Fr Ennio Mantovani SVD 1 Ennio Mantovani SVD YEARS
65 Years of Priestly Life. The history of a Journey 2
Fr Ennio Mantovani SVD 3 Foreword In Biblical times, from time-to-time special women and men appeared who had a challenging role in society. They were wise people who had a gift of reading the signs of their times, and then interpreting these in often extra-ordinary ways. They spoke out, sometimes “bucking the trend”, challenging people to think and act differently. They were collectively known as prophets. Actually, throughout human history, and probably throughout the world, there have been people like this, right to the present day. One such contemporary prophet is Ennio Mantovani, whose latest work is in your hands now. Throughout his long and fruitful life as a missionary priest, Ennio has been observing the signs of the times in the places where he has lived, particularly in Papua New Guinea and Australia. Fortunately, he has been a prolific writer, sharing his insights with a broad audience. Readers of his books and articles will know about the life changing experience he had in Papua New Guinea many years ago, an experience which continues to colour his thinking and teaching. When you read this work, you will see that there is a logical progression from his early mission experience to his excitement about Quantum Physics. He uses his gifts as a modern prophet to encourage his readers/listeners to be open-minded about possible, yet possibly not yet mainstream, ways at looking at the world in which we live. Ennio makes us think, wonder and question. Yet he does so as a man of deep faith. This is not a difficult book to read, but it is challenging. I thank Ennio for presenting us with this challenge. Bill Burt, SVD, Janssen Spirituality Centre, Boronia, Victoria. Throughout his long and fruitful life as a missionary priest, Ennio has been observing the signs of the times in the places where he has lived, particularly in Papua New Guinea and Australia.
65 Years of Priestly Life. The history of a Journey 4
Fr Ennio Mantovani SVD 5 Contents Foreword 3 The History of a Journey 6 Phenomenology of religion. 6 Missiology 8 The Missionary Nature of the Sacraments 8 My Personal Journey 9 Vatican II 9 Individualistic vs. Altruistic Spirituality 9 Document on the Laity 9 Missionary by Nature 11 The Missionary Nature of the Sacraments 12 Sacrament of Baptism 12 Sacrament of Confirmation 14 Sacrament of the Eucharist 14 Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation 14 Sacrament of Matrimony 15 Sacrament of Holy Orders 16 The Anointing of the Sick 17 Conclusion 17 The Big Bang and Evolution 18 Pope Francesco and evolution 18 II Some Highlights of the address 18 A. The pastoral dimension 18 The Big Bang and Evolution 18 III. The Catholic Church on the Big Bang and Evolution 19 A. The Big Bang Theory 19 B. Empirical Evidence for the Big Bang 20 C. Critique of the Big Bang Theory 20 D. The Big Bang and the Catholic Church 22 E. Critique of the Theory of Evolution 23 F. Theory of Evolution and the Catholic Church 24 G. The Theistic Evolution Endorsed by the Catholic Church 26 Mission and Inculturation 29 Anthropology and Inculturation of Christianity in Papua New Guinea* 29 Experiences 29 Principles of Inculturation 31 Application of our principles 32 What about marriage? 34 Summing up 34 Epilogue 35
65 Years of Priestly Life. The history of a Journey 6 I will begin with a few reflections based on my specialisations on phenomenology of religion, moving to my other field, that of missiology, to continue with Pope Francesco on evolutionism... The History of a Journey I celebrated my silver jubilee of ordination in Essendon, the evening before returning to Papua New Guinea after my lectures at the Yarra Theological Union. In PNG nobody noticed my jubilee and I did not mind. My golden jubilee fell when beginning my ministry for the Italian community at Sacred Heart Parish, Preston, in suburban Melbourne. Fr Thien organized a dinner in the library of our Primary School. I projected a film that I had prepared which helped also to introduce myself to the Italian community for which I was new. It was a success. It happened that at that time the Club of the Italian Pensioners of our parish of which I was member celebrated one of its famous Pranzi (dinners) lasting between four to five hours. The President congratulated me for my golden jubilee. To be honest, I was happy that, when my turn came to say a few words, the microphone broke down, and I could sit down. My diamond jubilee fell while at Preston and the launching of my book 65 Years of Priestly Life. The history of a Journey took place as part of the Mission Saturday Celebration organized by the SVDs. 65 Years of Priestly Life. The history of a journey does not have the glamour of the jubilees marked with precious metals: silver, gold and diamond. Still, it marks a journey which is worth remembering. On a journey, one leaves the point of departure to move to new geographical localities, sometimes discovering new, beautiful panoramas. I will begin with a few reflections based on my specialisations on phenomenology of religion, moving to my other field, that of missiology, to continue with Pope Francesco on evolutionism, another interest created by my encounter with the religions of the digging stick cultivators of Yobai. I will add a few facts on quantum reality and end with a reflection on the role of culture in inculturation in mission and Christianity. Phenomenology of religion. Our Christian theology has been strongly influenced and shaped by the philosophy of two greats of the past: Plato and Aristotle. Plato distinguished between a heavenly spiritual ideal and a material realization of the same in our daily life. Hence, for instance, the superiority of virginity over marriage. It is true that lately the popes tried to correct this error by canonising married people. Even today in the Mass we pray “do not look at our sins but on the sanctity of our Church”. Somewhere outside of the reality of our sinful Church - the new cases emerging in France involving not only priests but also bishops - floating somewhere in the ether there is the real, perfect Church, postulated by Plato. We Christians belong to the inferior reality but above there is the perfect reality. We forget completely that we are the Church, people called to continue the mission of Christ. Personally, I think that we Christians, in order to change our mentality, need to go to the roots of our situation, the philosophy of Plato. We admire that great intellect, but evolution is ongoing and humankind has evolved far beyond Plato. The other great that influenced our Christian tradition is Aristotle with his theory of form and matter that can be used to explain the mystery of the Eucharist: the exterior form remains but the matter changes: Transubstantiation. As already mentioned, humankind has evolved into quantum physics. Our life has been revolutionized and digitalization dominates our daily life. Only our faith has not changed, missing the possible deepening of faith and rituals.
Fr Ennio Mantovani SVD 7 Quantum physics should have warned us that God is Love (L), a creative and sustaining Reality who is not bound by time and space. Jesus promised the Spirit who would guide us towards the full truth. We are on the way. If we do not change, it means that we are lagging behind, that we do not trust that arm that guides us forward. We grew up in the world of classic physics, however, not too many years ago we moved, without realizing, into the world of quantum physics. We could not use our TV sets, we needed to buy new ones, analogue had to change to digital, our gadgetry adapted to this change, often without ourselves being aware of it, of the epochal change that was taking place. Our faith continued in the old world. Quantum did not affect it. That our faith was not a platonic idea somewhere up there in the Platonic universe, but expression of our daily life, of our cultural upbringing, of the inculturation of our faith in our ‘Weltanschaung’- our ways of seeing the world around us - did not even dawn on us. Our salvation was by no means in danger, in the sense that our personal relationship to God, was not affected, at least not for my generation. Our attendance at Church was not affected. The old Tradition, as a matter of fact, gave us security. The Spirit, however, was urging us forward. The quantum world opened up great possibilities for our faith. Just a few examples. Without any problem we say: Jesus went up to heaven, we celebrated Mary’s Assumption into heaven. Gagarin, the first astronaut is supposed to have remarked that in his exploration of space, he did not find the heavens. When we fly, the outside temperature is -40 degrees Celsius. When we climb the Alps at 3000m - in central Europe where I was born –it is already zero degrees. Have you ever thought about these facts? We seniors were quick in suppressing those doubts of faith. Maybe we thought that we were dealing with mysteries. As a friend of mine once told me: keep searching, I close all those questions into what myself I call the Mystery of the Church. Unfortunately, the younger generation who went through senior High School have been told not to learn by heart - as we did - but to ask questions; to research. That’s maybe one of the reasons that once they finish High School in our Catholic schools they desert the Church. Statistics force us to reflect. Latest Census 2021: 40% no religious affiliation, from the almost 30% in the 2016 Census. In 5 years, a loss of 10% - mostly young people. Quantum physics should have warned us that God is Love (L), a creative and sustaining Reality who is not bound by time and space. L is everywhere and is eternal. We do not need to search for L behind the clouds. L does not sit anywhere; the L is looking for us as our Abba, and will never give up. Jesus is not sitting at his right hand as in a Royal Palace. Jesus lives among us: where two or three are gathered in my name I am among them (Mt18:20). Jesus knows and loves each of us. He is looking for us and not the other way around. We cannot take seriously these words of Jesus otherwise we will get confused: what’s the difference between that presence and the one in the tabernacle? In our theology we distinguish between memory and memorial. We remember an event in history which is past, and we celebrate the memorial of an historical event that somehow becomes present. We remember Jesus’ passion, an event that happened just over two thousand years ago but the memorial of his last supper becomes present for us in the Eucharist. We eat his body and drink his blood. Quantum physics tells us that at his death Jesus left the limitations of creation - his physical body - and became a reality outside, not limited, by space and time. He is here and everywhere. I do not need to be in a chapel to be close to Him, he is
65 Years of Priestly Life. The history of a Journey 8 always with me, with each of us. He knows and loves each of us. The Eucharist is not a remembrance of what Jesus did in Jerusalem over two thousand years ago. We take part in the Last Supper as the Apostles did. We sit down with Jesus and eat with him. It is mind boggling; however, that’s where the Spirit has been trying to lead us and the ongoing evolution of our brains was providing the tools in the quantum science. Missiology I have already written on this matter in Word in House November 2012: The Missionary Nature of the Sacraments. I regard it worth reprinting. Dear Confreres In this issue of Word in House we are grateful to Ennio Mantovani SVD for sharing his ideas with us on the missionary nature of the sacraments. His starting point is the long struggle as a bush missionary. Ennio began working full time in adult catechumenates with the pre-Vatican II mentality and theology and then moved on to Vatican II, trying to understand and make his own the teaching of the Church. Thank you again Ennio for your contribution. Yours in the Word Gerard Mulholland SVD Communications Co-ordinator AUS Province The Missionary Nature of the Sacraments In the last Provincial Assembly, I made two interventions: one on the missionary nature of the Sacraments and one on discovering what God is revealing to the people among whom we are working. For me, what I said was the result of years of study and reflections as a bush missionary in PNG and then at the Melanesian Institute and I assumed that everybody understood my concerns. Maybe I was too optimistic. Allow me to present in a more detailed way what I wanted to communicate to the Assembly. My starting point is the long struggle as a bush missionary who began working full time in adult catechumenates with the pre-Vatican II mentality and theology and then moved on to Vatican II, trying to understand and make his own the teaching of the Church. For me the greatest change was in the understanding of the Church as “missionary by nature”. It is from this missionary nature that I deduct the nature of her sacraments. Those who did not have to work through that theological transition might miss the changes which took place and which ought to be part of the post Vatican II theology. I see the danger of us accepting the Vatican II view of an outgoing, missionary Church while keeping the pre-Vatican II personalistic understanding of the sacraments. I made two interventions: one on the missionary nature of the Sacraments and one on discovering what God is revealing to the people among whom we are working.
