October 8, 2012 by eneubauer
I have been very excited about the New Evangelization since it was announced, first by Pope John Paul II and now by Pope Benedict XVI. As a matter of fact, it was Pope Paul VI who wrote Evangelii Nuntiandi and made it plain that it was the job of his pontificate to encourage the “brethren in their mission as evangelizers, in order that, in this time of uncertainty and confusion, they may accomplish this task with ever-increasing love, zeal and joy.” I am so pumped that our current Pope is accurately assessing the signs of our time and has made it his aim to promote a forward learning vision for the Church in the 21st century.
The New Evangelization calls each of us to deepen our faith, believe in the Gospel message and go forth to proclaim the Gospel. The focus of the New Evangelization calls all Catholics to be evangelized and then go forth to evangelize. In a special way, the New Evangelization is focused on ‘re-proposing’ the Gospel to those who have experienced a crisis of faith. Pope Benedict XVI called for the re-proposing of the Gospel “to those regions awaiting the first evangelization and to those regions where the roots of Christianity are deep but who have experienced a serious crisis of faith due to secularization.” The New Evangelization invites each Catholic to renew their relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church.
For review, the call to the New Evangelization is a challenge for all Catholics to:
- Deepen their faith in Christ
- Believe the Gospel message
- Proclaim the “Good News”
In addition, the Pope has identified geographic areas in which Catholics are to go:
- Historic strongholds of Christianity
- Regions where Christianity has yet to spread
In order for the New Evangelization to be fully realized Catholics must internalize this call and then find creative ways to live it out.
Let me explain:
First, Pope Benedict in communion with the Bishops has stated that two things need to happen before the third goal of the New Evangelization (proclaiming the Good News) can be fully implemented. This is where I would like the conversation to begin.
Catholics are being called to renew their faith in Christ and the Catholic Church which has certain implications. This call recognizes that our current level of adult faith formation is insufficient for the task ahead. We must accept this fact, admit that we have been lax in our own personal, spiritual development and take steps to correct this situation. The U.S. Bishops have written a pastoral letter entitled, “Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us” which outlines the vision of lifelong faith formation for adults. Once we admit the importance of this principle and recognize our own insufficiencies, then we are primed to do something about it. With the proliferation of web-based learning opportunities, parishes which offer a wide variety of faith formation options and diocesan resources there are plenty of ways to accomplish personal formation – even in the midst of a busy life. Remember, it is in active faith renewal that we begin the process of internalizing the Gospel in such a way that the Good News is both lived and shared most naturally.
Once we experience personal renewal in our Catholic faith then we are prepared to take the next steps. First, we are called to go into geographic regions where Christianity was the root of culture and society. We are being called to re-evangelize these regions in whatever sphere of society we find ourselves in. In addition, this is an opportunity for local parishes to developed a strategic plan on how they are going to effectively:
- Re-engage non-practicing Catholics
- Reach out to the non-religious in ways that speak to felt needs or stated concerns.
- Engage the city or neighborhoods in which they live in such a way as to ensure the Gospel of Christ is being felt by all – ensuring that the parish community is a welcoming hub for those seeking the truth.
Second, the Pope asks that we consider how to take this message of hope to places awaiting the “first evangelization.” Places that are not familiar with the Gospel and its ability to radically impact the individual and community. Therefore we must raise up, train and send missionaries to the regions of the world awaiting their invitation for the first time. This means a dedication of resources for the development of missionary priests, religious and laymen to gain the experience necessary for such an assignment. Remember, we are called by Christ Himself into the whole world (near & far).
Finally, we must recognize that the New Evangelization is a mobilization of the entire Body of Christ. The Catholic Church will only be successful and society will only benefit if we see within this call an individual mandate to actively participate. May God strengthen us for the task ahead.