Posted by: Thomas Richard | February 21, 2012

Re-Evangelization, Part II

Re-Evangelization, Part II

We need to develop in the Church an attitude – an atmosphere – of evangelization. Paul VI said that the Church exists to evangelize! If that is true (and of course it is true and it ought to be obviously true), then the mission of evangelization ought to be explicit and clear in every parish function and activity.

The mission to evangelize was given to the Church by Jesus personally and specifically. He said to the gathered Apostles, just before He ascended:

Mt 28:18 … “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Mt 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Mt 28:20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

This commission reveals the necessary part of teaching in evangelization. To “make disciples” is to teach – and it is to teach “all that I have commanded you.” Therefore, yes we need to establish an atmosphere of evangelization and outreach in every parish, manifested in every parish function and activity – but before that we need to attend to making disciples of the Catholics already in the parish so that they can be evangelizers themselves. In other words:

We need to establish an atmosphere, an attitude, of continuing education and formation in the Catholic Faith for every Catholic adult and child in the parish. Life-long growth in the Faith, in understanding and in practice, toward the goals of true holiness in Christ and fruitfulness in His Gospel – these ought to be the normative personal goals in the heart of each Catholic. “We are all called to holiness, and to the perfection of charity.” (Catechism 2013)
Working from a solid foundation of Catholic parishioners growing and zealous in the Faith, we can begin to reach out from the parish to those scattered outside: first to the fallen-away or inactive Catholics, and second to all persons whom our Lord wants to gather into His house and household.

Is such a plan possible? Certainly it is possible, but difficult. It calls for a pervasive change in attitude, in the staff of the church and among the daily communicants, in the parish volunteers and the School teachers and staff, even reaching to the Christmas-Easter Catholics and everyone else as well. We have a mission. We are sent by Jesus Christ. We have work to do.

Every meeting, every activity, every parish function and committee, every fundraiser and every dinner and every youth group activity and meeting ought to exist and be necessary in order to advance the Gospel and the mission of the Church. At every gathering, we all ought to know why we are there, why this group exists and what we are directed toward: the Gospel and the mission to evangelize.

The Church is not a business. It is not a social club. It is not a social-service agency. It is not the auditorium for the weekly performance of a ceremony to help us feel religious. The Church has a mission that is explained by the Cross. Only there, under the Cross, can a Catholic find his or her part in His work – and until that vocation is heard and accepted, no one can enter the vineyard and begin the labors.

Thus, we need to find Jesus. We need to encounter Him, personally, interiorly, in His transforming way in the depths of our soul, to know that we must, each one of us, be His disciple or else our entire life is a waste and for nothing. Jesus is everything, or else we are left empty and barren.

So again, what must we do:
We must find Jesus. We must meet Him, and deeply hear Him, and be made new in Him. We must find ourselves – our own personal vocation – in Jesus. We must, each one of us, be evangelized.

Then, as disciples of Jesus, we must become catechized in ways befitting our gifts and call from Him. We must be educated and formed in the Catholic Faith as all Catholic adults should be. Then, strengthened and empowered in His Truth and with His Spirit, we can begin to live the mission: we can evangelize. We can make disciples. We can be fruitful in His name.

Jn 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.
Jn 15:2 Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
Jn 15:3 You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you.
Jn 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
Jn 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Jn 15:6 If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.
Jn 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.
Jn 15:8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.

Let me close with some bulleted points from now-Cardinal Dolan of New York (address 2/20/12 on the vigil of the Consistory, Zenit)

* … the Church has a deep need for the interior conversion that is at the marrow of the call to evangelization.
* …God does not satisfy the thirst of the human heart with a proposition, but with a Person, whose name is Jesus. The invitation implicit in the Missio ad gentes and the New Evangelization is not to a doctrine but to know, love, and serve — not a something, but a Someone. When you began your ministry as successor of St. Peter, Holy Father, you invited us to friendship with Jesus, which is the way you defined sanctity. There it is . . . love of a Person, a relationship at the root of out faith.
* Yes, and here’s my fourth point, but this Person, Jesus, tells us He is the truth. So, our mission has a substance, a content, and this twentieth anniversary of the Catechism, the approaching fiftieth anniversary of the Council, and the upcoming Year of Faith charge us to combat catechetical illiteracy.
* … the New Evangelization is urgent because secularism has often choked the seed of faith; but that choking was sadly made easy because so many believers really had no adequate knowledge or grasp of the wisdom, beauty, and coherence of the Truth.
* Cardinal George Pell has observed that “it’s not so much that our people have lost their faith, but that they barely had it to begin with; and, if they did, it was so vapid that it was easily taken away.” So did Cardinal Avery Dulles call for neo-apologetics, rooted not in dull polemics but in the Truth that has a name, Jesus.
*…. Thus, our mission, the New Evangelization, has essential catechetical and ecclesial dimensions. This impels us to think about Church in a fresh way: to think of the Church as a mission. As John Paul II taught in Redemptoris Missio, the Church does not “have a mission,” as if “mission” were one of many things the Church does. No, the Church is a mission, and each of us who names Jesus as Lord and Savior should measure ourselves by our mission-effectiveness.


Responses

  1. Dear Thomas,

    Thank you so much for this second installment on Re-Evangelization. You have included so many good points which should stir us to greater love for Jesus and zeal for the mission we are called to continue in this world until He comes again. So much “good stuff”, Thomas, but let me make 2 comments:

    1. ” …God does not satisfy the thirst of the human heart with a proposition, but with a Person, whose name is Jesus. The invitation implicit in the Missio ad gentes and the New Evangelization is not to a doctrine but to know, love, and serve — not a something, but a Someone.” This is so very important for us to remember. It reminded me of Bl. John Paul II’s definition of catechesis as “putting persons into intimate communion with Christ”. We cannot give what we lack ourselves, so we must daily grow in our relationship with Jesus in order to share His Love with others.

    2. Our Lady is the “Star of the New Evangelization” and the Gospel of Luke shows us her example of receiving Jesus and then “going with haste” into the hill country to share the good news of Jesus. May we do the same.

  2. Dear Thomas,

    In the “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith” one will find an excellent template (http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/synod/documents/rc_synod_doc_20110304_lineamenta-xiii-assembly-conf_en.html) that we should use to to re-evangilize a mostly secular world. It’s not going to be easy, but you have suggested an excellent plan, one I am confident will work.

    Unfortunately members have been asleep for the past forty years or so, not only ordinary members, but our leaders. But that was yesterday, now that there is a new re-awakening in the Church, it is time to resume the mission to evangelize, a mandate which was given to the Church by Jesus personally just before He ascended.

    I liked Cardinal Dolan’s speech to Pope Benedict. I hope you will excuse me for this redundancy but he zoomed-in on a major problem in his speech.

    This is an excerpt from Archbishop Dolan’s speech to Pope Benedict and the Cardinals, in which he outlined seven specific ways we can evangelize in this culture of secularization:

    Secularization, which presents itself in cultures by imposing a world and humanity without reference to Transcendence, is invading every aspect of daily life and developing a mentality in which God is effectively absent, wholly or partially, from human life and awareness. This secularization is not only an external threat to believers, but has been manifest for some time in the heart of the Church herself. It profoundly distorts the Christian faith from within, and consequently, the lifestyle and daily behavior of believers. They live in the world and are often marked, if not conditioned, by the cultural imagery that impresses contradictory and impelling models regarding the practical denial of God: there is no longer any need for God, to think of him or to return to him. Furthermore, the prevalent hedonistic and consumeristic mindset fosters in the faithful and in Pastors a tendency to superficiality and selfishness that is harmful to ecclesial life. (Benedict XVI, Address to Pontifical Council for Culture, 8.III.2008)

    This secularization calls for a creative strategy of evangelization, and I want to detail seven planks of this strategy.

    1. Actually, in graciously inviting me to speak on this topic, “The Announcement of the Gospel Today, between missio ad gentes and the new evangelization,” my new-brother-cardinal, His Eminence, the Secretary of State, asked me to put in into the context of secularism, hinting that my home archdiocese of New York might be the “capital of a secular culture.”

    As I trust my friend and new-brother-cardinal, Edwin O’Brien — who grew up in New York — will agree, New York — without denying its dramatic evidence of graphic secularism – is also a very religious city. There one finds, even among groups usually identified as materialistic — the media,
    entertainment, business, politics, artists, writers — an undeniable openness to the divine!

    The cardinals who serve Jesus and His Church universal on the Roman Curia may recall the address Pope Benedict gave them at Christmas two years ago when he celebrated this innate openness to the divine obvious even in those who boast of their secularism:

    We as believers, must have at heart even those people who consider themselves agnostics or atheists. When we speak of a new evangelization these people are perhaps taken aback. They do not want to see themselves as an object of mission or to give up their freedom of thought and will. Yet the question of God remains present even for them. As the first step of evangelization we must seek to keep this quest alive; we must be concerned that human beings do not set aside the question of God, but rather see it as an essential question for their lives. We must make sure that they are open to this question and to the yearning concealed within. I think that today too the Church should open a sort of “Court of the Gentiles” in which people might in some way latch on to God, without knowing him and before gaining access to his mystery, at whose service the inner life of the Church stands.

