media, schools, social service systems, and unfortunately, churches.
A New York Times article entitled, "Pentecostals in NYC" documents the life of a Dominican Pentecostal pastor in a storefront church, which typifies a growing trend in the metropolitan area. Mr. Sobring challenged us by suggesting that at the rate charismatic Christians of traditional values are growing, that New York City might one day soon be colored RED on the election maps. These voters are up for grabs, will pro-life activists reap this harvest of votes in time?
In conclusion, Mr. Sobrino quoted one of my favorite saints, Jose Maria Escriva, who often stated, "Lord, that I might see". Hispanic Catholics make the Church more orthodox, and more charismatic. They might revive our faith, IF we welcome them into our churches with open arms, as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Pictured here are seminarians at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, NY. On the left is Mike Bartholomew, and on the right is Gonzalvo. O. Lopez.
I was able to visit with Marta Moscoso, Editor of the diocese of Rockville Centre Spanish language newspaper, "Fe Fuerza y Vida". Marta and I met when my daughter Gabriela, then 12, won the Diocesan Respect Life Essay Contest, and she interviewed us for the newspaper. I was able to re-connect with other members of the Catholic Hispanic Community, including Deacon Francisco Calle, the Director of the Spanish Apostolate for the Diocese. We hope to be doing great things together for evangelization in the Latino Community in the future.

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