Indice > Dialoghi Interconfessionali > M-RC > Dever Rep. 1971 | CONT. > sez. 3
  sezione 1 (GENERAL RETROSPECT) - selezionare
Spirituality - sez. 3
  sezione 4 (CHRISTIAN HOME AND FAMILY) - selez.
  sezione 5 (EUCHARIST) - selez.
  sezione 6 (MINISTRY) - selez.
  sezione 7 (AUTHORITY) - selez.
  sezione 8 (THE WAY AHEAD) - selez.


I. Introduction

   51. Our sub-committee on Prayer and Spirituality took its beginning from a recommendation in the interim report made at Rabat in September, 1969. Two themes for further study were suggested because of their "particular scope" for making the dialogue an occasion for "common witness to great Christian values". One of these themes was, "Christian Life and Spirituality - Holiness of Heart and Life". The report expanded this theme in the following words:

This would examine the genesis of Methodism as a movement of personal, spiritual renewal, and its emphasis on the social implications of perfect love. Development of the theme might include consideration of the priesthood of all believers, the universal call to holiness, the Holy Spirit and grace, the meaning of prayer, the relation of liturgical prayer to personal piety, the spiritual life, devotion to the Sacred Heart, Marian devotion, devotion to the Saints, monasticism, the Pentecostalist phenomenon among Catholics and Methodists, attention to the Word as a constitutive element of the spiritual life, the complementary relation of the interior life and the life of good works. The treatment should reflect the current practice of Methodists and Roman Catholics, as well as providing a historical and theological development.

   52. The first meeting of the sub-committee was held at Raleigh in December, 1969. Results of the study of this sub-committee were available for the final meeting of the Joint Commission at Lake Junaluska in August, 1970. The subject might well have been broached earlier, since its importance was early realized. In one of the opening papers at Ariccia, in 1967, it had been pointed out that, Catholics and Methodists have always had one very important thing in common, though they have not fully realized it: ... the conviction of John Wesley that each man has a duty to seek holiness and Christian perfection". Personal sanctification and growth in holiness through daily life were seen as prominent in both traditions. The Methodist view of "entire sanctification", that is, sanctification of everything in daily life and work, met the Catholic view of the continuous growth in perfection which makes up the whole progress of the spiritual life. The disciplined life of the early Methodists recalled the ascetism of the early Jesuits.

   53. Both Methodists and Roman Catholics found common ground from agreement in the universal call to holiness which helped to confirm what one of the speakers at Ariccia saw as, "the discovery of meaningful harmony between Wesley's ‘evangelical catholicism' and the spirit of Vatican II". Following the recommendation made at Malta, the discussion on spirituality was taken up in terms of both the historical background of the two traditions and their contemporary situation.

II. Historical background:

   54. Investigation of the historical dimension gave special emphasis to the nineteenth century in both Methodist and Roman Catholic spirituality. Here, again, in spite of some differences, it could be seen that Catholics and Methodists shared a wider, deeper, richer heritage of Christian spirituality than might have been suspected. This heritage is rightly called, "Life in the Spirit". In it, we find common roots in mutual reverence for Scripture, in mutual stress on conversion and renewal, in mutual insistence that "heart religion" shall find expression in social action, in mutual concern for the Christian home and family as the ‘domestic Church'.

   55. Out of their separate traditions, both Methodists and Roman Catholics come together as they recognize God's gracious prevenience, and as they express belief in Jesus Christ as God's Love Incarnate and the Holy Spirit as God with us. Both traditions hold man's cooperation with God in the mystery of salvation as necessary; both look upon life itself as liturgy. Both traditions converge in "compatible definitions of goals for the Christian life (however disparate the means and uneven the results), a dynamic process of growth in grace, from the threshold of faith (justification) toward the fullness of faith (sanctification) - by means of affective patterns of moral and spiritual discipline (ascesis), charismatic gifts and outpourings, sacrificial love and service as ‘effective signs' of faith's professions and of pious feeling".

   56. A study of the historical background of Methodist and Roman Catholic spirituality leads to the conclusion that what has mattered most in both traditions has been the reality of religion as it brings about the transformation of man's heart and mind in everyday living. In our conversations, we saw that here was the meaning of the theo cordis, by which we come to know the crucified and risen Christ as Lord and Savior and the Spirit present in us and in the Church.

III. The contemporary situation

   57. It is not enough in ecumenical dialogue to look to the past for the comfort of a common heritage of spirituality. For this reason, a further study was made of current trends in both Methodist and Roman Catholic prayer and spirituality. This was found to be necessary since Christians, too, are, in a sense, "men of our time". As such, they are faced with both the threat and the challenge which the contemporary situation offers to Christian spirituality.

