We talk about the “New Evangelization” an awful lot these days, don’t we?
In fact, talking about it and getting ready to prepare for it are among the hallmarks of the new evangelization.
We arrange subcommittees, panel discussions, synods and symposiums; we assign task forces and action groups; we appoint chairmen and directors, gurus and czars, and all of them dedicate the preponderance of their energy to talking about the new evangelization.
Funny thing is, no one ever seems to get around to evangelizing; at least not as the Apostles would recognize it.
It occurs to me that one of the likely reasons is that none of the new evangelists want to be the first to admit that they haven’t a blessed clue what the “new evangelization” actually is.
Me? I’m not afraid to say it. I’ve interviewed bishops on the topic, and for the most part, I have no idea what the heck they’re talking about.
If you’re as in the dark about the new evangelization as I am, don’t feel bad. The well-kept secret, until recently, is that even the captains of the new evangelization industry are having trouble getting their hands around this thing.
At the most recent Synod of Bishops, dedicated to (you got it) talking about “The new evangelization and the transmission of the Christian faith,” the 262 bishops, 45 experts and 49 auditors who participated in the multi-day event attempted to corral that elusive cat and came up with the following definitional gems:
– The new evangelization is primarily a spiritual activity…
– The new evangelization is a frame-of-mind…
– The new evangelization means to remake the Christian fabric of human society…
It’s all so insubstantial, indeterminate, and theoretical. Where once the Church intrepidly sought to convert the world to Christ, even to the point of inviting martyrdom, the new evangelists are busy discussing, amongst themselves, strategies for remaking fabric.
The more I comb through the various manifesti of the new evangelists, the more I am convinced that the primary reason they expend so much energy merely generating plans for getting in the right “frame of mind” is because they’ve forgotten what evangelizing really is and what it seeks to accomplish.
I’m deliberately striking a semi-humorous tone here mostly just to amuse myself in the face of a genuine tragedy; i.e., it’s a coping mechanism. But don’t let that fool you, this is a very serious problem, one that appears to be the result of a rather profound disconnect between the way in which the new evangelists conceive of evangelization, and the evangelizing mission Our Blessed Lord enjoined upon His Church.
Let’s take a closer look.
There is, naturally enough, no better spokesperson for the new evangelization than the new pope, and shortly after his elevation to the papacy, the Holy See revealed the contents of an intervention given by Cardinal Bergoglio during the General Congregations in the days leading up to the conclave.
In his address, the future Pope Francis spoke about evangelization, saying:
“Evangelizing pre-supposes a desire in the Church to come out of herself. The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the peripheries, not only geographically, but also the existential peripheries: the mystery of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance and indifference to religion, of intellectual currents, and of all misery.”
He goes on to give a bit more detail saying, presumably in reference to the Church of today, “The self-referential Church keeps Jesus Christ within herself and does not let him out.”
“Thinking of the next Pope: He must be a man who, from the contemplation and adoration of Jesus Christ, helps the Church to go out to the existential peripheries, that helps her to be the fruitful mother, who gains life from ‘the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.’”
On careful consideration, this treatment reveals a substantial deviation from Apostolic thought, wherein the essence of evangelization as the future Holy Father conceived of it, for all intents and purposes, is inverted.
Is it really accurate to say, as Cardinal Bergoglio stated, that the Church “gains life” from evangelizing?
The answer, of course, is no; in fact, the very suggestion is exactly backwards.
The Catholic Church does not gain life through evangelization; she gives life by carrying out her evangelizing mission, and the difference between these two is substantial.
If one truly believes, as Catholic doctrine most certainly teaches, that the Church is that perfect society established by Jesus Christ, who entrusted to her His life giving truth, then the work of evangelization must be understood as one that gives life to the world as she converts it to Him, and in so doing manifests for all to see that she is His mystical Body and Bride who already possesses life and truth and goodness and unity in all of its magnificent fullness.
If Cardinal Bergoglio provided what can safely be considered a dependable reflection on the essence of the new evangelization, and I trust that he did, then the utter lack of evangelizing activity in our day suddenly makes perfect sense:
“The self-referential Church” of which the future Pope Francis warned is precisely the Church of the new evangelists, who see their work as a source of life; an ecclesiology wherein they imagine a Church that must look to her own efforts as the animating principle when indeed it is Christ – the very same Christ whose Kingship over States, societies and all individual persons they dare not preach.
That’s what I’m talkin’ about.
Ha! And I thought there was something wrong with ME because I just didn’t get what the new evangelization actually is (let alone what purpose really is served by the Church’s latest penchant for having “The Year of _____” fill in the blank).
Apparently neither do our Bishops, God help us. A thought came to me as I was reading your words about the committees, meetings, agendas, dialogues on how to plan to think about how to maybe attempt to……How about each Bishop and Priest worldwide receive a copy of The Mission, Beckett, A Man For all Seasons, Joan of Arc. Watch and learn. Re-watch and learn some more. Until it makes sense to them again of what exactly they are.
I think the lack of, inability to define and continual planning of the so called “New Evangelization” is in direct corrilization with the “False Eccumenism” of the modernists. We may hurt people’s feelings if we genuinly evangelize, so we’ll just keep talking and conceptualizing indefinately because we can’t figure out how to make an omlette without breaking eggs.
I think the problem lies much deeper. The real plan is not “the new evangelization”. The actual plan is that there never again shall be an effective “new evangelization”. The panels, synods, etc. are distractions from this actual plan. Not every bishop knows about this plan, only the Fifth Column who has infiltrated the Church* knows. I came to these conclusions after years of research on the roots of the current disaster in the Church.
The Fifth Column is also at work in the World Council of Churches where it has been promoting “social justice” and “peace” for decades. **
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!
*see former Communist leader and convert back to the faith, Bella Dodd, who openly spoke of the Communist Party’s deliberate infiltration of agents into the seminaries in the 1930´s. According to Alice von Hildebrand Bella Dodd told her and her husband that when she was an active party member, she had dealt with no fewer than four cardinals within the Vatican “who were working for us.
Alice von Hildebrand also said:
Many a time I have heard Americans say that Europeans “smell conspiracy wherever they go.” But from the beginning, the Evil One has “conspired” against the Church – and has always aimed in particular at destroying the Mass and sapping belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. That some people are tempted to blow this undeniable fact out of proportion is no reason for denying its reality. On the other hand, I, European born, am tempted to say that many Americans are naïve; living in a country that has been blessed by peace, and knowing little about history, they are more likely than Europeans (whose history is a tumultuous one) to fall prey to illusions. Rousseau has had an enormous influence in the United States. When Christ said to His apostles at the Last Supper that “one of you will betray Me,” the apostles were stunned. Judas had played his hand so artfully that no one suspected him, for a cunning conspirator knows how to cover his tracks with a show of orthodoxy.
**see the book: Communist Infiltration of American Churches 1887 – 2012: World Council of Churches National Council of Churches
I have to agree. I have been hearing about the “New Evangelization” since I can remember and have yet to see anything concretely identifiable that could bear such a label. The visual you provided, however, gives us a very concrete view of what is wrong with the Church. Seminar after seminar in sterile auditoriums preparing us for the next “congress” or “synod” or whatever where there will be more–you guessed it–seminars.
Thanks for the post Louie… I think the use of the term is employed as some sort of thing on its own too often rather than being merely a description of what needs to be done for Christendom to be reborn…which people like George Weigel and other Neo Cons seem not to ever want to see again because the pluralistic society has become virutistic in an of itself. Servant of God Fr. John Hardon often talked about the new evangelization as a description of what needed to take place. It might be helpful to start with him considering JPII and him were close collaborators on the matter. As a quick link here are a couple talks he gave on the matter http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/MP3/RP0006000.htm
The 3 things listed can be re-stated better:
3) building culture: celebrating feast days, solemnities, etc at home too
Speaking of prayer–
You are the Ancient of Days. You are the source of wisdom throughout all time. In your wisdom, have mercy on us and teach us daily how to become perfect as you, Father, are perfect. Give us this day our daily bread and help us to grow in diligence, virtue, and humility. We are nothing more than your servants, eager to see you reign in power and glory…
Through the intercession of St. Joseph and the Immaculate heart of Mary,
Thank you for an insightful article. I was pretty much right with you up the point where you criticize Cardinal Bergoglio for saying that the Church gains life in evangelizing. A more charitable reading of that simple and beautiful statement from the cardinal is not objectionable at all. His statement does not negate that the Church gives life. I think we can all agree that our Holy Father, even before he was pope, would never deny the life-giving nature of the Church. We must assume the best about others especially about those in authority to teach us.
One way that the statement could be read is in light of the fact that the Church is both divine and human. Made up of human members, the Holy Church of God needs to continually grow in that holiness as she applies it to her members who are not accidentally united to her but are the very make-up of her the body. Thus ECCLESIA SANCTA, ECCLESIA SEMPER REFORMANDA.
So though the Church gives life, the Church, insofar as she is made up of weak human beings like you and I, gains life as she does what she is called to do. We all grow more alive as we fulfill our vocations. So too the Church. Each new soul that God adds to the Church through the proclamation of the Gospel adds more life to that Church.
I hope this sheds some light.
P.S. Because I love evangelization so much, I loved that you criticized the notion of just talking about it and never doing it. AMEN. However, many do do it. I consider myself a “New Evangelist”, because I proclaim the same unchanging Good News of Jesus Christ with new expressions, new methods and new fervor. Let us proclaim Him on the rooftops in season and out of season!
Laying aside, which interpretation of words of Our Holy Fathers is corret,
idea that we must always think the best about others is just plain wrong.
We need to seek the truth about ourselfs and others, not thinking in favor of everybody, myself included.
St. Peter doesn’t think the best about his contemporary, when he shout “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
Thanks for your kind response. Perhaps my wording lent itself to being misunderstood. To assume the best about others does not negate seeking the truth about ourselves and about them. It just means that when there is a situation where there is a gap in our knowledge about someone, particularly about someone who is now our Holy Father or about someone’s words, and we have a choice as to what we choose to fill that gap with (negative or positive or even neutrality–“I will postpone judgement until I know more”) it seems better to fill that gap with the positive or neutral rather than the negative. This is especially true if the words of Cardinal Bergoglio could easily be reconciled established doctrine.
I hope this sheds some light.
I appreciate your taking time to help me understand better.
In the Immaculate Heart,
To Father Louis
I realy don’t know, that my words were kind or rude. I must admit, that I feel sick, when I heard ,,We all are good”. Also, I am from Poland and my knowledge of English language is not as good as should be and.
If they were rude, I apologized. It is not a proper way, to speak to priest in that situation.
I also need to ask a question Father. ECCLESIA SANCTA, ECCLESIA SEMPER REFORMANDA look to me like combination, a Catholic doctrin with main one of the basic tenets of protestantism. Form me it is no way, that such word can do anything good and I think any member of the Church shouldn’t use it. The biggest reason for it is that, Church belongs not to its members but to Jesus Christ Our Lord. I just few days ago see a book with subtitle ,,Church about we dreaming” and I understand that it is wrong we to often think, that we need to reform Church in the ways, that we want, or think they are good.
No, our only real concer is spoken by the the words ,,Your will be done”.
REFORMANDA have connotations with going with the spirit of the age, not the Holy Spirit.
MAy God bless you!
Thank you Fr. Louis! I’m sincerely grateful for your comments. I hope you don’t mind, but as I attempted to reply, my response grew to the point of a new post altogether. Your thoughts are very much appreciated.
Yours in Christ,
Just found – another former communist stated there´s a „Fifth Column“ within the Church:
“(…) Fraser’s ‘credo’ as a Catholic was spelled out in his book ‘Fatal Star ‘ published in 1954. Written nearly a decade before Vatican 2, this book gave proof of quite remarkable foresight, for in addition to stressing the need for obedience to the Church’s social doctrine which he saw as integral to obedience to Our Lady of Fatima, it also contained a chapter ‘the Communist Fifth Column within the Church’. This Fifth Column’ he said was made up of such people as ‘see nothing wrong in combining Mass attendance, or even frequent reception of the Sacraments, with the acceptance of Marxist social political and economic ideas’. This was the ‘sector of Catholic opinion [to which] Communism seeks to harness its chariot’. Little did he imagine however that within little more than a decade such anti-anti-Communists would be in control of the institutional Church at virtually all levels.
Nevertheless, right from the beginning of the Second Vatican Council he was vividly aware of the danger of this ‘fifth column’. And it was in order to combat such influences that he began publishing Approaches at Easter, 1965. It ran to 95 issues and addressed a truly catholic range of subjects.(…)”