Xin gửi tặng các bạn trẻ ở Hoa Kỳ BẢN DỊCH TIẾNG ANH BÀI THUYẾT TRÌNH cho Hội Nghị Các Bề Trên vùng Châu Á Thái Bình Dương của Dòng Truyền giáo Thánh Vinh Sơn tại Học Viện Triết Học của Tu Hội Truyền Giáo Thánh Vinh Sơn ngày 20/02/2017. Bản tiếng Việt các bạn đã có sẵn trong cuốn Giáo Hội Công giáo Việt Nam Niên giám 2016, chương 13, từ trang 213-225.
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN VIETNAM
AND THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
To prepare for the New Evangelization (NE), a Synod of Bishops – the XIII Ordinary General Assembly – was held in Rome in October 2012 to reflect on the theme “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith;” and after the XII Assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam (CBCV), the Vietnamese bishops sent a pastoral letter to all the faithful, in which they focused on NE and decided on a patoral plan for 3 years (2014-2016) of NE: NE for family life; NE for parish and religious community life; and NE for society life.
The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), through two special documents of Ad Gentes (AG) and Actuositatem Apostolicam (AA) in its 16 documents, had indicated the importance of NE. Some other important documents of the Church had also confirmed the path of NE, such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1992; the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, issued by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Faith in 2004; and the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, issued by Pope Francis in 2013. On the World Youth Day held in Krakow from July 27-31, 2016, Pope Francis distributed DOCAT (a catechism for youth of Catholic social doctrine) to all attendants as a sign of his encouragement for all the faithful, especially young people, to act and change the world in accordance with the Gospel.
Needless to say, in order to achieve the effects of NE in the life of the faithful, of the Church, and of the entire human family, all members of the Church have to carefully study those documents and put into practice their instructions. One question arises for the Church in Vietnam: How have the people of God studied those documents and applied to their life? NE can never be the propaganda or the slogans that are hung in the walls of the churches, or of the rectories, or of the chapels of religious commnnities. The Church in Vietnam previously implemented “The Year of Evangelization,” which resulted in nothing other than keeping the same number of 7% Catholic population in the last 130 years.
NE is very important, necessary, and urgent for our salvation and the salvation of the world, as St. Paul put it, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1Cor 9:16)
1. An important, necessary, and urgent work
NE is important because it is the action and the command of Jesus Christ. NE was started by God, who sent his Only Son to the world; and his Only Son, in turn, gave that ministry to us when he breathed on the disciples and poured down the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon them, saying: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (Jn 20:21). After his suffering death and glorious resurrection, he solemnly commanded us: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mk 16:15). Accordingly, the Second Vatican II considered NE as the nature of the Church and also of each of the faithful. If the Church does not preach the Gospel, she does not live up to her nature and has no reason to exist (cf. AG 1, 2, 7; AA 6; CCC 849-850).
NE is necessary because so many cultural and societal elements have profoundly changed all around the world, including Vietnam, in recent years. To get a good harvest of NE, the faithful therefore need to be transformed in their zeal, method, and way of presenting the Gospel (cf. WD 87; Patoral Letter of CBCV 5). They have to face with problems caused by today’s cultural and societal changes: secularization, rejection of God and Jesus’ role in human life, immigration (millions of immigrants), inequality between rich and poor countries, economic crises, religion wars, scientism, social media addiction, and new forms of religion which encourage natural and sexual desires (cf. WD 52-67).
However, “many Christian communities do not fully conceive of the challenges as well as the magnitude of the crisis that are taking place both in society and in the Church” (cf. WD 49). Although they still talk about evangelization, the faithful fail to have a positive attitude in dealing with those extensive changes. That failure eventually leads to “a decrease of devotion in many Christians” (cf. WD 48) as well as to “the weakening of faith,” “the bureaucracy in the Church,” “the forming of liturgical ceremonies, which focus on external rites and habits whereas ignore the internal dimension of spiritual experience, and push the faithful away from Jesus Christ rather than draw them closer to him” (cf. WD 69).
NE is urgent because if it is not fulfilled, human family, including Vietnamese people, will move forward to crisis and destruction. After the First World War (1914-1918) and the Second World War (1939-1945), the churches in Europe were full of people coming to pray and attend Mass. But 50 years later, the number of 80-90% Mass attendants dropped to 10-15%. In entire Europe nowadays, only 50% of the population claims to believe in God; 20% claims to be atheist. Particularly in France, once considered as the Eldest Siter of the Church, 40% claims to be atheists or non-religious affiliates; and only 27% claims to believe in God (cf. Gallup International Association, April/2015.) That entails an extensively moral crisis in all over Western societies.
The crisis of morality and the downfall of economy in Vietnam today require the faithful to actively participate in social NE. In their local and governmental assemblies, the leaders of the country continually give warnings to many social problems.
I want to quote here the speech of former Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung at the assembly held by the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism: “We have not sufficiently promoted, both in family and school, the self-awareness of values, morality, and good lifestyle for people. In many places, there are increasing signs of bad behaviors in social communities, such as, superficiality, individualism, selfishness, and indifference. In the reports and events on culture, there is also an extensive emphasis on external achievements. These problems not only slow down the targets of social and economic development but also illustrate a distorted image of the Vietnamese people and culture. That is a challenge, perhaps the challenge of challenges, for us in the context that we are determining to build up and defend our country, as well as in our effort to integrate into world market economy and participate in international issues (cf. http://www.thanhnien.com.vn/pages/20130809/xay-dung-con-nguoi-van-hoa-la-kem-nhat.aspn).
2. What is NE?
Talking about NE, many Christians in Vietnam and in the world often think of the book of New Testament or the encouragement to read the Gospel. Accordingly, they relate the NE pastoral plans for family, for parish, and for society to the reading and application of God’s words to their daily curcumstances. They print and distribute the New Testament for free, or participate in biblical classes and exams, etc., to improve their knowledge of the Bible.
However, the Synod of Bishops in 2012 reminded us that: “Talking about the Gospel, we should not simply think of it as a book or a collection of Jesus’ teachings. The Gospel is something more than that; it is the Living and Effective Word, which makes possible what it promises. The Gospel is not only a system of doctrines or commands but also a man: Jesus Christ, who is the Word made flesh. The Gospel is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In addition to take Jesus as its content, the Gospel takes Jesus as the center of its proclamation and presents Jesus’ command to preach it, with the power of the Holy Spirit he gives us. Therefore, the purpose of faith transmission is a call for a personal encounter with Jesus Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, through which we are led to an experience of his Father, who is also our Father” (cf. Preparatory Document for 2012 Synod of Bishops 11; WD 18; Patoral Letter of CBCV Oct/2013, 4).
Evangelazation must therefore be understood as the living out the Living Word of God so that we may become like Jesus, who is the Word made flesh. Evangelization is similar to “Christianization” or “Jesusization,” which means to change ourselves and our community into Jesus Christ, and to bring Jesus Christ into all domains of personal and communal life (cf. Lm. Antôn Nguyễn Ngọc Sơn, Cẩm nang Tân PAH, NXB Tôn Giáo, 2014, 44-51). NE is to make ourselves become one with Jesus Christ, and to let him transfer to us the wonderful energy, almighty power, and infinite love of God. We will then continue to do marvelous signs in all creatures, in driving out devils, and in healing those who are sick. We ourselves will become the person of Jesus for humankind and the world today (cf. Lk 10:17-20).
Accordingly, NE does not simply mean to re-evangelize, or to re-preach the Gospel to those who have previously believed in Jesus but now no longer practice Christian faith (cf. WD 44-45, 85-87). Rather, it means to evangelize with a new energy, a new method and a new way of presenting the Gospel (cf. WD 87).
“NE does not mean to find a new Gospel,” since “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 13:8). The historical Jesus and the Jesus of faith is forever the same because he is the Word, who became a concrete man – Jesus Christ.
When we live in accordance with the maxims of the Gospel, such as poor in spirit, meekness, justice, peace, purity of heart, generosity that are formulated in the Beatitudes, then “NE means to build up a culture that is deeply rooted in the Gospel and to discover in each of us a “new self ” (Eph 4:24) formed by the Holy Spirit, who is given to us by Jesus and the Father” (cf. WD 164).
“NE means to kindle in us the enthusiasm of the early Church and to let ourselves be filled with the zeal to preach the Gospel, like the apostles after the Pentecost” (WD 165). Day by day, NE helps to increase our relationship with Jesus Christ, since he alone is the conerstone of our future and the guarentee for our true and enduring love” (WD 166).