    This is my first point: we believe with the philosophers and poets of old, who never had the benefit of revelation, that even a person who brags about being secular and is dismissive of religion, has within an undeniable spark of interest in the beyond, and recognizes that humanity and creation is a dismal riddle without the concept of some kind of creator.

    A movie popular at home now is The Way, starring a popular actor, Martin Sheen. Perhaps you have seen it. He plays a grieving father whose estranged son dies while walking the Camino di Santiago di Campostella in Spain. The father decides, in his grief, to complete the pilgrimage in place of his dead son. He is an icon of a secular man: self-satisfied, dismissive of God and religion, calling himself a “former Catholic,” cynical about faith . . . but yet unable to deny within him an irrepressible interest in the transcendent, a thirst for something – no, Someone — more, which grows on the way.

    Yes, to borrow the report of the apostles to Jesus from last Sunday’s gospel, “All the people are looking for you!”

    2. . . . and, my second point, this fact gives us immense confidence and courage in the sacred task of mission and New Evangelization. “Be not afraid,” we’re told, is the most repeated exhortation in the Bible. After the Council, the good news was that triumphalism in the Church was dead. The bad news was that, so was confidence!

    We are convinced, confident, and courageous in the New Evangelization because of the power of the Person sending us on mission — who happens to be the second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity – because of the truth of the message, and the deep down openness in even the most secularized of people to the divine.

    Confident, yes!
    Triumphant, never!

    What keeps us from the swagger and arrogance of triumphalism is a recognition of what Pope Paul VI taught in Evangelii Nuntiandi: the Church herself needs evangelization! This gives us humility as we confess that Nemo dat quod not habet, that the Church has a deep need for the interior conversion that is at the marrow of the call to evangelization.

    3. A third necessary ingredient in the recipe of effective mission is that God does not satisfy the thirst of the human heart with a proposition, but with a Person, whose name is Jesus. The invitation implicit in the Missio ad gentes and the New Evangelization is not to a doctrine but to know, love, and serve — not a something, but a Someone. When you began your ministry as successor of St. Peter, Holy Father, you invited us to friendship with Jesus, which is the way you defined sanctity. There it is . . . love of a Person, a relationship at the root of out faith.

    As St. Augustine writes, “Ex una sane doctrina impressam fidem credentium cordibus singulorum qui hoc idem credunt verissime dicimus, sed aliud sunt ea quae creduntur, aliud fides qua creduntur” (De Trinitate, XIII, 2.5)

    4. Yes, and here’s my fourth point, but this Person, Jesus, tells us He is the truth. So, our mission has a substance, a content, and this twentieth anniversary of the Catechism, the approaching fiftieth anniversary of the Council, and the upcoming Year of Faith charge us to combat catechetical illiteracy.

    True enough, the New Evangalization is urgent because secularism has often choked the seed of faith; but that choking was sadly made easy because so many believers really had no adequate knowledge or grasp of the wisdom, beauty, and coherence of the Truth. Cardinal George Pell has observed that “it’s not so much that our people have lost their faith, but that they barely had it to begin with; and, if they did, it was so vapid that it was easily taken away.”

    So did Cardinal Avery Dulles call for neo-apologetics, rooted not in dull polemics but in the Truth that has a name, Jesus.

    So did Blessed John Newman, upon reception of his own biglietto nominating him a cardinal warn again of what he constantly called a dangerous liberalism in religion: “. . . the belief that there is no objective truth in religion, that one creed is as good as another . . . Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment, a taste . . . ”

    And, just as Jesus tells us “I am the Truth,” He also describes Himself as “the Way, and the Life.” The Way of Jesus is in and through His Church, a holy mother who imparts to us His Life. “For what would I ever know of Him without her?” asks De Lubac, referring to the intimate identification of Jesus and His Church. Thus, our mission, the New Evangelization, has essential catechetical and ecclesial dimensions.

