At the beginning of a New Year, I want to write some words about the “New Evangelization” lately being spoken about everywhere in the Catholic world. The New Evangelization was very much discussed at the recent fall meeting of United States Bishops in Baltimore. It is something every bishop is considering as he leads his diocese. What is the New Evangelization?
Ever since the Vatican II Council, beginning with Pope Paul VI, our popes have written and spoken much about the need for Catholics themselves in our day to be re-evangelized, and then to reach out to others with the Gospel of life in Jesus Christ. Catholics re-evangelized? Yes, because there are Catholic lands that were once vibrant with the faith, but now have lost their faith. And there are Catholics around the world who are Catholic in name only, especially in the more modernized West. They are often referred to as “cultural Catholics”, or “nominal Catholics”. They live some of the trappings of Catholicism, and they might even know some doctrine, but deep down there is not really a commitment to being disciples of Jesus Christ. Sometimes I have heard it said that these Catholics are “sacramentalized but not evangelized”; i.e., they have received the sacraments, but their hearts have not truly been converted to Jesus Christ, such that they willfully attempt to live for His Glory in all that they do. This unfortunate phenomenon is so common today that it is even being referred to as “a crisis”.
Here is an excerpt from the website of the United States bishops on the New Evangelization:
The New Evangelization calls each of us to deepen our faith, believe in the Gospel message and go forth to proclaim the Gospel…. In a special way, the New Evangelization is focused on ‘re-proposing’ the Gospel to those who have experienced a crisis of faith…. The New Evangelization invites each Catholic to renew their relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church.
The 2008 Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) study Sacraments Today: Belief and Practice Among U.S. Catholics, provides a glimpse into the beliefs, practices and attitudes of U.S. Catholics. According to the study, only 23% of U.S. Catholics regularly attend Mass once a week, while 77% self-identify as proud to be Catholic. These statistics point to the need for the New Evangelization.
Here is Pope Benedict XVI (Porta fidei, par. 2, October 11, 2012) commenting on the phenomenon of people thinking faith is still woven into the culture, which is no longer the case in once-Christian countries that have now lost the Faith:
Ever since the start of my ministry as Successor of Peter, I have spoken of the need to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ.… It often happens that Christians are more concerned for the social, cultural and political consequences of their commitment, continuing to think of the faith as a self-evident presupposition for life in society. In reality, not only can this presupposition no longer be taken for granted, but it is often openly denied. Whereas in the past it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural matrix, broadly accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and the values inspired by it, today this no longer seems to be the case in large swathes of society, because of a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people.
And here is Pope Benedict XVI (Homily for the Vespers of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, June 28, 2010) explaining the various facets of the word “new” in the New Evangelization:
Pope John Paul II represented the Church’s missionary nature “in the flesh” with his Apostolic Journeys and with the insistence of his Magisterium on the urgent need for a “new evangelization”: “new” not in its content but in its inner thrust, open to the grace of the Holy Spirit which constitutes the force of the new law of the Gospel that always renews the Church; “new” in ways that correspond with the power of the Holy Spirit and which are suited to the times and situations; “new” because of being necessary even in countries that have already received the proclamation of the Gospel.
Here, finally, is Pope Francis (Evangelii Gaudium, 3) inviting all of us to recommit ourselves to Jesus Christ:
I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”. How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost!
May each of us renew his/her commitment to Jesus Christ in this New Year. We ourselves, and the world around us, will benefit so greatly from our recommitment to discipleship, deciding to live our baptismal call to the fullest, with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at the center of our life.
In closing, I want to offer thanks to so many who put a great deal of work into making our holiday Masses beautiful: deacons, decorators, servers, sacristans, musicians, cleaners, lectors, cantors, etc. Encountering our Lord in the Mass is worth all of that effort; but having said that, I do not in the slightest want to fail to mention how appreciative I am of all the care our parishioners put into celebrating the Mass. Finally, I want to thank all of you for the prayers, wishes and gifts I received for Christmas.
One more practical item: The Diocese approved our plan to replace the air conditioning at our Paulding campus, because of the sound problems during our liturgies, and because of space problems up in the choir loft. We decided to do this project, because I was hearing so much about it, and I was approached by some people who were willing to help make it happen, especially financially. We did not budget for this. So the Diocese is asking for proof that we raised the money, before we start the project, which will cost about $58,000. If you would like to give to this project, please send a check to the office, or include it in the Sunday collection, but mark it clearly as “Paulding Air Conditioning”. If you have questions, please talk to Dave Arend (head of the a/c committee) or call the office and speak with Dianne Jones.
Have a Blessed New Year!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,