The People’s Faith

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Daniel Cuesta Gómez, SJ

 Daniel Cuesta Gómez, SJ / Church Life / 29 September 2021


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Popular religiosity rarely leaves people indifferent. For some it is a great opportunity for the Church as well as a sign of her vitality, showing how the desire for God is present in our society. For others, on the contrary, it manifests the obvious decadence of a Church no longer able to transmit the profound truth of the Gospel, and so generating substitutes that distance people from the message of Jesus Christ, leading them to superstition, heterodoxy and superficiality.

Be that as it may, popular religiosity in the Catholic world moves the masses, both in old and secularized Europe, in Latin America and other continents, constituting one of the strongest “megaphones” the Church can count on at this time. It serves as a particular “Courtyard of the Gentiles,” a “theological place” from which to address the new evangelization,[1] a solid wall or weapon against secularization,[2] or simply constitutes a community in which to live and spread the faith.[3] However, at the same time, it risks becoming a danger that can weaken the ecclesial body[4] or sometimes even attack it directly.[5]

Popular religiosity poses many questions to the Church and society, such as those expressed by Cardinal Carlos Amigo Vallejo: “Is the religious dimension sought for reasons of faith, or is it a substitute for a belief that has disappeared? Is it a refuge and an extreme foothold against what is believed to be the collapse of religious practice? Can it be a veiled criticism of the way the Church operates? Can it be suspected of being an evasion of the social commitment that the Church itself supports? Of what does popular religiosity consist? What is it that must remain, and what must be renewed? Is popular religiosity a help to or an evasion of true Christian commitment?”[6]

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