This final keynote address of the conference was given by Bishop Nicholas Hudson, auxiliary bishop of Westminster. You won't find him on social media, but a few YouTube clips of his speeches can be found online.
Bishop Hudson is the 4th of 5 boys, educated at Jesuit schools and studied history at Cambridge. He then studied in Rome and obtained a licentiate in Fundamental Theology. In 1986 he became chaplain to the L'Arche communities. In 2014 he was made auxiliary bishop of Westminster.
His keynote address was entitled, 'Oases of Mercy: Parishes which radiate Christ'.
NB. These notes are rough, they do not contain everything said, and will lack his particular emphases. The full text of his keynote is available at http://proclaimconference.com.au/doc/resources/281016/2016%20Proclaim%20KeynoteBishopHudson.pdf but might not be available online for longer than 2 years.
Good morning. Thanks for the warm welcome
Some parishes are truly Oases of Mercy. The parish of St Egidio in Rome is a good example. Some parishioners back in the 1980s started a prayer group, and over time felt a desire to assist the poor. They began with soup and offering shelter at night. Later on they worked out that the need for literacy and education was just as big as the need for food and shelter, and did something about that too. These days they are feeding around 200 people a day.
Pope Francis used this phrase first when he said 'Wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy' : Misericordiae Vultus 12
St John XXIII spoke about a parish being like a village fountain to which all have recourse in their thirst.
In Evangelii Gaudium 28 Pope Francis said that a parish is 'a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a centre of constant missionary outreach.'
In Evangelii Gaudium 24 Pope Francis shared this vision of Church, and by extension of parish:
The Church which “goes forth” is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice. An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, He has loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19), and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast. Such a community has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy.
Blessed John Henry Newman spoke about radiating Christ, and penned an inspiring prayer to explain it better:
Dear Jesus, help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with Your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Yours.
Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your presence in my soul.
Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus!
Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine, so to shine as to be a light to others;
the light, O Jesus, will be all from You; none of it will be mine: it will be You shining on others through me.
Let me thus praise You in the way You love best: by shining on those around me.
Let me preach You without preaching, not by words, but by my example, by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to You. Amen
The way to proclaim Christ in the 21st century is to make our parishes oases of mercy, radiating the face of Christ. When Pope Francis calls us to be missionary disciples, he wants us to be missionaries of mercy. This, in turn, calls for a new way of doing things, and each of us individually and collectively have to ask, 'What more must I do?'.
At the beginning of the millennium St John Paul II invited us to 'put out into the deep'. Now Pope Francis asks us to enter into a 'resolute process of discernment, purification and reform' EG30 in order to find 'new paths for the Church's journey in years to come' EG1.
The first step in this process is to celebrate what we already do that is having a positive evangelistic impact. Discover what you do well, and then ask what more the Lord may be calling us to do.
The next step is to review the evangelistic potential of what we do under 5 headings, Prayer, Caritas, Faith Formation, Marriage & Family Life, and Evangelistic Outreach.
For example, if Prayer is going well, how do you deepen it? How do you unlock its possibilities for evangelisation? What are the prayer needs of our young people? Does the parish have opportunities for genuine forms of popular religiosity, eg processions and rosaries?
'Genuine forms of popular religiosity are incarnate, since they are born of the incarnation of Christian faith in popular culture. For this reason they entail a personal relationship, not with vague spiritual energies or powers, but with God, with Christ, with Mary, with the saints. These devotions are fleshy, they have a face. They are capable of fostering relationships and not just enabling escapism.' EG90a
Under the heading of Caritas, we might be doing well with our care for the elderly and food for the hungry, but how are we doing in the area of inclusion of people with disabilities? You might like to look into setting up a monthly Faith and Light group: a mix of intellectually disabled people, their family and friends, parishioners and young people gathering together for friendship, sharing, prayer and celebration.
There is always a danger that we focus our Evangelistic Outreach inwards instead of looking outwards. While there is some evidence that people with Christian backgrounds are finding their way to the Catholic Church, our track record with the unchurched is very poor.
