When Pope Benedict XVI was speaking Dec. 17 to bishops from New Zealand and the Pacific Islands who were making their “ad limina” visits to the Vatican, the holy father pointed out that New evangelization is not an abstract idea to pitch, but rather a call to authentically live the Gospel message.
Authentically? That’s the trick right there, isn’t it?
Quoting from “Gaudium et Spes,” the Second Vatican Council document regarding the Church and society, B16 said, “Christian faith provides a surer basis for life than the secular vision; for ‘it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of humanity truly becomes clear.'”
What does that mean for us as New Evangelizers?
Here’s what we’re facing. B16 knows we as Catholics are facing a ton of challenges in today’s world. As he put it, a lot of this can be blamed on increased secularization such as “a weakened appreciation for the sacred nature of Christian marriage and the stability of the family. In such a context the struggle to lead a life worthy of our baptismal calling and to abstain from the earthly passions which wage war against our souls becomes ever more challenging.”
The pope added it was these kinds of challenges that prompted him to establish the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.
“Since the Christian faith is founded on the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, the new evangelization is not an abstract concept but a renewal of authentic Christian living based on the teachings of the church,” he said.
The pope encouraged the bishops to live in full communion with their brother bishops and priests and to strengthen their sense of faith and charity by saying, “so that those whom you serve, in their turn, may imitate your charity and be ambassadors of Christ both in the church and in the civil arena.”
I don’t think that’s just a message for bishops and priests, but all Catholics.
How do we make new evangelization less of an abstract concept, and more of a renewal of authentic Christian living based on the teachings of the church? How do you do it, or wish you did it?
4 responses to “Making Evangelization Less Abstract”
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Most importantly, let’s remember the advice of St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words”
I think right now, every Catholic family that is seen by their neighbors living their faith is authentically evangelizing in a totally tangible way. We’re see getting the kids and ourselves out the door for Mass every Sunday, returning with the Church Bulletin in hand, taking the kids to Catholic school every day, or to CCD classes evert week. As our children grow, our neighbors see us celebrate the sacraments – Baptism, First Holy Communion, Confirmation – publicly, with parties and family and friends, and probably some of those non-Catholic neighbors as well. They see us celebrate Christmas by going to Mass and displaying a manger scene in our homes, they see us celebrate Christ’s Passion with Palm Brances and Easter by going to Mass and celebrating with family. We bury our dead with a beautiful Mass and prayers at graveside, and by celebrating the life of our beloved deceased. So, are we out knocking on doors and beating our chest in public, loudly evangelizing with words? No, at least I’m not. But, my neighbors know that my Faith is strong, that my children and grandchildren have been/are being raised in that Faith, and that no matter what, I pray for them. Is that making evangelization less abstract? I don’t know – what do you think?
As an auxiliary thought to the above comment, we Catholics, as a community, are being more closely observed than ever in the wake of the sex abuse scandals. Catholics who remain faithful and stalwart despite the scandals, and who are insistent upon transparency in the clergy and the administration of the Church are loudly evangelizing. The message we are sending is that people did bad things, other people have allowed those things to happen, and we the Catholic community will not tolerate that now any more than we would have then, had we known it was happening. Those of us who are still true to our Faith and loyal to our God and still working with our parish priests are sending a clear message that Catholicism is not the problem – weak people in positions of authority with no oversight were the problem. What hasn’t killed us has made us stronger – and we need for the world to know that.
In Cursillo we have a saying; “Make a friend, Be a friend, Bring a friend to Christ.” In short meaning that we have to make a connection with people and be Christ to them in order that they may see Christ. Evangelization isn’t about standing on a soap box preaching, it’s about becoming friends and sharing what we’ve found. The preaching is for the believers to grow. We call it the Mass because of the dismissal,”Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”.
To me the thing that has always worked with Greg and Jennifer is they share themselves as friends first, then we get to see Christ in them. Rosary Army was, and is, a great place to meet like minded people, and have fun. It’s always been an inspiration to me to be more open to people, and make a friend first.