Below is an excerpt from an address by Pope Benedict XVI to parishes in Rome. It’s important to think about the practical aspects of our faith: how we pray, how we evangelize, how we organize our parishes.
I like the practicality of this, on two sides. First, we need to be practical about forming structures that will really work. Second, we need to realize that the structures that work are the structures that meet practical needs: the need for “places” of encounter, in the places where people are.
“The spiritual and apostolic growth of the community then leads to its extension through a convinced missionary action. Strive, therefore, in every parish as at the time of the City Mission, to restore life to the small groups or counselling centres for the faithful who proclaim Christ and his word, places where it is possible to experience faith, to put charity into practice and to organize hope. This structuring of the large urban parishes by the multiplication of small communities allows the mission a larger breathing space, which takes into account the density of the population and its social and cultural features which are often very different.
“If this pastoral method is also to be applied effectively in workplaces, it would be important to evangelize them with a well thought-out and adapted pastoral ministry since, because of the high social mobility, it is here that people spend a large part of their day.
“Lastly, the witness of charity that unites hearts and opens them to ecclesial belonging should not be forgotten. Historians answer the question as to how the success of Christianity in the first centuries can be explained – the ascent of a presumed Jewish sect to the religion of the Empire – by saying that it was the experience of Christian charity in particular that convinced the world.
“Living charity is the primary form of missionary outreach. The word proclaimed and lived becomes credible if it is incarnate in behaviour that demonstrates solidarity and sharing, in deeds that show the Face of Christ as man’s true Friend. May the silent, daily witness of charity, promoted by parishes thanks to the commitment of numerous lay faithful continue to spread increasingly, so that those who live in suffering feel the Church’s closeness and experience the love of the Father rich in mercy.
“Therefore be “Good Samaritans”, ready to treat the material and spiritual wounds of your brethren. Deacons, conformed by ordination to Christ the Servant, will be able to carry out a useful service in promoting fresh attention to the old and new forms of poverty.”
-Benedict XVI, at the Diocese of Rome’s Ecclesial Convention, 26 May 2009