NE offers a deep meaning and a profound content in order to transform the Vietnamese people and the world in the new generation.
3. What is the purpose of NE ?
The main purpose of NE is to transmit faith, as the theme of the Synod of Bishops in 2012 indicates.
“For Jesus, the purpose of NE is to draw people to a close relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. This is the primary purpose of his preaching and doing miracles, and of announcing the salvation… so that all people will experience God’s love for them and recognize in him the face of a merciful Father (cf. Lk 15)” (cf. WD 18).
Many Christians do not understand that “Christian faith is an encounter and a real relationship with Jesus Christ. Transmission of faith is to make possible this encounter with Jesus Christ for people living in every age and place. The entire purpose of NE is to make this encounter, both personal and public, both intimate and communal, become a reality” (cf. WD 18). “This encounter with Jesus through the Holy Spirit is the greatest gift of God for humankind” (cf. WD 19).
Many Christians have not actually met with God, despite “with his whole being man gives his assent to God the revealer” (cf. CCC 143), they have tried to meet him from human perspective, that is through their study, prayer, charitable work, and submission to the Word they have heard (cf. CCC 144). They have to first meet with Jesus Christ, who is true God, the real Source of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, the Source of life and the concrete love, as the Scriptures and the Gospel present to us (cf. Gen 12:1-5; Mk 10:46-52; cf. CCC 150-151). Then, they will experience how faith can marvelously transform them and help them to transmit faith to others.
One question arises for each of Vietnamese faithful is: “What I must do to meet Jesus because if I do not meet him, my proclamation of him is totally empty, and I cannot evangelize any person if I do not first evangelize myself!” (cf. WD 158).
4. Three elements of NE
To carry out the NE, we need to pay attention to three elements: subject, object and content (cf. Cẩm nang TPAH 48-57).
4.1 Subject is the person who carry out the NE, that is, the person who announces the Gospel. That person must first of all meet with Jesus Christ so that he himself is transformed into a living witness to Jesus’ Word. The subject needs to acquire these two conditions in order to proclaim the Word of salvation: Firstly, closely live with to Jesus and let him transfer his wonderful strength, bountiful love and infinite power; and secondly, breathe the same Spirit of Jesus and let the Spirit guide his apostolic ministry (cf. Cẩm nang TPAH 164-176).
In 2016, there are 45 bishops, 5,197 priests, 4,854 seminarians, 23,000 religious, more than 66,000 catechists and more than 500,000 members of many groups of Catholic Action in the Church in Vietnam. We may ask whether these people are actually aware of their role as subjects of the NE? How are they guided to encounter with Jesus Christ and be able to breathe his Spirit in their daily life? With such a huge number of subjects of NE, there were only 38,050 adults who entered the Church, and the same number left the Church in 2015.
That situation has remained not just in recent years but in the past some decades. Can we continue to envangelize with the classical method? How do the subjects of the evengelization, especially the bishops, priests, religious and members of Catholic groups, need to be trained and guided so that they can acquire new “enthusiasm, method, and way of presenting the Gospel,” rather than satisfy with what they have had?
Many Vietnamese lay people still do not gain the new awareness of evangelization, partly because of their passive attitude, but mostly because the leaders of the Church still do not help them to gain this new awareness. The reform of formation program for priests and religious for the Church in Vietnam is therefore very necessary and urgent. However, this reform does not mean to bring into the program some new courses, or to adapt the Taize method of prayer, etc., but essentially means to help these subjects of evangelization know how to love, to seek, to encounter with Jesus, and to start anew from him.
4.2 Object is the person or thing that receive the Gospel, that is, the person who listens to the proclamation of the Gospel, or the thing that receives the effects of the Gospel. In the past centuries, the object was understood as the people or nations (cf. Mt 28:19; Lk 24:47). But it is now understood to include all creatures (cf. Mk 16:15-20; CCC 849-856), that is, the angels (cf. CCC 333-334), those who have gone before us (cf. 1Pr 3:19-20; 1Pr 4:5-6), and all things surrounded us (cf. Cẩm nang TPAH 19-23) as Pope Francis expresses in his encyclical letter Laudato Si, issued on 24 May 2015.
