New Evangelization

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

November 5, 2010

 

Fr. Peter Daly talks about the push for the “New Evangelization.”

 

            “Everything old is new again.” So say the lyrics of a popular song from the 1920s.

            The Church is talking about the “New Evangelization” these days. There too, everything old is new again.

            Evangelization, the telling of the good news of Jesus Christ, is what the Church has always been about. Sometimes we have done it well, sometimes poorly. But it is what we have always been about.

            In June of 2010, Pope Benedict XVI called for “re-proposing” Christianity to nominally Christian cultures that have fallen away from the practice of the faith. He had in mind the secular cultures of Europe and North America.

            In the developed worlds there are millions of people who are Christians in name only. They were baptized but do not practice the faith.

            The Pope even created a new Vatican department called the “Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.” (Hard to get on a business card.)

            He appointed a former professor of mine from the Gregorian University, Archbishop Rino Fisichella to head it up. Good choice. When I knew Padre Fisichella as a professor, he was considered by his students to be the wittiest and most engaging of our professors. If anyone can communicate with modern culture, it can.

            But it is not his job alone.

            Back in 1999, Pope John Paul II wrote an encyclical on the coming “third millennium” of Christianity. He called for a new evangelization then.

            So what does this “new evangelization” mean?

            To some extent it means using new means of communication. This would include things like cell phones, social networking, (e.g. Facebook and “Twitter”), web sites and blogs. We should definitely use the new media, I don’t put a lot of faith in that stuff. You can’t get an “app” which will change your life.

            New Evangelization also includes use of traditional media like the press, radio, television, movies and books. Most of us we will have to depend on others for this.

            But “on the ground” the New Evangelization is really what we are supposed to have been doing all along. Witnessing with our lives.

            It starts with our own conversion.

            We give witness to our faith by the lives we lead. If we take the faith seriously, so will others. If we find joy in Christ, other people will want to know Him. Everybody preaches a sermon. Some people use words.  

            New Evangelization continues in healthy parishes.

            This is where the church should be putting its effort. If people hear good preaching, they will come back. If they are moved by the liturgy, they will want more. If they find their minds engaged they will stay engaged.

            A healthy RCIA is probably the most important feature of parish “New Evangelization.”  A good RCIA director will not be afraid of questions. People want to know how the Church dialogues with science. They hear what response we make to social movements like feminism and gay rights. They want to be treated like adults.

            Ultimately, the New Evangelization depends on individual Catholics.

            Nothing is more persuasive than personal witness.

            “Faith is caught, not taught.” Most of us learn faith by observing someone who really believes.

            Each one should reach one. The pastor of a neighboring parish has a nice formula for the New Evangelization. At the end of RCIA, when people say,” How can I thank you father?”  He answers, “Bring us another you.”

            That's really how the Church has always evangelized.

            But then, “Everything old is new again.”