Tag Archives: New Evangelization

Is Jesus too demanding?

Today’s gospel (Lk 6: 27ff) might well be the among the most challenging (difficult?) teachings of Jesus. Discipleship with Jesus is not easy for the average person; at least for the average person who doesn’t have the grace needed to live according to his command. And hearing from saints like Benedict that the sun ought not set if angry feelings persist, isn’t any consolation on some days.

The type of judging and condemning that the Evangelist Luke speaks of means, “Stop using yourself as the measure of things.” Or, “Stop determining another’s activities/agenda.” Or, “Stop acting like a pharisee,” against a fellow Christian (or family member or friend. Ok.

Not sure if you are similar, but loving an enemy is not easy for me. It is, though, the thing Jesus has commanded me to do. A Benedictine friend of mine frequently says, “Jesus told me to love that person, but I don’t have to like her.” Right, love is not understood as a sentiment; loves is having concern for another’s destiny, that is, heaven. Life as a Christian is knowing that the journey we walk is just that, a process. And, I am not finished yet.

A concrete example may be the former Yale seminarian of 35 years ago who wanted to give good example of loving an enemy when he offered a grave, next to his mother in Hamden, CT, to the Mr Tsarnaev, one of the two Boston bombers killed. His offer was roundly rejected. Loving your enemies is not socially acceptable.

Strong Catholic Families: Strong Catholic Youth

We don’t keep the faith for ourselves (cf Lumen Fidei, ch 3): faith is meant to be contagious, it is meant to be lived full time, it is meant for others. As the metaphor of light indicates, light allows us to see, to encounter, to meet someone anew. That someone is Jesus Christ, and those who faithfully follow Christ. Faith is passed on in a personal way.

A new initiative I heard about today is “Strong Catholic Families: Strong Catholic Youth” is a great light, a wonderful meeting of others. Watch the video presentation.

Strong Catholic Families: Strong Catholic Youth is present in 60 dioceses as it connects parishes, schools, and families to develop a chain of solid links of faith. Catholic faith is not a private relationship of the “I” and “Thou” but a communio, a “We”, a reflection of an openness that exists among the members of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are never alone; faith is an invitation to others first given to each person that love, mercy, hope and salvation is possible; that happiness is possible today in this world.

I would hope that Benedictine monasteries can be centers for this good work of Strong Catholic Families: Strong Catholic Youth!!!  I am thinking this program would greatly assist the work of the new evangelization and faith formation programs.

The origins of this new work is based on the work of a University of Notre Dame sociologist, Christian Smith. In addition to his teaching and research Smith also directs UNDs Center For the Study of Religion and Society.

Though I am an alum of UND, I don’t know Smith personally, but I am familiar with his works, especially his book Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood (Oxford University Press, 2011). Professor Smith earned his doctorate at Harvard.

More info on Strong Catholic Families: Strong Catholic Youth is found at this link.

Prosper Grech’s admonition to cardinals in 2013 conclave

Before all the “extras” are dismissed from the Sistine Chapel so that the cardinal-electors gathered to elect a new Bishop of Rome, can get to work, the cardinals hear a admonition, typically from one of their own. A papal election is not only an ecclesial act, but also a formation of mind and heart. Cardinal Prosper Grech, OSA, 87, was that admonitor. The Cardinal is a brilliant man with a good sense of humor. What he’s given us to ponder is yet another path into the heart of the gospel and the Church, today. Grech’s ideas just might open a new door for the work of the new evangelization and one’s own formation in the Faith.

What is fascinating is that the text of the secret session was made public recently. Last week I saw somewhere in cyberspace some paragraphs of Cardinal Grech’s text. This hasn’t happened prior to now. The text, in Italian, was published in the recent edition of the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

A portion of the text now appears on Sandro Magister’s website, La Chiesa, under the title, “Groundbreaking: The Last Warning to the Pope’s Electors.” The following several paragraphs are indeed very, very interesting.

As Grech said, “The action you are about to carry out within this Sistine Chapel…”

[…] I have no intention of making the identikit of the new pope, and much less of presenting a plan of action for the future pontiff. This very delicate task belongs to the Holy Spirit, who in recent decades has gifted us with a series of excellent holy pontiffs. My intention is that of drawing from Scripture some reflections to help us understand what Christ wants from his Church. […]


After his resurrection Jesus sent the apostles into the whole world to make disciples of all peoples and baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Mt 29:19). The Church does this by presenting the Gospel without compromise, without diluting the word. […] When one descends to compromises with the Gospel one empties it of its “dynamis,” as if one were to remove the explosive from a hand grenade. Nor must one give in to temptation thinking that, since Vatican Council II is believed to have leveled out salvation for those who are outside of the Church as well, the need for baptism has been relativized. Today is added the abuse of many indifferent Catholics who neglect or refuse to baptize their children.


The proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is made concrete in the proclamation of “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). […] It is precisely this scandal of the cross that humbles the “hybris” of the human mind and elevates it to accept a wisdom that comes from above. In this case as well, to relativize the person of Christ by placing him alongside other “saviors” means emptying Christianity itself of its substance. It is precisely the preaching of the absurdity of the cross that in less than three hundred years reduced to the minimum the religions of the Roman empire and opened the minds of men to a new view of hope and resurrection. It is for the same hope that the modern world is thirsting, suffering from an existential depression.


Christ crucified is intimately connected to the Church crucified. It is the Church of the martyrs, from those of the first centuries to the many faithful who, in certain countries, are exposing themselves to death simply by going to Sunday Mass. […] Jesus predicts: “if they have persecuted me, they will persecute you” (Jn 15:20). Therefore, persecution is a “quid constitutivum” of the Church, […] it is a cross that it must embrace. But persecution is not always physical, there is also the persecution of falsehood: “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake” (Mt 5:11). You have recently experienced this through some media outlets that do not love the Church. When the accusations are false one must not pay attention to them, even if they cause immense pain.


It is another thing when what is said about us is the truth, as has happened in many of the accusations of pedophilia. Then we must humble ourselves before God and men, and seek to uproot the evil at all costs, as did, to his great regret, Benedict XVI. And only in this way can we regain credibility before the world and give an example of sincerity. Today many people do not arrive at believing in Christ because his face is obscured or hidden behind an institution that lacks transparency. But if recently we have wept over many unpleasant events that have befallen clergy and laity, even in the pontifical household, we must consider that these evils, as great as they may be, if compared with certain evils in the history of the Church are nothing but a cold. And just as these have been overcome with God’s help, so also the present crisis will be overcome. Even a cold needs to be taken care of well to keep it from turning into pneumonia.


The evil spirit of the world, the “mysterium iniquitatis” (2 Thes 2:7), constantly strives to infiltrate the Church. Moreover, let us not forget the warning of the prophets of ancient Israel not to seek alliances with Babylon or with Egypt, but to follow a pure policy “ex fide” trusting solely in God (cf. Is 30:1; 31:1-3; Hos 12:2) and in his covenant. Courage! Christ relieves our minds when he exclaims: “Have trust, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). […]


No less easy for the future pontiff will be the task of keeping unity in the Catholic Church itself. Between ultratraditionalist extremists and ultraprogressive extremists, between priests who rebel against obedience and those who do not recognize the signs of the times, there will always be the danger of minor schisms that not only damage the Church but also go against the will of God: unity at all costs. Butt unity does not mean uniformity. It is evident that this does not close the doors to the intra-ecclesial discussion present in the whole history of the Church. All are free to express their thoughts on the task of the Church, but they should be proposals in line with that “depositum fidei” which the pontiff together with all of the bishops has the task of guarding. […]


Unfortunately today theology suffers from the feeble thought that dominates the philosophical environment, and we need a good philosophical foundation in order to be able to develop dogma with a valid hermeneutic that speaks a language intelligible to the contemporary world. It often happens, however, that the proposals of many faithful for the progress of the Church are based on the level of freedom that is granted in the area of sexuality. Certainly laws and traditions that are purely ecclesiastical can be changed, but not every change means progress, it must be discerned whether such changes act to increase the holiness of the Church or to obscure it. […]


In the West, at least in Europe, Christianity itself is in crisis. […] There reigns an ignorance and disregard not only of Catholic doctrine, but even of the ABC’s of Christianity. The urgency is thus felt of a new evangelization that begins from pure kerygma and plain proclamation to nonbelievers, followed by a continual catechesis nourished by prayer. But the Lord is never defeated by human negligence and it seems that, while they are closing the doors to him in Europe, he is opening them elsewhere, especially in Asia. And even in the West God will not fail to keep for himself a remnant of Israel that does not bend the knee before Baal, a remnant that we find mainly in the many lay movements endowed with different charisms that are making a strong contribution to the new evangelization. […] Care must be taken, however, that particular movements should not believe that the Church is exhausted in them. In short, God cannot be defeated by our indifference. The Church is his, the gates of hell can wound its heel but can never suffocate it. […]