For fallen angels, that is, the devils, the faithful must, in the name of Jesus who is the Living Word, drive them out of human society, as Jesus did and commanded us to do the same for our present age (cf. WD 29, 116). The driving out of devils is a wonderful sign and testifies to the presence of Jesus in the subject who announces the Gospel. It helps the object to encounter with Jesus and believe in him. The NE is then completed in the object. However, many Christians still think of the driving out of devils as Jesus commanded (cf. Mk 16:15-20) to be supersitious and unbelievable, despite all the calling of the Church, “for their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen” (Mk 16:14).
However, the object of “all people” is still the main object for the NE in Vietnam. 93% of the population do not know and believe in Jesus. That is a big “field of evangelization” for the Church in Vietnam. The Church has to make every effort to bring the Gospel to these people, who belong to different social circumstances and therefore require different methods and ways of presenting the Gospel to them.
The priority of NE is obviously poor people. Pope Francis invites us to go to the “peripheries,” to those who are poor, sick, sinful, and marginalized. In Vietnam, there are tens of millions of people who are poor in spirit. They do not believe in piritual values and so focus only on material values. Tens of millions of other people who live in material poverty. They get less than 1 dollar a day because of the current economy crisis. There is about a million of women, who aborted, fell into depression and in need of healing. There are more than eight millions of immigrants, who have to leave family behind or take the whole family to another places, especially to big cities, to study and work.
There are several millions of people addicted to alcohol in about 26 millions of people who often drink wine or beer. People addicted to alcohol tend to abuse their wives and children. They need help to overcome their addiction. There are about 33 million people who smoke. The nicotine substances affect their reproductive organs and cause negative effects in their children. There are 200,000 people addicted to drug; and 300,000 people infected with HIV. There are 6 million and 7 hundred thousand handicapped people and 10 million people with metally illness. How should we proclaim the Gospel of salvation to these people so that they can experience the salvation of Jesus?
In addition, there are 41 million people who access to internet everyday, mainly for entertainment, rather than for study, research or work. There are also 5 million people who access to porn websites every night; and 10 million people who play online games to the extent that they abandon their task of study or work. What should we do to liberate them from these addictions? What plan does the Committee of Social Culture and Communication of the Bishops’ Conference suggest to help those people?
According to statistics from the Population Survey Association in 2009, about 15 million people are believers and belong to 13 different religions in Vietnam, that means 18% of the population; the rest are atheists or non-religious affiliates. So there are 65 million people who do not know Jesus Christ and need to be envangelized. What plan do the committees of the Bishops’ Conference propose for this evangelization? Do we have any specific plan to evangelize ethnic people, and to form more than 500,000 members of Catholic groups to become the subjects of the NE?
4.3 Content is the Gospel that the subjects proclaim and transmit to the objects. This Gospel is Jesus Christ himself. However, during the period of 15 centuries, from the Chalcedonian Council in 451 to the Second Council from 1962-1965, sometimes the Church did not dare to preach Jesus. There is now an increasing number of movements from anti-Christian groups which attack the mystery of Jesus, and of movements, initiated by Rudoft Bultmann, which aim at demytherizing the Gospel. All those factors make many Christian confuse and misunderstand the mystery of Jesus.
They need to learn about Jesus again. They need to know Jesus as presented in the documents of the Second Vatican Council, in the Catechism, and in recent documents of the Church, so that they may gain a full trust in Jesus and may be able to share that faith with others (cf. Cẩm Nang Tân PAH 185-206). The role of the committees belonging to the Bishops’ Conference, such as Doctrines and Faith, Scriptures, Ecumenism, etc., is very important in this work.
5. “Duc in Altum” for NE
5.1. The characteristics of “Duc in Altum”
Jesus invited his disciples to “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch” (Lk 5:4). That invitation stemmed from his first calling to them: “Come, follow me and I will send you out to fish for people” (Mt 4:19). In his plan of salvation, Jesus did not want his disciples to stay safely in the bank or in shallow water, or to aim at taking small fish. He wanted them to navigate the Boat of the Church to the sea with him and cast the net for big groups of fish. NE is therefore the work of community, requiring the collaboration of all parts of God’s people under the guidance of Jesus.
Duc in altum requires us the courage to face big waves, strong wind and many challenges that make many people trembled. These people want to stay in the bank to be secure. They want to walk in the “former ways” to be safe. They want to go to familiar or devout people, and avoid bad reputation. They want to teach catechism for rich, beautiful and powerful people to be loved and admired. However, in his Apostolic Exortation issued on 24 November 2013, Pope Francis reminded the faithful to go out as Jesus commanded: “Let us go forth, then, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ. Here I repeat for the entire Church what I have often said to the priests and laity of Buenos Aires: I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and which then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures” (EG 49).
