Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher and his new book.

An archbishop’s guide to being Catholic

By  Kristina Glicksman
  • May 23, 2019

If we’re going to be Catholic, it might be useful to know what we’re supposed to be part of and how to be part of it. 

Archbishop Paul-André Durocher of Gatineau, Que., has written a useful guide to help Catholic communities understand their Christian vocation and mission — to reflect on who they are and what they are called to and how they can put that identity into action.

Called by Name, Sent in His Name is presented as a series of “talks” which set out Durocher’s forward-thinking, “outward-bound” vision for the Church. His writing is lucid and accessible, and he makes a lot of sense. It is the kind of writing we need more of in the Church: grounded in theology and history but keenly aware of the present and looking toward the future.

He begins with a discussion of the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, which are central to our identity as Christians. He constructs his vision around these two sacraments. Baptism is the sacrament by which we become members of the Christian community, the Body of Christ (“called by name”). Confirmation is the sacrament which sends us forth into the world (“sent in His name”). Throughout the book he refers back to the distinct characters of the sacraments and how their graces should inform the way we act and understand ourselves, both as individual Christians and as a Church. It is an approach that is both comprehensible and convincing.

Durocher takes his inspiration and his cue from Pope Francis in his enthusiasm for promoting a Church that is more outward-focused. But he does not see this idea as coming from Pope Francis himself. It is not a top-down initiative. Rather, Durocher believes Pope Francis has read the signs of the times and is helping us understand the direction the Holy Spirit is leading us.

This does not mean people should be afraid of losing the Church they know. In the first “talk” after discussing the two sacraments, Durocher addresses the nature of the Church and asks whether it is an institution, an association or a movement. What did Jesus intend to establish? What is it now?

In a coherent way, he shows us how the Church holds all three of those natures in balance. At various times, one or another of those natures comes to the fore. Durocher details what he has understood from his own experience as a gradual shift in dominance from the institution prior to Vatican II to the Church that had more of the character of an association immediately after the Council to today when we are discovering again the strong missionary calling within the Church, a desire to reach out beyond our boundaries. It’s not that either the institution or the association have gone away, but that at this moment the Church is taking on a greater aspect of the movement it has been since its earliest days.

The archbishop wants us to understand what being part of a movement means and get us thinking about how we can put that “outward-bound” drive into action — as individuals, but especially as communities. His aim is to accompany readers towards an understanding of the mission of the Church in the modern world. He wants his readers, ordinary lay Catholics, to discover their place within that mission.

Although it doesn’t set itself up as a dialogue-guide or workbook, this book is designed in a way that will make it an ideal tool for discussion groups focused on what kind of Church we are called to be and what that might look like within specific communities. It could be employed very effectively to help in the formation of parish leaders as they seek to understand the mission of their parish and their own place within it.

The “talks” are well organized and easy to follow. They build upon one another. They are also of roughly equal length: an average of 15 pages — very manageable preparation for a weekly meeting, say, for any busy layperson. 

In addition, Durocher’s engaging and simple, straightforward style, as well as his focus on personal reflection and informal dialogue, will make this book accessible and enjoyable to a variety of readers.

As the Catholic Church looks to the future, this small, inspiring book could be one key to helping Catholic communities in Canada understand how they are called to contribute in a meaningful way to this bold vision of an “outward-bound” Church.

(Glicksman is a writer and editor living in Toronto.)

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