Tag Archives: New Evangelization

Rediscover the Faith by sharing it with joy, making disciples, Pope Francis encourages on World Mission Day 2013

This year, as we celebrate World Mission Day, the Year of Faith, which is an important opportunity to strengthen our friendship with the Lord and our journey as a Church that preaches the Gospel with courage, comes to an end. From this perspective, I would like to propose some reflections.

1. Faith is God’s precious gift, which opens our mind to know and love him. He wants to enter into relationship with us and allow us to participate in his own life in order to make our life more meaningful, better and more beautiful. God loves us! Faith, however, needs to be accepted, it needs our personal response, the courage to entrust ourselves to God, to live his love and be grateful for his infinite mercy. It is a gift, not reserved for a few but offered with generosity. Everyone should be able to experience the joy of being loved by God, the joy of salvation! It is a gift that one cannot keep to oneself, but it is to be shared. If we want to keep it only to ourselves, we will become isolated, sterile and sick Christians. The proclamation of the Gospel is part of being disciples of Christ and it is a constant commitment that animates the whole life of the Church. Missionary outreach is a clear sign of the maturity of an ecclesial community” (BENEDICT XVI, Verbum Domini, 95). Each community is “mature” when it professes faith, celebrates it with joy during the liturgy, lives charity, proclaims the Word of God endlessly, leaves one’s own to take it to the “peripheries”, especially to those who have not yet had the opportunity to know Christ. The strength of our faith, at a personal and community level, can be measured by the ability to communicate it to others, to spread and live it in charity, to witness to it before those we meet and those who share the path of life with us.

2. The Year of Faith, fifty years after the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, motivates the entire Church towards a renewed awareness of its presence in the contemporary world and its mission among peoples and nations. Missionary spirit is not only about geographical territories, but about peoples, cultures and individuals, because the “boundaries” of faith do not only cross places and human traditions, but the heart of each man and each woman. The Second Vatican Council emphasized in a special way how the missionary task, that of broadening the boundaries of faith, belongs to every baptized person and all Christian communities; since “the people of God lives in communities, especially in dioceses and parishes, and becomes somehow visible in them, it is up to these to witness Christ before the nations” (Ad gentes, 37). Each community is therefore challenged, and invited to make its own, the mandate entrusted by Jesus to the Apostles, to be his “witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8) and this, not as a secondary aspect of Christian life, but as its essential aspect: we are all invited to walk the streets of the world with our brothers and sisters, proclaiming and witnessing to our faith in Christ and making ourselves heralds of his Gospel. I invite Bishops, Priests, Presbyteral and Pastoral Councils, and each person and group responsible in the Church to give a prominent position to this missionary dimension in formation and pastoral programmes, in the understanding that their apostolic commitment is not complete unless it aims at bearing witness to Christ before the nations and before all peoples. This missionary aspect is not merely a programmatic dimension in Christian life, but it is also a paradigmatic dimension that affects all aspects of Christian life.

3. The work of evangelization often finds obstacles, not only externally, but also from within the ecclesial community. Sometimes there is lack of fervour, joy, courage and hope in proclaiming the Message of Christ to all and in helping the people of our time to an encounter with him. Sometimes, it is still thought that proclaiming the truth of the Gospel means an assault on freedom. Paul VI speaks eloquently on this: “It would be… an error to impose something on the consciences of our brethren. But to propose to their consciences the truth of the Gospel and salvation in Jesus Christ, with complete clarity and with total respect for free options which it presents… is a tribute to this freedom” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 80). We must always have the courage and the joy of proposing, with respect, an encounter with Christ, and being heralds of his Gospel. Jesus came among us to show us the way of salvation and he entrusted to us the mission to make it known to all to the ends of the earth. All too often, we see that it is violence, lies and mistakes that are emphasized and proposed. It is urgent in our time to announce and witness to the goodness of the Gospel, and this from within the Church itself. It is important never to forget a fundamental principle for every evangelizer: one cannot announce Christ without the Church. Evangelization is not an isolated individual or private act; it is always ecclesial. Paul VI wrote, “When an unknown preacher, catechist or Pastor, preaches the Gospel, gathers the little community together, administers a Sacrament, even alone, he is carrying out an ecclesial act.” He acts not “in virtue of a mission which he attributes to himself or by a personal inspiration, but in union with the mission of the Church and in her name” (ibid. 60). And this gives strength to the mission and makes every missionary and evangelizer feel never alone, but part of a single Body animated by the Holy Spirit.