Have you heard about Night Fever? The idea behind Night Fever is simple: open a city centre church at night, fill it with candle-light and prayerful live music, and invite passers-by inside.
(Ed. Read about what has happened with Night Fever at Chicago, Saskatoon, Blackpool and Dublin:
We need to think about how to reach out to those who come nowhere near the church threshold. Do you have a Welcoming Group set up to greet those that do cross the threshold?
In your parish communities it is good to make 3 year plans for outreach, and to have a mission activity to focus on in the next 18 to 24 months.
Form evangelisation teams. Discernment about how to evangelize as a parish/team can happen before or after the team is formed. Having an evangelisation team is essential. Do not walk alone, walk together under the leadership and guidance of the bishops. Jesus did not walk alone, He had a team. Like His team, ours should ideally have 12 members.
Again, like Jesus, prayer is essential before choosing the members of the team, and once the team is chosen. You want people with solid prayer lives in the team. You also want the diversity of the parish reflected in its team members, across age, occupations, ethnicity etc. You want membership of this team to be their primary parish role, and not a secondary one.
The purpose of the team is to keep the parish mission-focussed, and to become the 'mission conscience' of the parish. It is their task to discern how to evangelise and how to resource those initiatives.
What exactly do we mean by evangelisation? Just like there is a multiplicity of ways of praying, there is a multiplicity of ways to evangelise. Evangelism is about communicating a relationship with Jesus in word and deed in such a way that people ask, 'Who is this Jesus you love and worship?'
Pope Francis reminds us that the spiritual and corporal works of mercy are the criteria upon which we will be judged. We will be judged on the basis of love, as St John of the Cross puts it.
The corporal works of mercy are:
To feed the hungry
To give drink to the thirsty
To clothe the naked
To shelter the homeless
To visit the sick
To ransom the captive
To bury the dead
We don't have to reinvent the wheel, look at some of the ways others are already doing them:
Mary's Meals https://www.marysmeals.org.uk/# feeding the hungry
Water Aid http://www.wateraid.org/au giving drink to the thirsty
Read http://www.clothingpoverty.com/ about the hidden world of fast fashion and second hand clothes.
St Mungo's http://www.mungos.org/ helps the homeless
Little Sisters of the Poor http://www.littlesistersofthepoor.org.au/ looking after the sick and dying
Prison Fellowship https://www.prisonfellowship.org/ assisting those in prison
Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services http://cmsmission.org/solutions/cfcs/ burying the dead
(Ed. This last one is best guess, CFC were the initials I wrote down and the screens flashed quickly)
When considering the works of mercy, we are encouraged to look at them by Pope Francis in the context of the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus told this story to answer the question, 'Who is my neighbour?' and through it we understand that our neighbour is not just someone in a far-off land; our neighbour is more often the person we meet close at hand and whom we find to be in need. The Latin word for mercy is Misericordia, having a heart (cor) for the poor (miseri). Mercy needs to be not only affective (touching our hearts), but effective (bringing real relief). In order to make our parishes oases of mercy, they must become places which have a heart for the poor.
A pathway for discernment could go like this:
Take one of the five headings for evangelistic initiatives eg Marriage & Family Life.
•Ask, what do we already do well in this area?
•What more could the Lord be calling us to do in the light of Evangelii Gaudium?
•Then prayerfully consider each of the works of mercy in the light of that initiative (eg Marriage & Family Life) and the light of Evangelii Gaudium and see what possibilities those considerations lead to.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has very good material on their website about the New Evangelisation http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/new-evangelization/ . In particular there is a practical and feasible list of ways of suggestions for putting the Corporal Works of Mercy into practice http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/new-evangelization/jubilee-of-mercy/the-corporal-works-of-mercy.cfm
These are the suggestions for Visiting the Sick:
•Spend time volunteering at a nursing home – Get creative and make use of your talents (e.g. sing, read, paint, call Bingo, etc.)!
•Take time on a Saturday to stop and visit with an elderly neighbour.
•Offer to assist caregivers of chronically sick family members on a one-time or periodic basis. Give caregivers time off from their caregiving responsibilities so they can rest, complete personal chores, or enjoy a relaxing break.
•Next time you make a meal that can be easily frozen, make a double batch and give it to a family in your parish who has a sick loved one.
Many of these suggestions are already being done by individuals and families in parishes. Have a think about how they could be organised better, to help more families and give a louder proclamation of mercy.
My father taught me about how acts of mercy are meant to be part of family life. He was a school teacher, working Monday to Friday and Saturday mornings. When he came home from work on a Saturday he would take me – and a hot shepherd's pie – in the car to visit old Mr Flood. His flat was so bare, but he would sit day in and day out at his window and smile and wave to us boys. That smile of his, I realise now, radiated Christ to us. We met Christ in Mr Flood. We always receive more than we give. I think what Pope Francis would say is 'Yes, that's what I am talking about. Do more of it.'
The L'Arche movement was founded by Jean Vanier. He spent 10 years in the Navy and then studied philosophy and later taught philosophy. He met a priest who invited him to befriend two men who lived at a local psychiatric hospital. Jean felt a deep call to share his life with these two men, and bought a little house and called it l'Arche (The Ark). He had no idea he was starting a movement; he began just by doing it. The best way to proclaim mercy, is to start doing it. The easiest way to evangelise, is to start doing it.
The vision of L’Arche is found in Luke's Gospel:
'Jesus said to His host: ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.'' (Luke 14, 12-14)
Soon after Jesus says, “Do this and you will be blessed.” Jesus doesn’t say they will be blessed. He says you will be blessed. Why? Because in the poor person, to whom you give a welcome, you welcome Jesus. When you reach out to the poor, you touch the wounded body of Christ. In assisting the poor you both meet and proclaim Christ.
But we need to also talk about our faith, and to add words to the mercy. Telling people who the Lord is for us is vital. When visiting Mr Flood we never talked about our faith, we never even said Grace with him. If we had, maybe it could have opened up a gentle conversation about God; either by inviting him to more prayer, or by asking if he minded us praying.
The spiritual works of mercy are:
To instruct the ignorant
To counsel the doubtful
To admonish sinners
To bear wrongs patiently
To forgive offences willingly
To comfort the afflicted
To pray for the living and the dead
The spiritual works of mercy are about expressing our faith in words. Pope Francis speaks strongly about them in Misericordiae Vultus 15:
'We cannot escape the Lord’s words to us, and they will serve as the criteria upon which we will be judged: whether we have fed the hungry and given drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger and clothed the naked, or spent time with the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-45). Moreover, we will be asked if we have helped others to escape the doubt that causes them to fall into despair and which is often a source of loneliness; if we have helped to overcome the ignorance in which millions of people live, especially children deprived of the necessary means to free them from the bonds of poverty; if we have been close to the lonely and afflicted; if we have forgiven those who have offended us and have rejected all forms of anger and hate that lead to violence; if we have had the kind of patience God shows, who is so patient with us; and if we have commended our brothers and sisters to the Lord in prayer.'
We need to focus on both the words and the deeds of mercy. With both we need to proclaim Jesus, and we definitely need words in order to evangelise:
'There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed.' Evangelii Nuntiandi 22
The early church used the kerygma to announce the Gospel to others. Kerygma means proclamation. It is the core proclamation of the Gospel. The key to evangelisation is proclaiming who Jesus is for you in a way that leads others to Him. Pope Francis says that it’s simply telling people, 'Jesus Christ loves you; He gave His life to save you; and now He is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.' Evangelii Gaudium 164
Pope Benedict XVI told the Bishops of the Philippines on 18 Feb 2011 : 'Your great task in evangelisation is therefore to propose a personal relationship with Christ as key to complete fulfilment.'
Listen again to St Peter's proclamation in Acts 2:22-24
'Men of Israel, listen to what I am going to say: Jesus the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God by the miracles and portents and signs that God worked through Him when He was among you, as you know. This man … you took and had crucified and killed ... But God raised Him to life … Now raised to the heights by God’s right hand, He has received from the Father the Holy Spirit, who was promised, and what you see and hear is the outpouring of that Spirit.'
How do we share this core message with people? Sometimes opportunities take us by surprise. In Rome I was asked to look after 3 young women, aged around 19. On the way to visit St Peter's Basilica I talked to them about St Peter and the major events of his life with Jesus and his life with the early church and his martyrdom. By the time we got to the Confessio I was just about finished telling the story and said, 'And this is where he was buried. Right here, but about three levels down'. This profoundly affected at least one of these bright young women who said, 'I just don't understand why no one has ever told me this before. How come I've never heard this? I wish I'd known it before!'
Another time the English World Cup rugby team were visiting, and one of them decided that he wanted to play on the College's organ. The music attracted other team members to the College chapel. On the walls of the college were frescoes of martyrs from the time of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. It wasn't long before someone asked me who these people on the walls were, and I started telling them about the stories of the ways they heroically stood up for the truths of the faith and refused to be a part of a church that had broken away from unity with Rome. One of them, with tears, spoke on behalf of the others, 'I don’t understand why no one has ever told us this before. This is all news to me.' Many of our young people could say the same to us: 'You never told us. There's so much about Jesus and our history that no one ever told us.'
This proclamation of who Jesus is, and of how others have testified to that, needs to be present in every homily, every class and every talk we give. When I meet young people preparing for Confirmation, I challenge them, and remind them that when you make these baptismal promises for yourself, you are saying you believe Jesus is who He says He is:
You are saying you believe He was God made human; that He was a historical person; that He was born a little over 2000 years ago in Bethlehem; that He grew up in Nazareth; that, at about the age of thirty, He was anointed by the Holy Spirit and began a ministry of teaching and preaching and healing; He worked many miracles which proved He was divine; but, after three years, His people rejected Him; they had Him put to death by crucifixion. But He had promised them He would rise from the dead. When He returned to the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit upon His disciples. And it is this same Holy Spirit who comes upon you and leads you into the fullness of life.
Now, that’s the kerygma, the core proclamation. It’s what we mean by kerygmatic catechesis.
Every time someone comes along, adult or child, for sacramental preparation dare to ask, 'When you say the Creed at Mass on Sunday, do you believe in everything we say there; or are there some parts you wonder about, would like to discuss, or know more about?' After all, if we can't talk about these things in formal catechesis, then when can we? At all the different stages of faith development we need to revisit this core message of a relationship with Christ, in word and in deed, in such a way that makes people ask, 'Who is this Jesus whom you love and worship?'
Ever thought of changing the world one heart at a time? That's how Jesus began with Peter and Andrew, Matthew, John and James. I do believe it is one heart at a time that we begin to radiate Christ – showing every person whom we encounter not just that our parish is an oasis of mercy but that they will find an oasis of mercy in us, in each of us. To be able to embrace individual hearts this way comes from years of meeting the Lord daily in prayer. Then you begin to radiate Christ. And it is where we need start too: on our knees. As more people do the same: giving themselves daily to the Lord in prayer, giving themselves daily to their neighbour through acts of generosity, self-sacrifice, charity and loving kindness – then, little by little, our parishes will become oases of mercy which radiate Christ. And we will find our Church becomes missionary in ways we never imagined possible.
It is some months now since this talk was given, but I do remember how after this talk everyone tumbling into the area where food and drink could be found had this upbeat sense of 'Yes, I can do that' about these ideas for evangelisation, or 'now I understand what this kerygma stuff is and how to do it'. We were all grateful for these very practical ideas and explanations.
What these words cannot convey are the video-clips and photographs Bishop Hudson showed us. We were all deeply moved by a little girl with intellectual disability praying the Our Father and the photographs of parishes including people with all kinds of disabilities in their activities.
In the next issue will be notes from the workshop on the opportunities and challenges for parishes as they seek to proclaim Jesus Christ.