   58. The negative aspects of the contemporary situation have been considered separately in this report (Cf. § 30). The conversations on prayer and spirituality also brought to light a number of positive factors which exist in the world today. Some of these touch on personal relations and contribute to the development of spirituality through their worth for human existence. Others reveal a call to spirituality in the frustrations, the emptiness and the boredom which man experiences in many phases of daily life and culture. The void in the world he has constructed is, itself, a plea for fulfilment that must come from beyond man. The contemporary situation, betrays man's thirst for the God whom he strives to find, often unknowingly - at times, even while rejecting him.

   59. At least three trends in spirituality have been discerned recently, suggesting that there are possibilities for a creative response on the part of the Church and the Christian in facing the contemporary world. In the first place, there is a search for prayer as contemplation. This search reveals our deep need of God, our longing for salvation, our eagerness to know and to do God's will as revealed in Jesus Christ. Secondly, there is a call for compassion. This call is addressed to the Church which is dedicated to the primary mission of guiding persons in corporate action and in the works of justice, truth and love. Finally, there is a desire for community. This desire gives witness to the fact that we are to be saved as a people. It recognizes also that the Churches must pray and work together toward the true unity, wherever and whenever this is possible.

   60. Such a creative response as that suggested above can be assured only if the Church and all members of the Church realize the importance of inner renewal. Through constant renewal, the Church will become truly catholic, evangelical and reformed. The Church will be catholic in knowing how to express what is universal in the Christian message of God's love for all men. It will be evangelical in reaching out effectively to share this good news by word and by responsible living in community. It will be reformed in willing to engage in self-criticism and to weed out the inauthentic in thought and practice.

   61. The discussion on spirituality led us to agree that the Churches must proclaim community by showing the way through compassion and contemplation in Christian living to communion-in-unity. Spirituality in the Church must be a witness to the capacity of men to live as human beings and as Christians in the institutions and structures of contemporary society and under all the conditions which go to make up the contemporary situation.

IV. Critique

   62. We acknowledge with gratitude and joy the discovery of a vision shared by Methodists and Roman Catholics in our understanding of prayer and spirituality in the Christian life. The study which led to this discovery, however, did not treat every facet of this topic in the same manner.

   63. For example, to countless Roman Catholics, devotion to Mary is an integral and important part of their Christian experience and of the "Life in the Spirit". For Methodists, on the other hand, the dogmatic status of Roman Catholic doctrines concerning the Mother of our Lord was identified at Ariccia as one of three "hard-core issues of radical disagreement" between the two traditions. Neither the positive nor the negative side of Mariology was treated in the study of spirituality covered by this report. No special attention was given to the restatement of the Marian question effected by Vatican II.

   64. The Junaluska report referred to common Methodist-Roman Catholic reverence for Scripture and to the eucharistic foundation of both traditions of spirituality. Both of these marks were accepted without question as implicitly basic to the study. This acceptance, however, did not take up the questions or state the real ambiguities which rise out of certain attitudes toward Scripture and Eucharist, at times, in the two traditions (Cf. Section V and VII).

   65. At the end of the discussions on spirituality, Methodists found that inadequate treatment had been given to two strong traditions in their devotional history: that of hymnody-particularly as seen in the eucharistic hymns of Charles Wesley-and that of the koinonia - as carried on in the class meetings. Roman Catholics were quick to admit that they had much to gain from a better knowledge of these two facets of Methodist spirituality.

   66. There was general agreement too that the question of communion in sacris and the possibility of sharing in the Lord's Supper ought properly to have been raised in relation to the discussion of spirituality, as much as in any other areas of ecumenical concern.

   67. The great wealth found in the common heritage and shared vision discovered by both Methodists and Roman Catholics during our conversations on prayer and spirituality led the members of the commission to see the need for a continued education along this line. They strongly recommend that programs be begun to assure mutual enrichment at every level on this topic.

   68. We add some practical suggestions which are addressed especially to the concerns expressed by the commission elsewhere in this report regarding communication:

  1. Informal colloquies, such as those held at Cambridge, ought to be devoted to the study of spirituality.
  2. We need continued opportunities for discussion together on the different sacramental and nonsacramental ways of fostering spirituality in both traditions.
  3. There is a need for devotional material which can be shared by both traditions to help the general body of the faithful in their use of the Bible and prayer in everyday life.
  4. Means must be taken to make it possible to share such practices as lay missions.
  5. We need to study the problem of wide-spread communication in view of promoting a fuller understanding of our common heritage of "Scriptural holiness ".
  6. We must learn how to deal with the old suspicions and gradually do away with them-for example, the Catholic rejection of what seems to be a life-refusing attitude in certain disciplinary practices in Methodism.
  7. We must learn how to develop common devotion, such as the Methodist devotion to the five wounds of the crucified and risen Lord alongside the Roman Catholic devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and, in this matter, to be mutually enriched.
  8. Practical means must be found to help both Methodists and Roman Catholics move into a growth in their devotional life with balance and vitality. Such means might include shared retreats, small prayer or Bible study groups, groups of Christian response to all areas of human experience, shared devotional and instructional material, shared facilities for Christian and spiritual education at all levels.

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