Info

Subsequent to the military coup d'etat (April 1964}, the ending of democratic government in Brazil was succeeded by the gradual construction of a national security dictatorship; a dictatorship representing an ominous presage to later developments throughout Latin America. By no means indulgent of would-be detractors prior to 1968, from the December of this year the military dictatorship commenced a substantially bloodier and repressive regime. Effected via political purges, almost absolute censorship, countless arrests, tortures and deaths, and the proscription of every institution likely to harbour protest, the closure of Brazilian society left only a blanket of silence which cloaked an increasing abuse of human rights and the escalating economic exploitation of those at the base of the social pyramid,10 Encouraged by the challenges issued at Medellin, and in view of the closure of every avenue of protest and resistance besides those of an ecclesiastical nature, pastoral agents already working at the socio-economic base of Brazilian society were joined by increasing numbers {lay and ordained) making their way to the most impoverished neighbourhoods. The days of mass action along state or national lines were gone. Now, the only means of humanitarian action which could survive the national security onslaught was that organised along strictly delimited neighbourhood lines, and dependent on mutual trust and person-to-person contact,"

During this time of pastoral innovation and societal turmoil, there existed three overriding objectives on the part of many pastoral agents working among the poor. Living side by side with those at the base {pastoral de convivencia), the primary concern of the majority of pastoral agents was that of encouraging a greater lay responsibility and participation within the formal ecclesial arena. Consequently, a growing number of leadership training courses were promoted with the aim of furnishing each locale with a core group of community 'animators1 (<animadores) who might assume greater responsibility, thereby engendering a lessening of clerical dependency whilst also acting as positive role models for other lay members.

Secondly, many pastoral agents were concerned to stimulate a new and more radical religious consciousness within those at the base. Rejecting the traditionally dualistic approach to the individual as a union of body and soul (with the Church being chiefly concerned with the latter}, there was pos ted instead a more holistic approach in which the person is regarded as an indistinguishable psychosomatic unity. Utilising the concept of o homem integral (£the whole person*), developed within Catholic University Youth and the Base Education Movement, it was argued that one cannot talk of the spiritual welfare of an individual in isolation from that person's physical needs; physical needs which can be met only in relation to the prevailing economic, political and social environment in which s/he is enmeshed.11 Thus, whilst engaged in day-to-day parish work with biblical circles, baptism and first communion classes, family catechesis, and marriage counselling groups, many pastoral agents used such opportunities to communicate their vision of the unified subject existing within a unified historical plane. Regarding the work of redemption as taking place within the warp and woof of historical processes, this view is well explicated in theological terms by the relatively early thoughts of Gustavo Gutiérrez:

I emphasize that the work of building the earth is not a preceding stage, not a stepping stone, but already the work of salvation. The creation of a just and fraternal society is the salvation of human beings, if by salvation we mean the passage from the less human to the more human. Salvation, therefore, is not purely 'religious5,1*

he third objective of those pastoral agents working at the base comprised the greater integration of the local ecclesial community within the broad expanse of surrounding neighbourhood affairs. Although undoubtedly influenced by the concept of o homem integral, increasing numbers of pastoral agents came to learn that it was not until the traditional practices of the church were linked with concrete activity concerned with food, clothing, finance distribution, and neighbourhood issues that the local Christian community began to make headway within its surrounding locale. Reflecting the perduring pragmatism born of poverty, it was only upon first demon-

TTfi strating to the local community that the implications of the Christian gospel touch upon every dimension of human existence, no matter how seemingly mundane, that those at the base saw fit to invest both trugt and effort within these novel ecclesial experiences/4

With all of the above in mind, pastoral agents came increasingly to incorporate reflection upon wider (i.e., non-religious) community events wi thin the Formal ecclesial arena. The methodological tool utilised for this conjoining of concerns was the See-Judge-Act method, previously used wj thin Catholic University Youth and the Base Education Movement. The importance of this pastoral tool in overcoming the traditional chasm between the religion of the masses and their everyday experiences should not be underestimated; not least because the See-Judge-Act method continues to be the foundation upon which much of CEB success rests today. It is for this reason that the following example of how the See-Judge-Act method might work in action is given/5