Fr Ennio Mantovani SVD 9 My Personal Journey I was brought up in the pre-Vatican II spirituality that was grace-centred. We were urged to acquire grace and the sacraments were the main sources of it. That spirituality was coloured by the individualistic Western philosophy and culture of the time and, on the other hand, stressed very much the dichotomy spirit – matter. There was a negative attitude towards the world. In my SVD formation I was encouraged to receive the sacraments frequently in order to obtain their grace, sanctify myself and find the strength to detach myself from the world. The sacraments were seen only as sources of this salvific, personal grace. This individualistic, inward-looking understanding of and approach to the sacraments seems to continue and be prevalent even today. The New Catechism, as far as I can see, does not change significantly this inward-looking spirituality. Vatican II Individualistic vs. Altruistic Spirituality When the documents of Vat II were promulgated, as already mentioned, I was working full time with adult catechumens. What struck me in these documents was the opening of the Church to the world and to the other. Up to that point, the Church was inwardlooking, individualistic, stressing the eternal salvation of the individuals. The individual was at the centre. We missionaries were there to bring that eternal, personal salvation to as many individuals as possible. The salvation was personal; inward-looking. In the new documents, as in the life of Jesus himself, the other was at the centre and not I. Jesus is the one who renounced all his privileges, who forgot himself for us (Ph 25ff). Paul, the great missionary who boasted of imitating Christ, cared so much for others to the point of wishing to be accursed, to be cut off from Christ for the others (Rom 9:3). It is by serving my brothers and sisters that I will enter the house of the Father (Mt 25:31ff). Document on the Laity The document on the laity showed this change of position. What I call the personalistic, inward-looking spirituality gives way to an altruistic one. Salvation and sanctification do not come directly from the sacraments and their grace, but by being active in caring for others. The sacraments are expressions of faith, of one’s decision to follow Christ by continuing his mission to others. A Christian is not primarily the one who has reached the harbour of salvation, but the one who received and accepted the mandate to continue the work of Christ, to be for others. For by its very nature the Christian vocation is also a vocation to the apostolate. No part of the structure of a living body is merely passive but each has a share in the functions as well as in the life of the body. (AA 2) The document continues: All activity of the Mystical Body directed to the attainment of this goal is called the apostolate, and the Church carries it on in various ways through all her members. (Ibid) The Council is not talking about the clergy or the religious but about every Christian. Salvation and sanctification do not come directly from the sacraments and their grace, but by being active in caring for others. The sacraments are expressions of faith, of one’s decision to follow Christ by continuing his mission to others.
65 Years of Priestly Life. The history of a Journey 10 The time when I was the missionary while my mother was only a committed Christian belonging to a missionary association praying for the missionaries and supporting them materially, is over. This, however, has serious consequences: Indeed, so intimately are the parts linked and interrelated in this body (cf. Eph. 4:16) that the member who fails to make his proper contribution to the development of the Church must be said to be useful neither to the Church nor to himself. The Council takes seriously the words of Jesus in Jn 15:2: “Every branch of mine that bears no fruit he takes away” and “the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.” Jn 15:6. What John says here is not much different from Matthew 25:46. For me, this teaching was a breath of fresh air. Those mass baptisms – up to 500 in one ceremony – of people caring only for their souls that smacked of ritualism found here a serious question mark. Catechumens had to prepare themselves to an active life, to the apostolate to which they were called by Christ. Christ conferred on the apostles and their successors the duty of teaching, sanctifying, and ruling in His name and power. But also the laity shares in the priestly, prophetic, and royal office of Christ and therefore have their own role to play in the mission of the whole People of God in the Church and in the world. Since it is proper to the layman’s state in life for him to spend his days in the midst of the world and of secular transactions, he is called by God to burn with the spirit of Christ and to exercise his apostolate in the world as a kind of leaven. (AA 2) It was not I nor the bishops who invited the one or the other as co-worker in our mission. It was Christ himself. The laity derives the right and duty with respect to the apostolate from their union with Christ their Head. Incorporated into Christ’s Mystical Body through baptism and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit through confirmation, they are assigned to the apostolate by the Lord himself. (AA 3) The Holy Spirit does not make his calling depend on an academic degree. Unfortunately, when the document on the laity appeared, the Hierarchy made a condition for that ministry to attend an academic preparation given in English. Instead of the bishop imposing his hands on the catechists who had dedicated with success their whole life to the service of the community recognising them as the “backbones of our missionary work in PNG” he gave in to the Rules from Rome, burdening the ‘David’s with the armours of Saul. For sure, even academic updating is necessary, but that should not mean that we should not recognize those catechists without whom our missionary work - and not only in PNG - in establishing the Church in the world would not have been possible. The lay people have the right not just permission to exercise their apostolate in the community. It is their birth right. That right, however, creates a duty, a responsibility. For the exercise of this apostolate, the Holy Spirit who sanctifies the People of God through the ministry and the sacraments gives to the faithful special gifts as well (cf. 1 Cor. 12:7), “allotting to everyone according as he will” (1 Cot’ 12:11). Thus may the individual, “according to the gift that each has received, administer it to one another” and become “good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Pet. 4:10), and build up thereby the whole body in charity (cf. Eph, 4:16). From the reception of these charisms or gifts, including those which are less dramatic, there arise for each believer the right and duty to use them in the Church and in the world for the good of mankind and for the up building of the Church. In so doing, believers need to enjoy the freedom of the Holy Spirit who “breathes where he wills” (Jn. 3:8). (AA 3) (My underlining) Christ conferred on the apostles and their successors the duty of teaching, sanctifying, and ruling in His name and power. But also the laity shares in the priestly, prophetic, and royal office of Christ and therefore have their own role to play in the mission of the whole People of God in the Church and in the world.
Fr Ennio Mantovani SVD 11 The catechumenate, as a consequence, ceases to be just a learning of the Christian doctrine, but must become a training in Christian life, in the apostolate. The catechumenate is not a mere expounding of doctrines and precepts, but a training period for the whole Christian life. It is an apprenticeship of appropriate length, during which disciples are joined to Christ their Teacher. (AG 13) (My underlining) Missionary by Nature The foundation for this theology of the laity is the new understanding of the nature of the Church. For me who had been working full time with adult catechumens it represented a radical change. From a Church concerned for her members, for their personal salvation, I moved to a Church looking outside of herself to the others, to the world and its cultures. The challenge to my catechumens now was to be co-workers with Christ for the establishing of the Kingdom, of God’s cosmic plan of salvation for the whole world. If they accepted that challenge to be co-workers with Christ, they needed to ‘repent’, to change their way of thinking and acting, to follow the way of Christ. The challenge to be co-workers was first, while the call for conversion was a consequence of its acceptance. The issue was not primarily personal salvation, avoiding eternal perdition, avoiding hell, but concern for the world, acceptance of God’s cosmic plan for the world. One was called to cooperation and if one accepted the call one needed to undergo a metánoia. What was supposed to move people was not self interest, fear of hell, but concern for the well-being of the others, of the world. For me as a missionary in PNG, this was really good news. I was to challenge people to put their values at the service of the Kingdom. I had to start by recognizing and appreciating the values of the people among whom I was working and asking them to put themselves at the service of Christ, to allow Christ to use them to transform the world, to fight evil, and to help God’s love to reign supreme. God loved them and their culture so much that God wanted to need them to ‘save’ the whole world. People wanted progress, wanted to eliminate evil in their environment and God wanted to use their cultural values to achieve that in a radical way. This was an entirely new way of doing mission. In a note in Abbot’s Documents of Vatican II we read: “It should be pointed out that the great contribution of Lumen Gentium to “the missions” was to locate the activity of the Church within the centre of the Church’s life instead of its periphery.” The document Ad Gentes highlights this change by stating: “The pilgrim Church is missionary by her very nature.” When today, after Vatican II, we talk about the Church we talk about a people called to mission. If we are consistent, we must state that if the sacraments are not “missionary by nature,” they do not belong to this Church. There cannot be a Church which is missionary by nature and sacraments that do not share that nature. It does not make theological sense. As a consequence, the faith expressed through the sacraments that are missionary by nature needs to be a missionary faith. To better understand the missionary nature of the Church, we must remind ourselves too of the fact that today theologians see the Kingdom of God at the centre of Jesus mission. He truly lived and died for the Kingdom, for the reign of God. This was the program he announced at the beginning of his ministry, the mission he entrusted to his followers. His followers were to announce God’s plan for the world The challenge to my catechumens now was to be co-workers with Christ for the establishing of the Kingdom, of God’s cosmic plan of salvation for the whole world.
65 Years of Priestly Life. The history of a Journey 12 – God’s reign – and to call for a change of thinking and living. Not only his teaching but also his ‘miracles’ were signs of the Reign of God, a foreshadowing of what was to come. The theology of liberation helped us to bring God’s reign down to earth. Christianity had not delivered the peace it promised and, hence, we consoled ourselves with the peace to come; with heaven after death. As Karl Marx rightly saw, our faith helped us to carry our cross but not to change the cause of evil in the world. The Church was at the forefront in the alleviation of suffering through her works of charity, but not in the changing of the structures that caused it. Liberation theology was only taking seriously what the popes and Vatican II had stated. Like anything human, even Liberation Theology was not perfect, but its concern was central to the teaching of the Church in Vatican II. Gaudium et spes echoing Pacem in terris of John XXIII shows the new position of the Church, speaking “to all men in order to shed light on the mystery of man and to cooperate in finding the solutions to the outstanding problems of our time”. (10) Now the Church does not only alleviate the pain, it works together with the world to find solutions. The mission of the Church and the sacraments need to be seen in this light. Heaven is not forgotten but our task is to change not only our thinking and our life – metánoia –. but the thinking and life of the whole human society. It is through this involvement here on earth that after death we will live with Christ forever. The Missionary Nature of the Sacraments Sacrament of Baptism Baptism, in the pre-Vatican II days, was seen only in terms of personal, eternal salvation. The Johannine nisi quis, ‘unless one is baptised will not be saved,’ was the driving motif. Catholic nurses were urged to baptise the foetus in the womb of dead or dying mothers. Baptisms in periculo mortis, in danger of death were very common in PNG. We were very quick in invoking the ecclesia supplet axiom. The platonic, perfect Church up there, was able to fix these human problems in mysterious ways. We missionaries had to save souls from hell! The shift I witnessed and experienced since Vatican II was from the liturgical rite to the faith it was supposed to express. It is faith expressed in love that saves. The document on the Church, Lumen Gentium, of Vatican II expresses this clearly when it states: Catechumens who, moved by the Holy Spirit, seek with explicit intention to be incorporated into the Church are by that very intention joined to her. With love and solicitude Mother Church already embraces them as her own. (14) It is the faith that motivates these people that saves them. The rite only expresses it officially. If this active faith fails, baptism not only does not help, as a matter of fact it makes things worse for the one who received it. He is not saved, however, who, though he is part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity…. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word, and deed, not only will they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged. (14) The shift I witnessed and experienced since Vatican II was from the liturgical rite to the faith it was supposed to express. It is faith expressed in love that saves.
Fr Ennio Mantovani SVD 13 The Abbott commentary to this passage refers to Lk 12:48: “Much will be expected from the one who has been given much.” For me, working in the catechumenate, Matthew 25 with the parables of the ten girls, the three servants and the judgment was of basic relevance. The catechumens were challenged with those parables of Jesus. Baptism was not a magical rite, but a commitment to work, to work with Christ for the Kingdom. We already looked at the teaching of the Church on Baptism while talking about the laity. In Baptism, the symbol we came to adopt, the washing of the head, led us to stress the washing from sin, and St Augustine, with his teaching on original sin, did not help the full understanding of Baptism. The present symbol stresses only one aspect. The biblical idea of rebirth, of dying and rising again, (Rom 6:4; Col 2:12) of the new life in Christ (Gal 2:20) is not called to mind – signified – by the present symbol. The new life in and for Christ, however, should be at the centre of the sacrament. If it is not I but Christ who lives in me (Gal 2:20), the one who lived and died for the Kingdom, my life ought to be for the Kingdom. Christ’s mission ought to be my mission. “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you (Jn 20:21).” It is not an option one might choose; this is integral to the Christian identity. We are branches of the vine;we are needed by the vine to bear fruit. Seen from the ‘missionary nature of the Church’ perspective, Baptism is the response to the call by Christ to follow him, to continue his work. The world is in need of salvation, a salvation that is holistic, comprising the whole human existence in the present world. The vine – Christ – needs branches to bring the fruit of salvation. God wants to need co-workers for God’s plan for the world. From this point of view, there can be no baptism without solid preparation. For adults there is the catechumenate and for the children there is the preparation of the parents and godparents. During the catechumenate one is confronted by the challenge: do you want to give your life to witness to God’s plan for the world, a plan of peace and justice? Do you want to be a witness through your life of the presence of God’s kingdom, of the new life in your society? Do you want to be co-worker with Christ in changing this world? The catechumenate helps to reflect on the situation of the world where the catechumen lives, of what it means to radically change one’s way of thinking and one’s life in that concrete situation; of the behaviour and actions that express that metánoia demanded by Christ. For the infant, without the faith and commitment of the parents and godparents, baptism is an empty, cultural ritual. If baptism is seen as the taking away of the original sin and opening the way to personal salvation, then one could be a minimalist and invoke the ecclesia supplet principle: do not worry, the Church will see to it that everything is all right. The Church, that Platonic idea of a heavenly reality, forgetting that we - the baptised - are the church. What matters is the eternal salvation of the child and, hence, let us baptise him or her. If, on the other hand, mission is at the centre, the work for the Kingdom of God here on earth, then the active commitment to the mission of the Church must be present in those who present the child for baptism. God has a plan for the world, a cosmic plan of salvation, but it will not be numbers that will help that process but quality and commitment. It will be the little flock that is salt, leaven, and light showing the way to the many. If it is not I but Christ who lives in me (Gal 2:20), the one who lived and died for the Kingdom, my life ought to be for the Kingdom. Christ’s mission ought to be my mission. “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you (Jn 20:21).” It is not an option one might choose; this is integral to the Christian identity. We are branches of the vine;we are needed by the vine to bear fruit.
65 Years of Priestly Life. The history of a Journey 14 Sacrament of Confirmation In the post Vatican II theology, Baptism and Confirmation, together with the Eucharist, are part of the one rite of Christian initiation. If in Baptism one expresses one’s acceptance of the call by Christ to continue his work, in Confirmation the Holy Spirit is given to enable that mission to be carried out. Even in the pre-Vatican II theology, the Holy Spirit in Confirmation made one a miles Christi, a soldier of Christ. Today, for adults, the two sacraments of Christian Initiation are conferred together. The one catechumenate prepares for this commitment to continue the mission of Christ. Those who have been baptised as children need to go through a kind of catechumenate. The stress should be on continuing the mission of Christ in their context. The reason given for confirming the children at primary school age is that otherwise, most of them will not be confirmed at all. They will miss the sacramental grace of Confirmation, as I was told in PNG. We are in danger of going back to a preVatican II grace centred theology, abandoning that of a Church which is missionary by nature. It might be a sign that the theology of the Church which is missionary by nature is still only skin deep. We pay lip service to it but we do not live by it. Maybe also we SVDs failed the people in our teaching and preaching. Sacrament of the Eucharist The Eucharist, together with Baptism and Confirmation completes the Christian initiation. Through Baptism/Confirmation we are called and accept to continue the mission of Christ, and the Eucharist is the food that enables us to carry out the mission of Christ. Besides, it is the memorial, the making present of the mystery of God’s love for us, “God loved the world so much that he gave his only son” and of the love of that son who loved us so much to give his love for us. We are thus confronted by our model Christ who shows us the way to carry out God’s mission: total trust in the Father, even and especially in time of total failure, forgetting oneself for the good of the others to the point of giving one’s life. The Eucharist is both nourishment and reminder. “As the father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation The Sacrament of Penance was not treated in Vatican II. Originally, penance was a new chance for those who in a serious way had broken the baptismal commitment. Sometimes penance was postponed to the death bed, to be sure not to fall again. Besides, Thomas Aquinas taught that the case when one comes to confession with a mortal sin was a borderline case. If one repents, that person is forgiven. From that point of view, there is no special need for a sacramental ritual. But there is another aspect. A grievous sin is one that betrays in a radical way the commitment to Christ expressed in Baptism. One, through such an action, puts oneself outside the Christian community. One cannot come back into a community at will. This explains also the procedure with the so called ‘third rite.’ One is absolved The Eucharist, together with Baptism and Confirmation completes the Christian initiation. Through Baptism/ Confirmation we are called and accept to continue the mission of Christ, and the Eucharist is the food that enables us to carry out the mission of Christ.
Fr Ennio Mantovani SVD 15 of sins, however, for the grievous ones, for those putting one outside the Christian community, one needs to ask and to officially be readmitted to the community. This is the ecclesial aspect of the sacrament. For me personally, this understanding of penance, as a renewal of my commitment to Christ and his mission is very meaningful and satisfying. Sacrament of Matrimony Marriage, in my opinion, given the fact that most Christians have been baptised as children, is the missionary sacrament par excellence. Once I was told: If I sleep with my partner just before going to church to be married, I commit mortal sin, I need to go to confession before going to Communion, and, if I die on the way to the church, I go to hell because in mortal sin. However, if I do the same a few minutes after the ceremony in church, everything is ok. There is no sin. The God, who, a short time earlier would have punished me with hell, now is pleased. The sacrament has purified the sexual act. It is not love that is at the centre but sex. This is a caricature of a sacrament. I see marriage differently. In a position paper I gave at the combined bishops conferences of our Pacific area in Sydney in May 1980 prior to the Synod on the Family, I presented my understanding of marriage as the renewal of Baptism in the context of marriage. The Nuncio privately warned me, that if the bishops did not raise the question, he would object that I did not distinguish enough between Baptism and Marriage. In the afternoon discussion, a woman – for the first time, lay people took part in the bishops’ conference – stated that she has been married for a few years. Before marriage, she was very active in her parish and after marriage, she and her husband continued their commitment. However, she felt uneasy. She had kept up her work but something was amiss. Three years after being married, one day it dawned on her that now she could not serve the mission of the Church as she did before, as a single woman. She was married, two in one, one flesh with her husband. They had to serve the mission of the Church as a couple, not as two individuals. That was an entirely different ball game, she said. I looked across at the Nuncio but he kept his head down. The couple had confirmed my understanding. In Baptism we give our life to Christ to work for the Kingdom, to help Christ establish God’s Kingdom here on earth. Marriage, for every culture is a turning point for the individuals involved and for the community as well. Most cultures express this fact through appropriate ceremonies involving very often appropriate instructions for those getting married. One takes on new and greater responsibilities for the community. One becomes an adult. It is not the question of a sexual expression of love that offends God. On the contrary, God appreciates that marital union so much as to want to use it to change and save the world. In this missionary view of marriage, it is not the sinfulness that is stressed, but its beauty and relevance for the mission of Christ. It is the implicit or explicit refusal to live one’s baptism in and through that marital union, the implicit or explicit refusal to allow Christ to use that union as a visible and efficacious sign for the Kingdom that puts a Christian outside the Church. Nowadays this understanding might give us a better foundation for rethinking the love of people with same-sex attraction. In Christian marriage, the couple allows Christ to use that union as a building block for the Kingdom. Their union ought to be a witness to the love of Christ for the Church, and of God for the world. The Christian marriage is not better or superior to other marriages, but is one where one consciously lives that witness. The Christian In Christian marriage, the couple allows Christ to use that union as a building block for the Kingdom. Their union ought to be a witness to the love of Christ for the Church, and of God for the world.
65 Years of Priestly Life. The history of a Journey 16 marriage is not one in which there are no quarrels but one in which, because of one’s promise to be a witness to Christ’s love for the Church, one tries to forgive,thus helping the coming of the reign of God’s love. Because of this missionary nature, a Christian marriage ought to be indissoluble. I prepared some of my nephews and nieces for marriage and with them I discussed the present situation in society and the world. As with many young people, they wanted to see changes, they were concerned about the future. I told them that Christ needed their help to change society, needed their love to make a difference. Were they willing to do something to change it? Were they willing to dedicate their union to create a better world based on justice,love and forgiveness? Were they willing to educate through their example the children that would come from their union? Our society can be healed only if the building blocks of the same, the families, live the ideal preached by Christ. They, as a couple, had to renew the commitment to Christ made at their Baptism by their parents. I see society as a safety net in which marriages are the knots that build and keep it together. To Christianize society, we need to Christianize marriage. Christian marriage ought to be the healthy cell in society, healthy in that it lives the justice of the Kingdom. This for me is the missionary sacrament par excellence. As children, they have been Baptised and Confirmed; now they have a chance to reflect on their Baptismal commitment and renew it together as adults; as a couple. Sacrament of Holy Orders The sacrament of Ordination is a special call and empowerment to serve the missionary community, the community of those called and sent to continue the work mission of Christ. As a seminarian I was looking forward to being ordained a priest, to becoming and alter Christus, as theology told us, another Christ. Preparing for Ordination, I was reading and meditating on the treatise on the Sacrament of Ordination. I did not read it to prepare for an exam but to reflect on the grace to have been called to be an alter Christus. When Vatican II came and the documents became available, I realized that every Christian was an alter Christus through Baptism. Every Christian was assigned to the apostolate by Christ himself. I was not the only minister but one among many. My role was that of reminding the community of its dignity and mission and of enabling the community to live up to that responsibility. My task, in dialogue with the community, was to establish structures that helped the laity to exercise their birthrights. Another task, given my philosophical and theological preparation, was to be the spokesman for the community, the one who presents their insights in a philosophical and theological language to the leadership and the wider Church. My priesthood blossomed after Vatican II. My role was clear and the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity guided my ministry. I would never do what one of my lay coworkers could do. As a matter of fact, I would encourage and support them to go as far as they could in their ministry. On the other hand, I would be supportive and stand up for them. I needed to foresee the problems that would emerge, given the clerical structure of the present Church, and stand by and support them. Reflecting on this Sacrament, I realize that I experienced the teaching of Vatican II as a pastor at Yobai. I had been shaped by a formation that taught me to see in the other an equal, though, maybe, quite different from me. My theological journey probably was shaped more by my openness based on my anthropological formation The sacrament of Ordination is a special call and empowerment to serve the missionary community, the community of those called and sent to continue the work mission of Christ.
Fr Ennio Mantovani SVD 17 received in the Seminary at St Gabriel, than by my theological formation. Vatican II made sense to me. What I rejoiced about were the new openings presented by the Council, showing the direction in which the Spirit wanted us to move. Social sciences and theology, in this point, were moving in the same direction. The Anointing of the Sick This sacrament has to do with sickness and healing and that’s based on James’ recommendation in his letter. Today the Church has dropped the traditional term of ‘extreme unction’ stressing the point that it is the sacrament not only for the dying and the grievously sick but also for the old and the frail. This is relevant in a Church missionary by nature. Each sacrament has to do with our commitment to the mission of Christ; however, the context of that commitment varies during our life. When old age and serious sickness come, we enter a new phase in our life. Often these people say that they cannot ‘work’ anymore for Christ. In this sacrament one renews one’s commitment to Christ and his mission, accepting as Jesus did in Gethsemane, the will of the Father, and one offers one’s pain and suffering for the coming of the Kingdom of God. When I visit the old and sick, I share with them my conviction that they are greater missionaries than myself. I enjoy my ministry while they must suffer with Christ, carrying their cross and so helping the coming of God’s Kingdom, working for the coming of justice and peace in our world today. I always ask them to include my ministry in their prayers, as I need their help. Conclusion When I entered the Society, I was convinced that outside my Church there was no salvation. My task as missionary was to bring the light where there was darkness of sin and death. Vatican II and my work in PNG changed my life in a radical way. I still thank God from my whole my heart that I am a Christian, however, not because I am saved while the others are not, but because Christ called me and sent me out to continue his mission, God’s mission. The special call by Christ to continue his mission gave my Church not only a task but a clear and unique identity. As a Christian I am not superior or better than others but radically different. I still believe I am unique because of that specific call and mission by Christ. I cannot thank God enough for the grace of my SVD vocation. As a missionary, I shall invite and challenge people of good will to be co-workers with Christ in creating a better world, a society in which individuals care for one another. I shall dialogue with brothers and sisters of other religions to work together for the justice of the Kingdom. I see my tasks as an SVD to remind my fellow Christians of their dignity and responsibility as people called and sent out by Christ to continue his mission. I see my responsibility as minister in the Church in helping my fellow Christians carrying out our mission today, in our Australian context. I will endeavour to help those who are or want to become Christians to celebrate the sacraments as a calling to acceptance and empowerment of mission. The special call by Christ to continue his mission gave my Church not only a task but a clear and unique identity. As a Christian I am not superior or better than others but radically different.
