Reaching in and out
Phil came out of the church with a very peculiar glow.
“Zup, Phil? You look like you received some special light in there,” I jibed.
“I’m so excited to organize the youth groups in my parish, Father,” he said.
“Organize for what?”
“To engage them in more ecumenical activities this year in preparation for the 500th anniversary of the evangelization of the Philippines!”
“Ecumenical activities? That’s very interesting Phil, how exactly do you plan to launch them?” I asked.
“I guess making them aware of their mission to go out and bring many of those who have lost their way, back to the Church?”
“If that’s the case, how is ecumenism different from missionary work or evangelization?”
“Huh, I guess they’re pretty much the same, Father? Except, maybe ecumenism deals more with those who were once part of the Church, as I seem to have understood it.”
“Do you know how ecumenism started, Phil?”
“Without too much historical precision, it started during the evangelization of the African continent when two missionaries—one Catholic and the other Christian—were confronted by a native.”
“Not attacked, but he challenged them with something important: How can I believe in Christ, when you both claim you are different from one another in your beliefs? The two missionaries returned home with this interesting case.”
“Years, later Protestant theologians—followed by their Catholic counterparts—would be the first to reflect on and initiate this movement towards the unity of all Christians. The movement would be called ecumenism.”
“So, it was all about missionary work then?” Phil was a bit confused
“Not directly. The two missionaries realized that if they were to be effective in evangelizing, they had to first sort out the differences and divides between Catholics and separated brethren (then called Protestants).”
“You mean the Christians also have their own ecumenism?”
“Of course! But for Catholics, ecumenism is actually the concerted effort of everyone in the Church to bring our separated brothers and sisters back to the Church.”
“How are we supposed to do that, Father?”
“Actually, even before we do anything with our brethren outside of the Church, we ought to reach out to the ones inside of Her.”
“Inside?” Phil was clearly surprised.
“Our effectiveness in reaching out to those outside of the Church means a constant and sincere effort to help those who are already part of Her.”
“Wow, I never thought of it that way. But that makes sense, Father. I now realize that even before reaching out, I have to first reach in,” he concluded.
“And reaching in starts in our own hearts sincere desire for conversion. This way, our intention to reach out will be upright and authentically sincere.”
“Can reaching in be further concretized, Father?”
“Of course, Phil. To begin with, it would help that we each create a simple spiritual program so that we can constantly pray and support the Church—from the Pope, bishops, priests and the last faithful to be baptized—and our parishes. Aside from prayer, one could engage in numerous initiatives engaging the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.”
“But is there one activity that you think would best help in this reaching in, Father?”
“I can’t really say that there is just one activity for your concern. But I would like to suggest getting your friends to teach basic catechism and simple acts of piety to children in your parish. Although teaching catechism may seem simple and unnoticed, it is a very power tool that equips the children with practical knowledge on how to love and live their faith.”
“I never thought this, Father. I will definitely start my reaching out by first reaching in with this activity.”