The Holy Spirit is the wind that urges us to go forth “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8; cf. WD 169) to bear witness to Jesus, who is the Gospel of God. The wind of the Holy Spirit will navigate our boat to the fish. Human technology has no role in this navigation.
The areas of NE
The suggestions for the areas of NE as follow simply aim at a hope and expression for the change in method and way of presenting the Gospel, as the Sydod has recommended.
5.2.1 Cultural area
Culture is defined as “the totality of material and spiritual values created by humans throughout certain periods of history, and through their interacts one another, with nature, and with the universe.” In the document of Gaudium et Spes, 53, the Second Vatican Council II conceives of culture as the inclusion of all noble activities that humans perform during their lives in the world.
Facing with the rapid change in culture (cf. WD 43), which entails the rising of secularization and the rejection of God’s role in human life (cf. WD 53), we will emphasize on the belief in God – the God of ancestors – so that whether being alone or being with others, people may always remember that “God has eyes,” “The net of God’s justice is big,” and so may act and work with all their conscience and responsibility.
Through many Catholic groups, such as Youth Eucharist, Catholic Scouting, Marian Youth, Strong Mind and Spirit, Legio Mariae, the priests, religious and catechists can teach and train Catholic students to live with honesty, integrity, courage, self-control, courtesy, and decency. The students will then become good examples for their friends from their childhood.
That method of NE is assigned to Catholic students in South Korea. Most Catholic Korean students have personalities and characters completely different from other students: they do not dye their hairs; they know how to prevent themselves from bad behaviours. From the first grade, they are taught to make a decision: “I will study well, behave well, be polite to teachers, help friends and try to be the leader of the class to attract friends to Christ.” That determination is wonderful. We are not surprised that, in South Korea, the Catholic population has increased from 1% in 1949 to 10,5% in 2014, namely, there are now 5,393,000 Catholics per 50,424,000 people (cf. Catholic Almanac, Our Sunday Visitor’s 2016, p 312). We must also remember that there are only 4,296 priests, 9,583 religious, and 14,195 catechists in South Korea, not as half of Vietnam.
5.2.2 Economic area
Taking into account our country’s economic situation, this area is notable. There are 18 million people living under poverty standard, namely, not getting 1 US dollar a day. Seeing this multitude of people, Catholic sheperds must be moved with pity as Jesus did, and must make every effort to feed them following the example of Jesus.
Perhaps we need to study and try to apply the method of the South Korean Catholics in this economic area. In South Korea, the Catholic onwers of supermarkets collaborate with one another, and pay good price to directly buy agricultural products from Catholic farmers. The farmers, in turn, have the responsibility to make sure that their products are free from harmful chemicals. To support these farmers, the owners of big companies send their engineers to the countryside to teach farmers the technique of planting and fertilizing. They also give loan with low interest to the farmers to buy plants and fertilizers. The farmers therefore can often gain good harvest. Seeing that result, many non-Catholic farmers want to participate in this deal and then become friends with Catholics. They get to know Catholicism and become Catholics. At the same time, the products sold at Catholic supermarkets are cheaper than at other supermarkets because they are not undergone so many chains. Catholics get good reputation in society because they offer products with high qualities.
In an international conference, held by the Vietnam Academy of Society and Science in collaborating with Misereor Group (Germany) in Do Son, Haiphong City, from 11-12 November 2013, attendants from seven countries (Germany, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Laos, Vietnam) focus their discussions on the theme “The Implement of Social Responsibility for Bussiness in Vietnam.” On this occasion, I shared the experience learnt from South Koreans through a presentation entitled: “The factor of religion in business: Do we need to pay attention to it in Vietnam?
“In 1949, Christianity consisted of only about 1% of the population in South Korea; Buddism and atheism were the majority. In 2005 however, 46,5% of the population were non-religious affiliates; 22,8% were Buddists; 18,3% were Protestants; 10,9% were Catholics; and 1,5% are believers of other religions (cf. www.wikipedia.org/wiki/religion-in -South-Korea). On 7 May 2013, Catholic population increased to 12%; and Protestant decreased to 18% (cf. http://askakorean.blogspot.com). Christianity plays an important role in the development of the South Korean economy, although not many people know that. The lifestyle of Christians is appreciated by South Koreans and helps to quickly change the face of South Korea in the past few decades.
What is the factor that helps South Korea develop in every aspect, especially the development of its economy, known worldwide as “the marvel of Korean river?” There are many factors for that but I want to indicate these three main factors:
1/ Decisive role of the government
The South Korean government has plans for both long-term and short-term goals of its national economy, depending on the circumstances of each stage of development.
2/ Contributing to the marvelous development is the human factor
South Korea is poor in natural resources. The South Koreans are thus diligent and industrious; they know to take advantage of the internal resource and the values of saving in economy. South Koreans have the habit of working quickly. For a long time, they have concieved of the importance of education for the future and prosperity of the country. In addition to their respects to the teachers, students are taught to foster the national spirit, the courage to stand up after failure and the acquisition of an iron will, including patriotism” (cf. http:// hanhkhatkito.org/Default.aspx?tabid=57&ctl...).
The Vietnamese Catholics can organize those kinds of mutual support companies, especially in the context that agricultural products and food are currently infected with many harmful chemicals. We can locate certain areas and produce with large quantities of product, labelled with Catholic brands, such as, Phan Thiet fish sauce; Bao Loc tea; Da Lat potatoes; Long Xuyen dry fish and shrimp, Ho Nai pork and beef, etc. Catholic businessmen can collaborate to open supermarkets and help to sell the products of Catholics.
We can also anticipate the negative competitions from other people and even from those who want to destroy our system by selling fake products, or making rumors about our products. If we maintain mutual collaboration between the economists, businessmen, farmers, and especially if we have the active participation of the parish priest, the strong support for high quality products of Catholics, the encouragement of the faithful in the parish in buying Catholic products, we can surely make a revolution in the economy in Vietnam. The economic net that is casted together will surely be big catch of fish!
However, in order to carry out the duc in altum in this economic area, our Catholic people must overcome the deep-rooted character of Vietnamese people, that is, skepticism, lack of solidarity, selfishness, etc. Based on the maxims of the Gospel, we will be successful in this model. This revolution in economic area can only be carried out if Vietnamese Catholic people first of all let themselves be evangelized.
5.2.3 Scientific and techonological area
The Synod of Bishops indicates in its document the “urgency of education” and the challenges of the present education (cf. WD 151), and urges the proclaimer of the Gospel to engage more actively in the “duc altum” in this area. The Church reminds us that: “The Cotholic intellectuals are entrusted to the special task to bear witness by their work and life that reason and faith are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth” (cf. Fides et Ratio 5), as well as to testify that faith and reason, in the true sense, can enrich each other and bring benefits to human beings (cf. WD 156).
The media and many Vietnamese people have indicated the negative aspects in the educational system in Vietnam. Therefore we, Christians, must duc in altum in the area of educational and scientific research. Our faith in God as the Source of wisdom urges us to commit ourselves to all areas of science and technology. We must study well, research profoundly, as well as provide more and more professors and doctors to teach in universities and conduct useful inventions to serve human life. We also need to encourage and give scholarshisps to the religious who study in natural sciences rather than simply encourage the religious to study several social sciences, such as sociology, kindergarten education, or foreign language.
5.2.4. The area of beauty
The Church reminds us of the importance of beauty because God is the Source of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. We have talked confidently about Truth and Goodness but seemed to be afraid of talking about Beauty. The Church teaches: “The basic role of beauty need to be urgently awakened in Christianity. In this area, NE plays a crucial role. The Church conceives that humans cannot live without beauty. For Christians, beauty is found in the Paschal Mystery, and in manifesting the reality of Christ” (cf. WD 157).
Looking at the Vietnamese young people, we can see how they appriciate beauty. They tend to follow and admire actors and actresses, singers, music composers, and Miss Worlds. Young people aspire to be beautiful but do not know where to find the source of beauty and what is truly beautiful. Therefore, our Catholic people need to act and live in such a way that we present ourselves as beautiful people, both in body and soul, in activities, conversations, clothes, etc. We need to tell others, especially to young people, that the source of beauty must be sought and found in Jesus Christ. Indecent speaking, wearing untidy clothes, with false excuse to imitate the poverty of Jesus, coldly facial expressions, etc. are opposite to the beauty of the Gospel and need to be definitely rejected by the people of God. Therefore, the Synod of Bishops teaches us: “The relationship between faith and beauty is not simply the issue of aesthetics but also the basic energy to bear witness to faith and build up a true knowledge aimed at “completely” serving all the needs of human being” (cf. WD 157).
5.2.5 The area of sports
Today, young people are very interested in sports and consider athletes as their models. Each Christian needs to bring Jesus into this area of sports. During the time of formation and after graduation, seminarians, religious, and priests need to play sport. They not only need to play well but also know the rules of sport so that they may introduce sport to young people. That is the new method of evangelization. Pope Francis particularly encourages the priests and seminarians to engage in this area.
But to form a Catholic football team, the parish priests and other responsible people, such as the superiors of convents, need to change their old conception of sacredness and bring sports into the daily schedule of their communities. They also need to understand that humans must be developed wholely, that is, in both body and soul. We need to understand that, although the church is the sacred area and no one can make it a market place, it is also a meeting place for all God’s people as Jesus said: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27).
With that new conception, the pastor then can use part of his church’s property as a playing ground. He plays with young people or exercises with elderly people. He hires trainers to teach techniques of playing for people; hold sport contests for people, both parishioners and non-parishioners, to build up bridges for communication and relationship. If the pastor encourages his people to play sports, he helps to reduce the number of addictions and other kinds of bad lifestyle in his parish. The pastor and old people will have more chance to meet and understand young people, rather than keep distance from them.
Our forefathers used sports as a means for envangelization. In the church property, they dug a big pond and took the soil to build the floor of the church. On Saturday or Sunday evenings, the pastors held contests of catching ducks in the pond, or walking balance in a bamboo bridge to get a prize. They put a bamboo trunk at the center of the pond and at the top of the trunk they put some prizes. They used another bamboo trunk as a bridge connected the trunk at the center of the pond to the bank. The contestants walked on bare feet. They had to try their best to keep balance because the bamboo trunk, round and when covered with mud, became very slippery. It was very easy to fall down to the pond. But it was not dangerous because of the water. When somebody fell down, people would enjoy good laughs. It was a great entertainment for watchers in the bank. Non-Catholics could participate in the contests and so those contests became an occasion to introduce the Gospel of God to them!
5.2.6. The area of social media and community health
The Synod of Bishops expresses its concern for the area of social media. In its working documents, the Synod exclusively uses 4 numbers, from 59 to 62, to remind the Christians of the importance of social media “as a resource that we need to have an eye of discernment and know to use them in such a wise and responsible way” (cf. WD 60).
Most of the dioceses have their own website; many committees of the Bishops’ Conference also have their own websites. But statistics shows that the daily accesses to these websites are relatively low. It is perhaps because there are not many new writings, the content is not good enough, and the appearance is not attractive to readers. The Church in Vietnam need to duc in altum in this area by encouraging priests, religious and intellectual lay people to provide good materials for readers. Only in so doing can we expect for a big catch of fish!
In the area of community health, the religious and even the priests need to be encouraged to participate because the number of people who need healing for both body and soul in society is immense. We provide for people a complete remedy of healing, focusing on four domains: physical, mental, psychological, and spiritual. We can set aside part of church’s property to build a center that can be served as the excercising ground for elderly people, the meeting place for study, for couseling, for healing of physical and mental illness. This can be carried out in collaborating with doctors, pharmacists, psychologists, and spiritual directors.
The pastoral programs and plans for NE mentioned above can only be carried out if we determine “not only to transform ourselves but also increase the quality of our testimony.” NE is not only primarily a strategy. It is basically a spiritual work as Pope Paul VI said: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” The Church must proclaim the Gospel to the world first of all by the lifestyles and good characters of its members, by its testimony for the spirit of poverty and justice, by its determination to free itself from power of this world, and in short, by its witness to holiness (cf. WD 158; Evangelii Nuntiandi 7).
“Only those who are being or have been transformed by the Gospel are able to evangelize. In other words, only those who have the ability to let themselves be transformed spiritually, through their encounter and relationship with Christ, are able to do the work of evangelization (cf. WD 158). Duc in altum for the NE requires all Viethamese Catholics to look back at themselves, at their religious communities, and their social circumstances to find out what areas are in most need of transformation through the encounter with Jesus and the breath of his Spirit.
Rev. Anthony Nguyen Ngoc Son