THE YEAR OF FAITH AND THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
By Frank Summers
The Pope declared that last year would be the Year of St. Paul, and that this year is the “Year of Faith”, with an emphasis on Evangelization. He has called a Synod of World Bishops to consider “The New Evangelization”.
Genie’s second book chronicling our lives in mission has just been published: Our Family’s Book of Acts – Love and Serve the Lord. Genie has been interviewed about her book and the work of FMC, by Ralph Martin for his new EWTN program on the New Evangelization (program to be aired in March).
Yes, it seems the whole Church has become focused on doing the very thing we have given our lives to do: EVANGELIZING EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE !! Catholic people are being asked “to think of themselves as missionaries and evangelists.” (Cardinal Dolan
This year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th year since publication of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Below I review of some of the recent Church documents:
POPE BENEDICT’S LETTER FOR WORLD MISSION DAY:
Benedict XVI set the tone for the Synod and for the Year of Faith in his Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei (“A Message for World Mission Day 2012” – January 6, 2012):
“He declares the Church’s desire to engage with greater courage and zeal in the missio ad gentes so that the Gospel may reach the very ends of the earth. *** [T]he number of those who do not know Christ has grown: ‘The number of those awaiting Christ is still immense’ [citing JP II, Mission of the Redeemer.] … ‘[W]e cannot be content when we consider the millions of our brothers and sisters, who like us have been redeemed by the blood of Christ but who live in ignorance of the love of God.’ [Id., 86.] *** We therefore need to recover the same apostolic zeal as the early Christian communities, which, though small and defenseless, were able, through their proclamation and witness, to spread the Gospel throughout the then known world.
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“The mandate to preach the Gospel…must involve all the activities of the particular Church, all her sectors, in short, her whole being and all her work…. This requires the regular adjustment of lifestyles, pastoral planning and diocesan organization to this fundamental dimension of being Church….”
“the mission ad gentes must be the constant horizon and paradigm of every ecclesial endeavor”
“It is necessary to renew the enthusiasm of communicating the faith to promote a new evangelization of the communities and countries with a longstanding Christian tradition which are losing their reference to God so that they may rediscover the joy of believing. The concern to evangelize must never remain on the margins of ecclesial activity and of the personal life of Christians. Rather, it must strongly characterize it….”
“…[F]aith is a gift that is given to us to be shared; it is a talent received so that it may bear fruit; it is a light that must never be hidden, but must illuminate the whole house. It is the most important gift which has been made to us in our lives and which we cannot keep to ourselves.”
“Many priests, men and women religious…, numerous lay people and even entire families leave their countries and their local communities to go to other churches to bear witness to and proclaim the Name of Christ, in which humanity finds salvation.”
CARDINAL DOLAN’S VATICAN HOMILY:
Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York was asked to give the homily at a special Mass before the Pope and the College of Cardinals at the Vatican (posted February 17, 2012). He speaks of “the sacred duty of evangelization,” “ever ancient, ever new”. “…[T]he evangelical fervor of the Church was expanded during the Second Vatican Council….” John Paul II has made “The New Evangelization” a household word.
The Vat.II Council has defined the entire Church as missionary: “all Christians, by reason of baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist, are evangelizers”. “…[N]o Christian is exempt from the duty of witnessing to Jesus….” “…[M]ission applied not only to unbelievers but to believers ….
Mission was expected “to apply the invitation of Jesus to conversion of heart not only ad extra but ad intra, to believers and cultures where the salt of the gospel had lost its tang. Thus the missio is not only to New Guinea but to New York.”
Cardinal Dolan says that western secularism is an external threat to believers, “manifest for some time in the heart of the Church herself.” Nevertheless, even secularists are looking for answers that only Jesus can provide. We must be convinced, confident, and courageous in the New Evangelization – because of the power of Jesus, and the truth of the message, and the deep down openness in even the most secularized of people to the divine. The Church herself needs evangelization, it has a deep need for interior conversion.
“God does not satisfy the thirst of the human heart with a proposition, but with a Person, whose name is Jesus.” “The invitation…is not to a doctrine but to know, love, and serve – not a something, but a Someone.”
We are called to “combat catechetical illiteracy”. Cardinal Dolan quotes Cardinal George Pell who has observed that “it is 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.” (At a recent Mass in the Lafayette Diocese, a priest declared that 1/3 of baptized Catholics never go to church, 1/3 only go only on special occasions like Easter and Christmas, and 1/3 go to some Sunday Masses.)
“…[T]he 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.” Our churches cannot “set out from the shallow waters of institutional maintenance” – no, the new evangelization “puts out ‘into the deep’ for a catch.”
“…[T]he proclamation of the Gospel – the deliberate invitation to enter into friendship with the Lord Jesus – must be the very center of the Catholic life of all of our people.” We must call the Catholic people “to think of themselves as missionaries and evangelists.”
He believes JOY is the infallible sign of God’s presence: “the evangelist must be a person of joy:”
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!
One diocese in northeast India has seen 10,000 adult converts a year. That bishop says it is “Because we present God as a loving father, and because people see the Church there loving them…. Not a nebulous love…but a love incarnate” in good works.
The New Evangelization will produce martyrs: “you must be willing to conduct yourselves with fortitude even to the shedding of your blood….” “…[P]eople today learn more from ‘witnesses than from words,’ and the supreme witness is martyrdom.” “While we cry for today’s martyrs; while we love them, pray with and for them; while we vigorously advocate on their behalf; we are also very proud of them, brag about them, and trumpet their supreme witness to the world. They spark the missio ad gentes and New Evangelization.”
“…[W]e need to speak again as a child the eternal truth, beauty, and simplicity of Jesus and His Church.
Excerpts from “Final List of Propositions of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization”
“The New Evangelization is a time of awakening, of new encouragement and new witness that Jesus Christ is the center of our faith and daily life. It calls on every member of the Church to a renewal of faith and an actual effort to share it…. [All of us are invited] to once again hear the Word of God in order to encounter the Lord Jesus in a new and profound way.”
Proposition 10: Right to Proclaim and Hear the Gospel
“To proclaim the Good News and the person of Jesus is an obligation for each Christian…. At the same time, it is an inalienable right for each person, whatever one’s religion or lack of religion, to be able to know Jesus Christ and the Gospel.”
Proposition 11: New Evangelization and the Prayerful Reading of Sacred Scripture
“The Synod Fathers desire that the Divine Word ‘be ever more fully at the heart of every ecclesial activity’ (Verbum Domini)…. In the context of the New Evangelization every opportunity for the study of Sacred Scripture should be made available. The Scripture should permeate homilies, catechesis, and every effort to pass on the faith.
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“In consideration of the necessity of familiarity with the Word of God for the New Evangelization and for the spiritual growth of the faithful, the Synod encourages dioceses, parishes, small Christian communities, to continue serious study of the Bible and Lectio Divina – the prayerful reading of the Scriptures.”
Proposition 14: Reconciliation
“… the Church has to make an effort to break down the walls that separate human beings…. Our Lord…came to free us from our sins and to invite us to build harmony, peace, and justice among all peoples.”
Proposition 20: The New Evangelization and the Way of Beauty:
“It is important to give testimony to the young who follow Jesus not only of His goodness and truth, but also of the fullness of His beauty. As Augustine affirmed, ‘It is not possible to love what is not beautiful.’
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“Beauty should always be a special dimension of the New Evangelization.”
Proposition 22: Conversion
“The New Evangelization requires personal and communal conversion, new methods of evangelization and renewal of the pastoral structures, to be able to move from a pastoral strategy of maintenance to a pastoral position that is truly missionary.”
We are encouraged to seek “changes in the dynamics of pastoral structures which no longer respond to the evangelical demands of the current time.”
Proposition 23: Holiness and the New Evangelizers
“The universal call to holiness is constitutive of the New Evangelization…. Holiness is a significant part of every evangelizing commitment for the one who evangelizes and for the good of those evangelized.”
Proposition 24: The Social Teaching of the Church
“In order to advance a New Evangelization in society, greater attention should be given to the Church’s social doctrine…. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church is a precious resource in accomplishing this continuing formation.”
Proposition 26 : Parishes
“…[T]he Synod Fathers would like to encourage parishes to find ways to orient themselves to a greater emphasis on evangelization…. The presence and evangelizing action of associations, movements and other ecclesial realities are useful stimuli for the realization of this pastoral conversion…. [A]ll the parishes and their small communities should be living cells, places to promote the personal and communitarian encounter with Christ, experience the richness of liturgy, to give initial and permanent Christian formation, and to educate all the faithful in fraternity and charity especially towards the poor.”
Proposition 30 : Theology
“The Synod proposes…that a department of New Evangelization studies be established in Catholic Universities.”
Proposition 31 : Option for the Poor
“The preferential option for the poor leads us to seek out the poor and to work on their behalf so that they feel at home in the Church. They are both recipients and actors in the New Evangelization.
Proposition 32 : The Sick
“In the sick, the suffering, persons with disabilities and those with special needs, Christ’s suffering is present and has missionary force…. They need our care, but we receive even more from their faith…. [T]he sick are very important participants in the New Evangelization. All those in contact with the sick need to be aware of their mission.”
Proposition 42 :
“ Every pastoral program must transmit the true novelty of the Gospel, and be centered on a personal and living encounter with Jesus. [It should elicit in all] a generous embrace of the faith, and a willingness to accept the call to be witnesses.”
Proposition 45 : The Role of the Laity in the New Evangelization
“The Second Vatican Council identifies four main aspects of the mission of the baptized: the witness of their lives, works of charity and mercy, renewing the temporal order, and direct evangelization…. The laity cooperate in the Church’s work of evangelization, as witnesses and at the same time as living instruments they share in her saving mission…. Therefore the Church values the gifts that the Spirit is making to every baptized for the construction of the body, and should provide adequate encouragement and training to foster their apostolic zeal in the transmission of the faith.”
Proposition 45 : Collaboration
“…[T]oday, women (lay and religious) together with men contribute to theological reflection at all levels and share pastoral responsibilities in new ways….”
Proposition 47 : Formation for Evangelizers
“This Synod considers that it is necessary to establish formation centers for the New Evangelization, where lay people learn how to speak of the person of Christ in a persuasive manner adapted to our time and to specific groups of people….”
Proposition 48 : The Christian Family
“…[T]he Christian family as the domestic Church is the locus and first agent in the giving of life and love, the transmission of faith and the formation of the human person according to the values of the Gospel…. In many cases the grandparents will have a very important role.”
“The Synod notes with appreciation those families who leave their homes in order to be evangelizers for Christ in other countries and cultures.”
Proposition 51 – Youth and the New Evangelization
“In the New Evangelization the youth are not only the future, but also the present (and gift) in the Church. They are not only the recipients but also the agents of evangelization, especially with their peers.*** Through exemplary Christian adults, the saints, especially the young saints, and through committed youth ministers, the Church is visible and credible for the youth….[I]t is necessary that evangelizers meet the young and spend time with them; propose to them and accompany them in following Jesus, guide them to discover their vocation in life and in the Church. ”
Proposition 52 : Ecumenical Dialogue
“The credibility of our service to the Gospel will be much greater if we can overcome our divisions. While upholding Catholic identity and communion, the New Evangelization promotes ecumenical collaboration, which demonstrates how much the faith given in Baptism unites us.”
Proposition 53: Inter-religious Dialogue
“Faithful to the teaching of Vatican II, the Church respects the other religions and their adherents and is happy to collaborate with them in the defense and promotion of the inviolable dignity of every person.”
Proposition 55 : Courtyard of the Gentiles
The Synod encourages the ecclesial communities to open a kind of Courtyard of the Gentiles , “where believers and non-believers can dialogue about fundamental themes….”
Proposition 57 :
“This faith cannot be transmitted in a life which is not modeled after the Gospel or a life which does not find its meaning, truth and future based on the Gospel…. [The New evangelization] calls all believers to renew their faith and their personal encounter with Jesus in the Church…and joyfully to share it.”
Proposition 58 :
Mary [is] the Star of the New Evangelization!