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Category Archives: Evangelization
I want to begin with a personal anecdote that is not directly related to Fatima. In the academic year of 1996-1997 a junior at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio was running for student president, thinking that he would be able to have the most impact for good on campus by exercising that position his senior year. As a prominent member of the student senate he played a prominent and very public (both on national radio and outside of the U.S.) role in a number of significant changes that took place on campus. Notwithstanding his valiant efforts, he lost the presidential race. Unsure what to do, he turned to an older friend and mentor, and decided to become an R.A. in a dorm and lead a Bible study for freshmen in the dorm. This incoming senior would-be R.A. and Bible study leader, was a student leader in a very large para-church (primarily evangelical Protestant Christian) organization on campus, which, at least for the following two years (if I’m not mistaken), represented the largest para-church organization on any college campus in the world at that time, boasting about 1,000 members at their weekly meeting. His mentor, who happened to be Roman Catholic, was a staff member with that organization (at one point full-time, but by this point, part-time on a volunteer basis). That summer they decided to fast and pray for the future Bible study which together they would co-lead. They studied Scripture and church history together that summer, and they prayed and fasted that the future study would bear fruit for the kingdom of God.
Thanks to Michael Barber for pointing this video out on Facebook, and our friends at the Sacred Page for bringing to our attentiion. We too couldn’t help, but share with you all. This is a good example of the new evangelization!
The Most Rev. Robert Carlson, now Archbishop of St. Louis, answered this question at a talk he gave at Central Michigan University in January of 2009. His answer: “because of the Eucharist.”
Jesus is made present to us in the liturgy in many ways: through His word proclaimed; through His priests in His Sacraments; through two or three fellow believers gathered together; and most profoundly through the Sacrifice of His Body and Blood made present in the Holy Eucharist. Yet, the Eucharistic presence surpasses the others. Pope Paul VI said it this way: “This presence is called ‘real’ – by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be ‘real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.” (CCC 1374; Mysterium Fidei 39)
Rediscovering the Eucharist
Midway through my freshman year of college I experienced a profound conversion where I came to know Jesus as so personally present to me as to be next to me or ‘in me.’ I never knew such closeness to God before. I came to know Christ so deeply while pursuing God in the Scriptures and asking Him to help me to believe in His Son (as I later discovered, He was pursuing me).
As Christians we are called to “love our neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:28-31) Too often, however, as we become more and more engaged with our faith and the community where we worship, our neighbor tends to look more and more like us. As humans, our tendency is to hang out with those who share our passions, worldview, and goals for life. Our small group interactions are with Christians like ourselves and before we know it all our friends are Christians. We fill our time with activites that are faith based narrowing our network to those that agree with us and our worldview.
And the irony is that for those that take their faith seriously and that of their surrounding network they have a desire to live out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20), but they have no immediate network to actively do so outside of ”cold calling.” To be a Great Commission people, we need to expand our network of friends and associates beyond our Christian ones. To do so demands an intentional effort on our part to make friends beyond our inner circle. How do we do this? We do this by getting involved in activities (not sinful) that enable us to meet new people and expand our sphere of influence. In secular terms this is called “networking.” For the Christian, proper networking could have eternal significance.
My background is in theology and in nonprofit business/administration. As such, I have sought ways to combine the best business practices within ministry. And, with that in mind, I have wanted to “measure” what makes a successful parish. What can we examine and evaulate to deem that a parish is doing well and another is not. Or are we just to throw everything up to, ”We will see the fruits in heaven?” There are many things we can analyze: offertory, mass attendance, number of baptisms and weddings, etc. While these would give us some perspective into the success of the parish, I think that they can be attributed (good or bad) to other factors outside of the parishes control. And, in some cases, I think these are additional by-products or secondary measurements caused by good catechesis and evangelization.
The two measurable areas that I think one could use to gauge a successful parish are the number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life and the size of ones Rite of Christian Initiation Program (R.C.I.A.).
In my two previous posts on evangelization, I focused on our need to both proclaim the gospel and to witness to it in our very lives. I discussed its ontological nature, in that evangelization, goes to who the Church is as Church. I also discussed that for evangelization to be effective in our world that real, true, and visible unity among God’s people is essential and I made an argument for ecumenism as a necessary means to evangelize.
In this post, I thought it might be helpful to examine the word “evangelization” and what exactly it means. Evangelization in its original Greek means to bring or announce good news, to preach or proclaim as glad tidings. In its nonbiblical, Graeco-Roman usage it described the public proclamation of significant events such as an announcement of the Emperor Augustus’ birthday, “the birthday of the god [=emperor] was for the world the beginning of joyful tidings (evangelia) which have been proclaimed on his account.” 1 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger [now Pope Benedict XVI] explores this meaning of “gospel” showing how it relates to the kingdom that Jesus ushers in:
In my last post, I discussed that evangelization goes to the essence of who the Church is as Church. The missionary mandate that Christ gives is not something added to the nature of the Church; the Church is missionary in its very nature. It is intrinsic to who we are and thus evangelization has an ontological focus. It is, in the words of Ad Gentes, a “universal sacrament of salvation.” And, as a Church we need to constantly be of renewal and a visible witness to the salvific love of Christ. We also need to proclaim the “good news” of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection.
I wanted to emphasis our need to “share” our faith because I do believe that for many within the Catholic Church, this is a foreign concept. We have come to view evangelization as simply doing good and being good. The sense that we need to articulate and express our faith is a stretch for many within the Church. There are many reasons for this due to confusions regarding questions of salvation, Rahner’s “anonymous Christian,” grace versus nature, the necessity of the Church for salvation, and what about those people who never hear or come to know Jesus. These questions are just a sampling of some of the underpinnings that need to be explained for the Catholic faithful to again capture the evangelization fervor of Pentecost.
Do you know what is the nature of the Church? You might come up with various answers, but when the Church asks who are we at our very nature, it responds–missionary.1 Evangelization is at the core of who we are as Church–to go out!
Orthodoxy is necessary for evangelization to occur. Without it, one hasn’t anything to share, but their own conjecture and opinion. Without orthodoxy, there is nothing to share, and no need to share it. For evangelization to have meaning there is a necessary precursor of catholicity (right thinking-truth, fullness of faith and universal mission). Evangelization is about conversion of hearts, leading others to Christ through word and proclamation, into his visible body, the Church.