4. In our era, the widespread mobility and facility of communication through new media have mingled people, knowledge, experience. For work reasons, entire families move from one continent to another; professional and cultural exchanges, tourism, and other phenomena have also led to great movements of peoples. This makes it difficult, even for the parish community, to know who lives permanently or temporarily in the area. More and more, in large areas of what were traditionally Christian regions, the number of those who are unacquainted with the faith, or indifferent to the religious dimension or animated by other beliefs, is increasing. Therefore it is not infrequent that some of the baptized make lifestyle choices that lead them away from faith, thus making them need a “new evangelization“. To all this is added the fact that a large part of humanity has not yet been reached by the good news of Jesus Christ. We also live in a time of crisis that touches various sectors of existence, not only the economy, finance, food security, or the environment, but also those involving the deeper meaning of life and the fundamental values that animate it. Even human coexistence is marked by tensions and conflicts that cause insecurity and difficulty in finding the right path to a stable peace. In this complex situation, where the horizon of the present and future seems threatened by menacing clouds, it is necessary to proclaim courageously and in very situation, the Gospel of Christ, a message of hope, reconciliation, communion, a proclamation of God’s closeness, his mercy, his salvation, and a proclamation that the power of God’s love is able to overcome the darkness of evil and guide us on the path of goodness. The men and women of our time need the secure light that illuminates their path and that only the encounter with Christ can give. Let us bring to the world, through our witness, with love, the hope given by faith! The Church’s missionary spirit is not about proselytizing, but the testimony of a life that illuminates the path, which brings hope and love. The Church – I repeat once again – is not a relief organization, an enterprise or an NGO, but a community of people, animated by the Holy Spirit, who have lived and are living the wonder of the encounter with Jesus Christ and want to share this experience of deep joy, the message of salvation that the Lord gave us. It is the Holy Spirit who guides the Church in this path.

5. I would like to encourage everyone to be a bearer of the good news of Christ and I am grateful especially to missionaries, to the Fidei Donum priests, men and women religious and lay faithful – more and more numerous – who by accepting the Lord’s call, leave their homeland to serve the Gospel in different lands and cultures. But I would also like to emphasize that these same young Churches are engaging generously in sending missionaries to the Churches that are in difficulty – not infrequently Churches of ancient Christian tradition – and thus bring the freshness and enthusiasm with which they live the faith, a faith that renews life and gives hope. To live in this universal dimension, responding to the mandate of Jesus: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28, 19) is something enriching for each particular Church, each community, because sending missionaries is never a loss, but a gain. I appeal to all those who feel this calling to respond generously to the Holy Spirit, according to your state in life, and not to be afraid to be generous with the Lord. I also invite Bishops, religious families, communities and all Christian groups to support, with foresight and careful discernment, the missionary call ad gentes and to assist Churches that need priests, religious and laity, thus strengthening the Christian community. And this concern should also be present among Churches that are part of the same Episcopal Conference or Region, because it is important that Churches rich in vocations help more generously those that lack them.

At the same time I urge missionaries, especially the Fidei Donum priests and laity, to live with joy their precious service in the Churches to which they are sent and to bring their joy and experience to the Churches from which they come, remembering how Paul and Barnabas at the end of their first missionary journey “reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). They can become a path to a kind of “return” of faith, bringing the freshness of the young Churches to Churches of ancient Christian tradition, and thus helping them to rediscover the enthusiasm and the joy of sharing the faith in an exchange that is mutual enrichment in the journey of following the path of the Lord.