There is another factor of hope in the Church that we must not overlook, the “sensus fidelium.” Augustine calls it “the inner teacher” in each believer. […] This creates in the depths of the heart that criterion of discernment of true and false, it makes us distinguish instinctively that which is “secundum Deum” from that which comes from the world and from the evil one (1 Jn 4:1-6). […] The coals of devout faith are kept alive by millions of simple faithful who are far from being called theologians but who in the intimacy of their prayers, reflections, and devotions can give profound advice to their pastors. It is these who “will destroy the wisdom of the wise and nullify the intelligence of the intelligent” (1 Cor 1:19). This means that when the world, with all of its knowledge and intelligence, abandons the logos of human reason, the Logos of God shines in simple hearts, which form the marrow from which the backbone of the Church is nourished. […]


While professing that the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church, we do not always take him into consideration in our plans for the Church. He transcends all sociological analysis and historical prediction. He surpasses the scandals, the internal politics, the ambition, and the social problems, which in their complexity obscure the face of Christ that must shine even through dense clouds. Let’s listen to Augustine: “The apostles saw Christ and believed in the Church that they did not see; we see the Church and must believe in Christ whom we do not see. By holding fast to what we see, we will arrive at seeing the one whom now we do not see” (Sermo 328, 3). […] In 1961 John XXIII received in audience in this Sistine Chapel the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. He indicated the dominant figure of Christ the judge in the fresco of Michelangelo, and told them that Christ will also judge the actions of the individual nations in history. You find yourselves in this same Chapel, beneath the figure of that Christ with his hand raised not to crush but to illuminate your voting, that it may be “secundum Spiritum,” not “secundum carnem.” […] It is in this way that the elected will be not yours, but essentially His. […]

The Digital Nun: A Benedictine continuity in social media

Can you believe that Benedictines can do anything in addition to prayer, and more prayer? Well, I hope so. Benedictines and nuns to boot, have given the world lots of innovative things that continue to use today. For example, writing, singing different forms of music, social communications, different forms of alcohol, etc.

The Benedictines are always interesting people, whether in the 9th century, 18th century or the 21st century. Sister Catherine Wybourne, OSB, and the nuns of Holy Trinity Monastery (Howton Grove, Herefordshire, UK).

Sister Catherine is the prioress of the Benedictine nuns at this small monastery with competencies in the secular world and in the world of God and the Church.

Sister Catherine and the nuns of Holy Trinity Monastery engage us on level of faith formation, the Benedictine Charism and social communications. Her disposability for the sake of Christ’s Gospel and His Church.

Listen to Laura Lynch’s interview of Sister Catherine. You won’t be disappointed.

And if you are still interested in social media and the search of God, or least the perspective of this Benedictine nun, Dame Catherine, may I suggest:

  1. How Many iPhone Developers Wear Wimples?” (WSJ, May 2, 2011)
  2. Catherine Wybourne: The Digital Nun
  3. Prayer and Work (1994) with Dom Columba Cary-Elwes (who by the way is the founding prior of St Louis Abbey)

A New Apologetics project

In the years since Blessed John Paul introduced his desire to have new work on knowing, living, and sharing the truth of the Catholic Faith, there’s been a lot of good energy for the new evangelization. You can think of the Tear of Faith, the encyclicals of the recent popes, and most crucial has been Benedict XVI’s establishment of a Vatican office to spearhead evangelization efforts.

Getting to the heart of what the new evangelization means, how it’s supposed to “look” and why it needs our attention is slowing being revealed. I have to say that too many use the word evangelization without precision and without real content and experience. Nevertheless, since John Paul and Benedict, now with Pope Francis we have a new awareness of evangelization’s aim: and affection for Christ and to offer a reasonable proposal for faith in a comprehensive way.

I happen to think the Holy Spirit is working diligently and effectively in having us slowly develop the needed resources with regard to persons and materials. Rushing into such work would not be reasonable since it does take time to do the hard work in truly knowing the need in a time of limited resources. The immediate past Pontiff set the Church’s face on this renewed manner of living focusing us on the personal relationship with the Lord,, bridging the gap between faith and reason, and by asking us to intimately know Scripture, the Liturgy and the Magisterium (I don’t want to call the new evangelization a ‘project’ because it is about our heart and mind).

A Cambridge, Massachusetts group of faithful Catholics have responded to Church’s call for a “New Apologetics,” a new way of proposing Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life.

“New Apologetics” is a contemporary way of engaging the questions which need to be addressed; those tough issues are often inadequately answered, or worse, dismissed as unimportant. This is a serious, beautiful adventure.

The New Apologetics is group qualified persons working to share the beauty of the truth of the Church today, in the language of today.

The New Apologetics website is www.NewApologetics.com

May Saint Thérèse of Lisieux guide this new work.

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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