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2/22/2014 2:45:00 PM
Our faith hits the heart, too
Society of Jesus photo
Fr. Joseph Jungmann
Society of Jesus photo
Fr. Joseph Jungmann

A 20th-century German Jesuit theologian known for liturgical studies is also one of the pioneers of the New Evangelization. Father Josef Jungmann's thought should guide us today as we try to discover how to offer Jesus to a world that has been distracted.  

Father Jungmann (1889-1975), knew his medieval scholastic theology exceedingly well. He respected it for its intellectual beauty. But he also knew it did not touch human emotion well. The Church needed more to attract and keep the faithful, something in addition to the pious devotions and confusing web of duties that were so popular when he was a young curate during the 1920s and 1930s. A faith that aimed only for intellect and obligation might not stand up to modernity, he feared.

Father Jungmann began studying the early Church for answers. There, he found that the vibrant belief in the centuries just after Jesus made an unabashed claim on the hearts of believers, as well as their minds.

What was called for in modern life, he decided, was a version of what the first Christians had, a communication of the big picture, the basic message of Christianity: personal salvation through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Father Jungmann knew this retrieval would need to be done through education on a large scale. He began to write books for catechists. Students, he said, would need to move from objectively appreciating the story of Jesus and salvation to stepping into the picture so that it matters personally and emotionally. What's more, he told teachers that no one can proclaim the Good News without first receiving it as Good News.   

In the 21st century, we still face many people who equate the Church with an archaic set of rules. If they don't outright dislike the Catholicism, they might be enchanted with it, but only as one is fascinated with a musty book from another age. We must help them take the next step, reaching the place Father Jungmann wanted them to go. There, the Church has a rich history but is no mere museum. It is a living set of relationships extending backward and forward in time with Jesus ever present to make a difference in one's life.  

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