The concern for all the Churches that the Bishop of Rome shares with his brother Bishops finds an important expression in the activity of the Pontifical Mission Societies, which are meant to animate and deepen the missionary conscience of every baptized Christian, and of every community, by reminding them of the need for a more profound missionary formation of the whole People of God and by encouraging the Christian community to contribute to the spread of the Gospel in the world.
Finally I wish to say a word about those Christians who, in various parts of the world, experience difficulty in openly professing their faith and in enjoying the legal right to practice it in a worthy manner. They are our brothers and sisters, courageous witnesses – even more numerous than the martyrs of the early centuries – who endure with apostolic perseverance many contemporary forms of persecution. Quite a few also risk their lives to remain faithful to the Gospel of Christ. I wish to reaffirm my closeness in prayer to individuals, families and communities who suffer violence and intolerance, and I repeat to them the consoling words of Jesus: “Take courage, I have overcome the world” (Jn16:33).

Benedict XVI expressed the hope that: “The word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere” (2 Thes 3:1): May this Year of Faith increasingly strengthen our relationship with Christ the Lord, since only in him is there the certitude for looking to the future and the guarantee of an authentic and lasting love” (Porta fidei, 15). This is my wish for World Mission Day this year. I cordially bless missionaries and all those who accompany and support this fundamental commitment of the Church to proclaim the Gospel to all the ends of the earth. Thus will we, as ministers and missionaries of the Gospel, experience “the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing” (PAUL VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 80).

From the Vatican, 19 May 2013, Solemnity of Pentecost


Francis on the New Evangelization: There is need of the oxygen of the Gospel

The Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace was the setting of a meeting between the Holy Father and the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, led by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the head of the Council and his collaborators, Bishop José Octavio Ruiz Arenas and Monsignor Graham Bell. This Council was formed by Benedict in 2010. The Pope’s address follows.

I greet you all and thank you for what you do at the service of the New Evangelization, and for the work for the Year of Faith. My heartfelt thanks! What I would like to say to you today can be summarized in three points: primacy of witness; urgency of going out to encounter; pastoral program centered on the essential.

In our time we often witness an attitude of indifference to faith, regarded as no longer relevant in man’s life. New Evangelization means to reawaken the life of faith in the heart and mind of our contemporaries. Faith is a gift of God, but it is important that we Christians show that we live the faith in a concrete way, through love, concord, joy, suffering, because this elicits questions, as at the beginning of the journey of the Church: Why do they live like this? What drives them? These are questions that go to the heart of evangelization, which is the witness of t faith and charity. What we need especially in these times are credible witnesses who with their life and also with the word render the Gospel visible, reawaken attraction for Jesus Christ, for God’s beauty.

So many people have fallen away from the Church. It’s a mistake to put the blame on one side or the other, in fact, it’s not about talking about fault. There are responsibilities in the history of the Church and of her men, in certain ideologies and also in individual persons. As children of the Church we must continue on the path of Vatican Council II, stripping ourselves of useless and harmful things, of false worldly securities which weigh down the Church and damage her true face.

There is need of Christians who render the mercy of God visible to the men of today, His tenderness for every creature. We all know that the crisis of contemporary humanity is not superficial but profound. Because of this the New Evangelization — while calling to have the courage to go against the current, to be converted from idols to the only true God –, cannot but use the language of mercy, made up of gestures and attitudes even before words. In the midst of today’s humanity the Church says: Come to Jesus, all you who labor and are heavy laden and you will find rest for your souls (cf. Matthew 11:28-30). Come to Jesus. He alone has the words of eternal life.

Every baptized person is a “cristoforo,” a bearer of Christ, as the ancient holy Fathers said. Whoever has encountered Christ, as the Samaritan woman at the well, cannot keep this experience to him/herself, but has the desire to share it, to bring Jesus to others (cf. John 4). It is for all of us to ask ourselves if one who meets us perceives in our life the warmth of faith, sees in our face the joy of having encountered Christ!

Here we move to the second aspect: the encounter, to go out to encounter others. The New Evangelization is a renewed movement towards him who has lost the faith and the profound meaning of life. This dynamism is part of the great mission of Christ to bring life to the world, the Father’s love to humanity. The Son of God “went out” of his divine condition and came to encounter us. The Church is within this movement; every Christian is called to go out to encounter others, to dialogue with those who do not think the way we do, with those who have another faith, or who don’t have faith. To encounter all because we all have in common our having been created in the image and likeness of God. We can go out  to encounter everyone, without fear and without giving up our membership.

No one is excluded from the hope of life, from the love of God. The Church is sent to reawaken this hope everywhere, especially where it is suffocated by difficult existential conditions, at times inhuman, where hope does not breathe but is suffocated. There is need of the oxygen of the Gospel, of the breath of the Spirit of the Risen Christ, to rekindle it in hearts. The Church is the house whose doors are always open not only so that everyone can find welcome and breathe love and hope, but also because we can go out and bring this love and this hope. The Holy Spirit drives us to go out of our enclosure and guides us to the fringes of humanity.

In the Church all this, however, is not left to chance or improvisation. It calls for a common commitment to a pastoral plan that recalls the essential and that is “well centered on the essential, namely on Jesus Christ. It is no use to be scattered in so many secondary or superfluous things, but to be concentrated on the fundamental reality, which is the encounter with Christ, with his mercy, with his love, and to love brothers as He loved us. A project animated by the creativity and imagination of the Holy Spirit, who drives us also to follow new ways, with courage and without becoming fossilized! We could ask ourselves: how effective is the pastoral of our dioceses and parishes? Does it render the essential visible? Do the different experiences, characteristics, walk together in the harmony that the Spirit gives? Or is our pastoral scattered, fragmentary where, in the end, each one goes his own way?

In this context I would like to stress the importance of catechesis, as an instance of evangelization. Pope Paul VI already did so in the encyclical Evangelii nuntiandi (cf. n. 44). From there the great catechetical movement has carried forward a renewal to surmount the break between the Gospel and the culture and illiteracy of our days in the matter of faith. I have recalled several times a fact that has struck me in my ministry: to meet children who cannot even do the Sign of the Cross! Precious is the service carried out by the catechists for the New Evangelization, and it is important that parents be the first catechists, the first educators of the faith in their own family with their witness and with the word.

Thank you, dear friends, for this visit. Good work! May the Lord bless you and Our Lady protect you.

Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter

I’ve mentioned a recently published book, Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter by Father Michael White and Tom Corcoran. I am in the process of digesting the content of the book. I find it helpful, realistic and spot-on in many ways. AND, I am persuaded by the indications of the authors based on their own parish experience and expectations. Obviously, you can read the book and see your parish, school, religious order/monastery in what White/Corcoran say. They don’t pretend to have all the answers and nor do they think that their method of rebuilding the parish is going to work everywhere. In fact, their method is not applicable in many Catholic institutions. What the authors offer is a possible (hopeful?) lens and a reasonable path forward in what the Lord means by the seeking the hundredfold. Their questions and concrete experiences are hard-hitting and I think are meant to make substantial change from consumer Catholics to disciples of the Lord. I think the honesty and keen observations of White and Corcoran will help to evaluate and to ask the right questions.

As Catholics we want to be students of the Lord, to be disciples (Matt 22 and Matt 28); we neither want Catholics to be consumers nor to passive in the journey of faith, of building up of the Kingdom and confessing the central fact of faith that Jesus Christ is Lord. In other words, we are meant to be mature, that is, adult Christians per Saint Paul the Apostle.

If we continue in a “Catholic” consumer mentality we as a Church will be become even more irrelevant than we already are in some places in the world, even in the USA. Does salvation matter? Does living as we are meant to live, that is, as a happy, healthy and mature Catholic man or woman? Does Church matter? Does my religious order or monastery matter?

It is clear that White and Corcoran are enamored by the Protestant mega-church experience. There is much to appreciate about these mega-churches on the levels of statists, programming and personal engagement. But it must be said that this approach is not going to be sufficient for Catholics if there is no correspondence with Catholic sacraments and sacramentality, lectio divina, solid catechetics for children, youth and adults and a cultures of service and study. For example, I would be suspicious of any Catholic renewal without Eucharistic and Marian devotions and no intellectual and spiritual formation. Hence, there has to be a vigorous liturgical observance. To do otherwise is a truly ecclesial contraception.

I recommend reading Rebuilt with the following texts as material for an examination of conscience of self, and for those involved in parish/religious ministries:

+ John Paul II, Christifidelis laici
+ George Weigel, Evangelical Catholicism
+ Pope Benedict XVI’s weekly catechetical addresses, the Year of Faith addresses, and his three encyclicals.

Sit before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer, examine your way of proceeding, AND listen to colleagues and with various constituencies. Focus on your concrete experience. The parish/religious order is not an island unto itself; a parish/religious order is really a vital collaborator with someone greater (God) and with others, Catholics and non-Catholics alike. To allow a parish to become irrelevant and later die because of inactivity is criminal and sinful. Ask the Holy Spirit.

To live your faith in a more mature way, then I would get a copy of Rebuilt.

More resources are found here given by the authors.

A radio review of the book can be found here.

Stimpson’s not leaving the Catholic Church: a follow up to Dreher

Yesterday, I posted Rod Dreher’s essay, “I’m Still Not Coming Back to the Catholic Church.”

Emily StimpsonHere is Emily Stimpson’s essay, “Why I’m Never Leaving the Catholic Church” where she tries to respond to Rod Dreher. She felt the need to counter the experience of someone she respects. Fine. There are important things in her essay to be mindful of, too: a weak catechetical formation in doctrine and Scripture, and the struggle against a relentless secularism. She also sacrificed much to be educated in the Catholic faith. But I don’t believe she took gave an honest read to Dreher’s experience.

Virtue is in the middle. So is the truth. But so is one’s experience. Perhaps he does a better job at articulating the matters of importance.I have to say, though, Stimpson’s essay sounds a lot like George Weigel’s response to Jesuit Father Tom Reese’s assertions in “It’s Fun to be Catholic Again.” Naming all the good things happening in the Catholic Church in the USA is not going to lead many to the truth and to be in full communion with Peter. Our Catholic witness has to be more than that. Weigel’s responding to a petulant Jesuit priest. Stimpson has to up her game because I take her essay as merely reducing all those good things to programing when the real issue where is Jesus Christ met. The culture of encounter, as Pope Francis identifies so well for us (and before him JP & B16).

True that Ms Stimpson has full communion in the Church of Rome; good for her that she’s recognized the call of Jesus to be so united. She has the essentials: a valid priesthood, valid sacraments, a coherent moral and social teaching, she has a true sentire cum ecclesia, etc. Mr Dreher has everything that Stimpson has but the unity of the Church under Peter. And I would say that Dreher also lives in spirit of sentire cum ecclesia, though not with the fullest of feeling. Does one conclude that Dreher is not saved by Christ? Of course, not. The Orthodox Church has a valid priesthood, valid sacraments, a moral and social body of teaching, and synodality (and much more).

I want to be clear. One up-manship is a ugly game. Just look at the self-righteous comments left on FB and their sites where these essays were originally posted. Sad to say, charity and honest are left at the door in some cases. What happened to Benedict XVI’s famous line, “we only propose, never impose the faith”? Do we even know that that means? Do we really care? The new evangelization has to be more sophisticated and working with real experience.

Working with Rod Dreher’s “I’m Still Not Going Back…to the Church”

Rod Dreher’s article in Time, “I’m Still Not Going Back to the Catholic Church,” is a real good piece to reflect upon. Dreher, 46, reflects upon his experience in the Catholic Church and skillfully questions the modus operandi of the Church’s faith formation programs and preaching. I am positively disposed to what he has to say.

You are not likely to agree with all of what Dreher says, you will find other ways for the author to deal with his issues with the Catholic Church, and you very well may object to most of what he says. I would ask that you  give him a fair chance to make his case. He communicates a reality and therefore I actually think we wall owe it to ourselves to take-in what he says about his experience in the Catholic Church and perhaps make some adjustment.

After reading this piece, and if you are a pastor, a faith formation leader, or a serious Catholic: How would you approach the the author’s ideas? Would you take a look at parish’s preaching, music, ars celebrandi of the Mass (Divine Office), RCIA, the adult and child faith formation programs and service programs? Would you leave well-enough alone and ride into the sunset?

Not to take serious a serious Christian’s, is in my opinion, slothful and arrogant. The time of beige and therapeutic Catholicism is over.

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative, and author of The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming. He and his wife Julie have three children and they live in south Louisiana. Follow Rod on his website here.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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