And The A Ttitude Of The Laity

In this section and the next one I want to say something about the attitude of the laity towards events which have aken place in the last few years. Before I mention the whole question of Christian commitment in'the field of politics and social issues, however, I want to mention the matter of "basic communities" or "grass-roots communities" [comunidades de base] and people's varying attitudes towards them.

These "basic communities" are an invention of the Latin American Church. In reality they derive from the Movement for Basic Education (MEB) in Brazil. We have gradually come to discover the importance of a concrete community in which the faith of the Christian finds real affective ties. Such basic communities are now being discussed in Europe, and they may represent a major trend in the pastoral work of the future.

The individual living in urban Christendom is a lonely figure lost in a huge impersonal crowd. When he goes to Church, he often does not know the people on either side of him. There is no intermediary between the concrete individual and the impersonal Church. Something is needed to bridge the gap between the two, and that is what the "basic community" seeks to do. It is a small cominunity in which the participants render each other concrete help and thus empirically experience their fellowship with one another. The impersonal parish community at Sunday Mass is tq be transformed into a collection of many such basic communities.

In his small Brazilian diocese of Creteus, Bishop Antonio Fragoso has 150 basic communities in each of his ten parishes. They are the basis upon which parochial and diocesan life is built. Such concrete experiments and ex-

periences are testing grounds for the future. When the proper balance is found, they will be spread to the whole Church. We sometimes feel bewildered by the variety of seemingly atomistic experiments-thatwe hear of, but that is no cause for pessimism. It takes time to develop organisms that will meet the challenge of the historical moment. It is very much a matter of trial and error because there is no ready-made path set out before us.

Some people can only follow a road that has already been paved for them. Other people now realize that following Jesus entails something different. It is a response to one who calls us forth into the desert so that we may build a new future for his poor. That, at least, seems to be the fundamental aspect of the Christian vocation today.

Pastoral activity is not a set of ready-made formulas, telling us how to sing the liturgy or organize a community. It is basically an attitude-an attitude of faith, hope, and charity. If we wish to know how to act pastorally on a given day, we must open our eyes and ears to what is going on around us. Itisin the midstofreal-Iife events that we will hear God's summons. Our response to this call may result in a hundred abortive experiments. But one or two may work, providing a model for the immediate future. And the "basic communities" now operating in Latin America seem to offer promise for the future. They may prove to be one of the successful models we are now looking for.

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