Often times, when I am reading a book a particular line or paragraph jumps out and grabs a hold of me. Such was the case while reading Greg Willits’ new book The New Evangelization and You: Be Not Afraid. His imagery describing the current period of Church history we are currently in got me by the shirt collar. Pope John Paul II spent his pontificate gathering the kindling for the fire and Pope Benedict XVI struck the match and bent over to ignite the wood pile. We are in position to see the flames erupt, a new awakening in the Church, perhaps the greatest one since the birth of the Church some 2000 years ago.
Pope John Paul II gathered his kindling from nearly every corner of the earth. He visited 129 countries, more than all of predecessors combined. In total, he logged some 725,000 miles.
Pope John Paul II’s travels allowed him to bring the Catholic faith to the ends of the earth. As he spread the faith he planted the seeds of evangelization in all those who heard him. He drew people out of the darkness and showed them the greatness of living a life of faith. He was an example to the young that Catholicism was not just for their parents and grandparents, but they could be “cool” and Catholic. Pope John Paul’s travels brought the wood to the fire pit.
While John Paul traveled, Joseph Ratzinger wrote. Throughout his years as Cardinal and into his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI gave the world some 68 books on a wide ranging library of topics. Many of these books are very readable and especially, full of solid Catholic theology.
After the supercharged pontificate of Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict drew our attention to the fundamentals of our faith. “The Cafeteria was Closed” during the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. He clearly pointed out truly be Catholic you had to know your faith and he provided us with the tools for that knowledge. Pope Benedict’s books are the match preparing to light the fire.
Could we now experience this roaring blaze of the New Evangelization? Will it come to its fruition under the pontificate of Pope Francis? After only six short months it appears something is building. It is definitely too early to tell what direction he may lead the Church, but one thing is certain: the foundation for the new evangelization has been laid and the work began October 16, 1978 on day one of Karol Wojtyla’s election as Pope.
The exciting thing is we all can be a part of it. You don’t have to start an apostolate making twine knotted rosaries or a blog about book reviews or post a podcast (though if you do that, hooray for you!). Go and talk to your neighbor or another family member about your faith. It’s that simple. Evangelism starts one soul at a time.
Copyright © 2013, Pete Socks