    This impels us to think about Church in a fresh way: to think of the Church as a mission. As John Paul II taught in Redemptoris Missio, the Church does not “have a mission,” as if “mission” were one of many things the Church does. No, the Church is a mission, and each of us who names Jesus as Lord and Savior should measure ourselves by our mission-effectiveness. Over the fifty years since the convocation of the Council, we have seen the Church pass through the last stages of the Counter-Reformation and rediscover itself as a missionary enterprise. In some venues, this has meant a new discovery of the Gospel. In once-catechized lands, it has meant a re-evangelization that sets out from the shallow waters of institutional maintenance, and as John Paul II instructed us in Novo Millennio Ineunte, puts out “into the deep” for a catch.

    In many of the countries represented in this college, the ambient public culture once transmitted the Gospel, but does so no more. In those circumstances, the proclamation of the Gospel — the deliberate invitation to enter into friendship with the Lord Jesus — must be at the very center of the Catholic life of all of our people. But in all circumstances, the Second Vatican Council and the two great popes who have given it an authoritative interpretation are urging us to call our people to think of themselves as missionaries and evangelists.

    5. When I was a new seminarian at the North American College here in Rome, all the first year men from all the Roman theological universities were invited to a Mass at St. Peter’s with the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal John Wright, as celebrant and homilist. We thought he would give us a cerebral homily. But he began by asking, “Seminarians: do me and the Church a big favor. When you walk the streets of Rome, smile!”

    So, point five: the missionary, the evangelist, must be a person of joy.

    “Joy is the infallible sign of God’s presence,” claims Leon Bloy. When I became Archbishop of New York, a priest old me, “You better stop smiling when you walk the streets of Manhattan, or you’ll be arrested!”

    A man dying of AIDS at the Gift of Peace Hospice, administered by the Missionaries of Charity in Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s Archdiocese of Washington, asked for baptism. When the priest asked for an expression of faith, the dying man whispered, “All I know is that I’m unhappy, and these sisters are very happy, even when I curse them and spit on them. Yesterday I finally asked them why they were so happy. They replied ‘Jesus.’ I want this Jesus so I can finally be happy. A genuine act of faith, right?

    The New Evangelization is accomplished with a smile, not a frown.

    The missio ad gentes is all about a yes to everything decent, good, true, beautiful and noble in the human person.

    The Church is about a yes!, not a no!

    6. And, next-to-last point, the New Evangelization is about love. Recently, our brother John Thomas Kattrukudiyil, the Bishop of Itanagar, in the northeast corner of India, was asked to explain the tremendous growth of the Church in his diocese, registering over 10,000 adult converts a year. “Because we present God as a loving father, and because people see the Church loving them.” he replied. Not a nebulous love, he went on, but a love incarnate in wonderful schools for all children, clinics for the sick, homes for the elderly, centers for orphans, food for the hungry.

    In New York, the heart of the most hardened secularist softens when visiting one of our inner-city Catholic schools. When one of our benefactors, who described himself as an agnostic, asked Sister Michelle why, at her age, with painful arthritic knees, she continued to serve at one of these struggling but excellent poor schools, she answered, “Because God loves me, and I love Him, and I want these children to discover this love.”

    7. Joy, love . . . and, last point . . . sorry to bring it up, . . . but blood.

    Tomorrow, twenty-two of us will hear what most of you have heard before: “To the praise of God, and the honor of the Apostolic See receive the red biretta, the sign of the cardinal’s dignity; and know that you must be willing to conduct yourselves with fortitude even to the shedding of your blood: for the growth of the Christian faith, the peace and tranquillity of the People of God, and the freedom and spread of the Holy Roman Church.”

  3. Dear Gene,

    Thanks so much for your comment, enlarging on the points made by Cardinal Dolan. How encouraging to read his words and to know he is leading the Archdiocese of NY! I was blessed, being re-enforced in my own heart by his words. His insights were not new but need to be newly proclaimed, it seems to me. The following words the Cardinal quoted from Pope Benedict, however, became especially important to me:

    “We as believers, must have at heart even those people who consider themselves agnostics or atheists. When we speak of a new evangelization these people are perhaps taken aback. They do not want to see themselves as an object of mission or to give up their freedom of thought and will. Yet the question of God remains present even for them. As the first step of evangelization we must seek to keep this quest alive; we must be concerned that human beings do not set aside the question of God, but rather see it as an essential question for their lives. We must make sure that they are open to this question and to the yearning concealed within. I think that today too the Church should open a sort of “Court of the Gentiles” in which people might in some way latch on to God, without knowing him and before gaining access to his mystery, at whose service the inner life of the Church stands.”

    Like Jesus and Mary, we must seek those who do not even know their own deepest need for God. Let us continue to pray for our own interior renewal and for all those in most need of His Mercy.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: