We have discussed New Evangelization in this blog before, but now we have more information to help us understand the process better. I hope to be able to connect the dots regarding activities of the recent past so that we might better understand what to expect in the future. We will begin with a recent announcement by the Vatican regarding an exciting new pilot project that will roll out in select cities. If you are lucky enough to be in one of those cities you will get an advanced look at the future of evangelization within the Catholic Church.
Liverpool, in the north of England, is one of a dozen European cities leading a continent-wide effort for new evangelisation during this Lenten season, in preparation for the Bishops’ Synod on that same theme in the Vatican in October. The cities of Barcelona, Budapest, Brussels, Dublin, Frankfurt, Lisbon, Liverpool, Paris, Turin, Vienna, Warsaw and Zagreb were selected by the Pontifical Council for New Evangelisation to take part in a pilot project aimed at revitalising the Church in their cities in new and creative ways.
“… The other thing, which is very much to do with evangelisation, I’ve chosen the shrine of Blessed Dominic Barberi, who received Blessed John Henry Newman into full communion, as a place where every Saturday night at 9pm we come together for the office of readings which will be sung, followed by the canticles, the Gospel and a homily….” The second element, conversations – I always been grateful for the words of St Thomas Aquinas in his great hymn ‘Pange Lingua’ where he describes the whole of Our Lord’s ministry among us as ‘et in mundo conversatus’, having had a conversation in the world …for me the word ‘conversation’ is the best way I find to describe simply what we mean by evangelisation….”
– Archbishop of Liverpool, Patrick Kelly
Archbishop Kelly has outlined a couple of activities that he feels represent the new and creative ways Liverpool will be reaching people as part of New Evangelization. I realize it is early in the process, so Church leaders are still working on getting ready for the pilot project, but we hope that the office of readings, canticles, Gospel and homily don’t represent part of the pilot. This is not new or creative. Perhaps the Archbishop was put on the spot and had to come up with an answer quickly? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the office of readings. I just don’t see how this will entice people to join the Catholic Church. Maybe we need to discuss further the goal for New Evangelization.
Blessed John Paul II developed this fresh understanding, speaking of evangelizing cultures, since the engagement between faith and culture supplanted the relationship between church and state dominant prior to the Council, and included in this task the re-evangelizing of cultures that had once been the very engine of gospel values. The New Evangelization became the dare to apply the invitation of Jesus to conversion of heart not only ad extra but ad intra, to believers and cultures where the salt of the gospel had lost its tang. Thus, the missio is not only to New Guinea but to New York.
In Redemptoris Missio, #33, he [JPII] elaborated upon this, noting primary evangelization — the preaching of Jesus to lands and people unaware of His saving message — the New Evangelization — the rekindling of faith in persons and cultures where it has grown lackluster — and the pastoral care of those daily living as believers.
– Vatican Radio Report
Alright, let’s look at what the Vatican is saying here. Blessed JPII issued the encyclical Redemptoris Missio in 1990 that initiated the concept of evangelizing cultures. Before Vatican II the relationship between church and state dominated evangelization and now faith and culture are the dominant evangelizing relationship. “I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to a new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes. No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.” Based on this encyclical, and the view of the Vatican, New Evangelization will ask Catholics to evangelize Catholics who are lapsed or lackluster in their faith. Chances are, since you are reading this blog post, you represent the Catholics who must reach out to your Catholic brethren in faith. I believe the schoolyard saying – tag you’re it – now applies.
I have to tell you Redemptoris Missio is not the first document to make this admonition for believers witnessing to believers. I will let Vatican Radio tell the story.
Yes, the Council reaffirmed, especially in Ad Gentes, there are explicit missionaries, sent to lands and peoples who have never heard the very Name by which all are saved, but also that no Christian is exempt from the duty of witnessing to Jesus and offering His invitation to others in his own day-to-day life.
Thus, mission became central to the life of every local church, to every believer. The context of mission shifted not only in a geographical sense, but in a theological sense, as mission applied not only to unbelievers but to believers, and some thoughtful people began to wonder if such a providential expansion of the concept of evangelization unintentionally diluted the emphasis of mission ad gentes.
– Vatican Radio Report
Missio ad Gentes came out in 1965. We have almost gone back in time to before I was born; almost. Up to this point we have identified that a New Evangelization pilot project is underway and discussed the goal for the project. Seems straight forward enough. Nobody has explained why after 12 years we are just beginning to implement these aspects of the encyclical and doctrine, but we can discuss that in another blog post, some day.
Stay tuned for part two, coming soon.