65 Years of Priestly Life. The history of a Journey 18 The Big Bang and Evolution There is another topic that I would like to touch on. Today cosmology has been revolutionized with the theories of the Big Bang and of Evolution. Pope Frances lately has entered the dialogue about these topics. Pope Francesco and evolution The Pope inaugurated the Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Science on 27 October 2014. Pope Francis is the only pope in recent times with a science background, having receives a Master’s degree in chemistry. II Some Highlights of the address A. The pastoral dimension The Pope is first and foremost a pastor and so the pastoral dimension takes precedence in all that he does. This puts constraints on the choice of words, metaphors , literary style, etc. For instance, he prefaced his address with encouraging worlds to the members of the Academy to move forwards “with scientific progress and the betterment of the standard of living of people, especially those in the greatest poverty”.(2) He tells the scientists that they are partaking “in the power of God and is capable of building a world adapted to this two-fold physical and spiritual life: to build a human world for all human beings and not only for one group or one privileged class. Many scholars who critique his words and deeds seem to lose sight of this central point. The Big Bang and Evolution The Big Bang Theory and Evolution are the most important contributions to the two areas concerning the birth of the universe and of living beings. What is the relation between these two sets of views-religious and scientific? In his view, both these perspectives are valid and valuable, both to be taken seriously. They do not contradict each other, rather they complement each other- the focus on two distinct, but closely related aspects, of the same issue. 1. The creation of the universe God indeed was the author of the universe. But the Pope says that with regard to how this creation was brought about, a literal understanding of the Book of Genesis is incorrect an unhelpful because it run the risk of “imagining that God was a magician, complete with all powerful magical wand” or a Platonic Demiurge who formed the different things in the universe by imposing form onto the receptacle. What the Creator did was, while assuring them of his continuous presence, to endow “each being with his own internal laws and autonomy so that using them each may develop and reach its fullness”. Accordingly, the universe has been progressing for millennia until becoming what it is today. The Big Bang does not contradict the intervention of a divine creator but depends on it. Science cannot bring out of sheer nothing, only the Creator is required for the Big Bang to occur.
Fr Ennio Mantovani SVD 19 2. The initial Stuff of the Universe The Pope disagrees with the idea of chaos, “the beginning of the world… derives directly from a supreme Principle who created out of love”. 3. The big bang and the Need of God The Big Bang does not contradict the intervention of a divine creator but depends on it. Science cannot bring out of sheer nothing, only the Creator is required for the Big Bang to occur. 4. Evolution and Creation - No Conflict “Evolution in nature does not conflict with the notion of Creation, because evolution presupposes the creation of beings who evolve.” The first law of Thermodynamics, forbids something coming out of nothing (absolute nothing)”. The Creator has to create this initial matter with appropriate capabilities and conditions for evolution. 5. Special Creation of Humans Humans are a special category in the evolutionary rang, as they are given additional autonomy in the form of freedom. “The scientist must be moved by the conviction that nature, in its people with same-sex attraction, hides its potential which it leaves for intelligence and freedom to discover and actualize, in order to reach the development that is the Creator design.” 6. Humans as Collaborators with God The action of man partakes in the power of God and is capable of building a world adapted to his two-fold physical and spiritual life. 7. Caution against Misuse of Freedom When true freedom degenerates into autonomy, the actions of humans “destroy Creation and man takes the place of the Creator. And this is a grave sin against God the Creator”. III. The Catholic Church on the Big Bang and Evolution A. The Big Bang Theory Today the Big Bang Theory is considered the most scientifically established theory on the origin of the universe. The theory, first proposed in 1927 by the Belgian Catholic Priest Abbé Georges Lemaitre, later published in 1931 with title “The Hypothesis of the primeval atom” has been receiving ongoing support as more and more data of cosmological studies pours in. Lemaitre, later published in 1931 with the title “The Hypothesis of the Primeval Atom,” has been receiving ongoing support as more and more data of cosmological studies pours in. Lemaitre proposed this theory on the basis of his long and extensive study of the field equations of the General Theory of Relativity of Einstein and the observed data of red shift of spiral nebulae. Although today this theory has become highly developed and sophisticated, its initial version, as given by Lemaitre, is simple and can be explained in three stages. 1. The Initial Explosion and Consequent Expansion In this stage Lemaitre talks of a super-dense and super-condensed Primeval Today the Big Bang Theory is considered the most scientifically established theory on the origin of the universe. The theory, first proposed in 1927 by the Belgian Catholic Priest Abbé Georges Lemaitre...