Our typical mid-week CEB gathering, coordinated by a lay person or couple and possibly facilitated by a local priest or nun, is opened with the communal saying of a prayer, song or psalm. Following this formal commencement of proceedings, the next half-hour or so is given over to the recounting of the past week*s events and concerns by each individual participating in the community gathering. Such concerns and events might include, for example, news of illness through lack of adequate sanitation facilities, proper housing or malnutrition, the sharing of hardships caused by redundancy or low pay, and information upon someone injured on account of dangerous working conditions. Often termed the revtsao de vida (life review), this stage of open sharing represents the seeing phase of the See-Judge-Act method.

Following this review of the past week's happenings, a scriptural passage might be read aloud by all present, with each person then sharing any comments felt relevant to both text and context of the gathering. When the round is completed, the biblical text and shared comments are then drawn together in the form of a reflection delivered by a member of the community, Subsequent to this reflection, a further period of open discussion takes place, in which the scriptural passage is questioned in the light of present preoccupations and events, in the hope that it might shed light upon the situation at hand. In effect, the past week's life experiences provide the tool by which the biblical text is interrogated and made relevant to the life setting of the group. In such a way, the scriptural passage speaks in retrospect concerning recent events, whilst at the same time giving encouragement to those gathered concerning the week to come, Ar

the God of the Bible is so evidently on the side of the poor and dispossessed, wrestling for the cause of justice and calling for a love which is realised in concrete acts of fairness and equality, must not this same God stand by our side and fight our corner?16 Lasting for up to an hour or more3 this time of reflection constitutes the moment of judging (evaluation) within the threefold methodology being utilised.

Upon being opened to the everyday concerns and events of the poor, it is within the formal ecclesial arena that the people find acceptance, resolve and encouragement from the knowledge and experience that God is not only on their side, but also calling for an end to the massively unjust and unacceptable conditions in which so many at the base spend their entire lives. Spurred on by the affirmation they have found, many involved in such community gatherings seek to work out what they have heard by way of a practical engagement with pressing neighbourhood (bairro) issues. The stages of seeing and judging thereby pass to a time of action\ a time of action in which those empowered within the base ecclesial community immerse themselves within traditionally secular neighbourhood {bairro) conccrns such as local community centres, women's groups, cooperative ventures, political parties and unions, youth clubs, and ad hoc campaigns in the pursuit of a local health clinic, sanitation facilities, school and public transport provisions,

Having originally been envisaged by the hierarchy as a means of including the laity within the ecclesial realm, in the face of a refusal by the people to concern themselves with a church divorced from their everyday experiences, and in view of the See-Judge-Act pastoral method, the CEB emerged as something more besides. By means of accepting the people within itself (centripetal movement) and then subsequently emboldening them to engage their surrounding milieu in the knowledge that this is what the gospel demands {centrifugal movement), the base ecclesial community reaches adulthood. The mature CEB thereby feeds into the local bairro a band of Christian believers no longer willing to be the passive objects of abuse and exploitation, but now determined to be active subjects, increasingly responsible for the construction of their own history. As such, the secular community is opened to the influence of the faithful, whilst in return the ecclesial community is progressively exposed to the ongoing preoccupations, struggles and aspirations of those at the socio-economic base of society. It is by means of this dialectical process of mutual ingres-sion that traditional distinctions between the religious and the mundane are overcome; and it is via this overcoming of traditional distinctions that maturity is attained by the CEB. Thus, the mature CEB can be diagram-matically represented as follows:

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Self Help Affirmations

Self Help Affirmations

The big book of affirmations from personal development authors. An affirmation is something you say to yourself. Everybody uses them on purpose or accidentally. You get up in the morning, leap out of bed and proclaim,

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment