NEW EVANGELISATION

(Spiritual renewing of heart and mind to bring about personal and community transformation)

‘NEW EVANGELISATION’

Up to now, we have explored in greater depth, the ‘core values’ and ‘methods’ to be adopted in the John Paul Prayer Movement to help support us in moving forward in our mission statement. Before exploring further the ‘means’ and ‘various elements’, as shown on the structural layout, that we intend to deploy in order to apply the methods to support us in meeting the core values and therefore enable us to move forward in our mission statement, it is important, at this stage, to contextualise the overall framework that the John Paul Prayer Movement is engaged in, which is one of evangelisation.

It is important then to have a clear understanding of what is meant by evangelisation and in particular, John Paul II’s call for a ‘New Evangelisation’ as well as a proper understanding of who needs to be evangelised.

Evangelisation

Twenty-five years after the opening of the Second Vatican Council (11th Oct 1962), the Synod of Bishops, which was held in Rome from 1-30 Oct 1987, had as its topic ‘The Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World’. The conclusion of this Synod led to the Apostolic Exhortation, ‘Christifideles Laici’ through which Pope John Paul II exhorted all the lay faithful to take seriously their part in labouring in the vineyard, with these words, ‘You go into my vineyard too’ (cf. Matt 20:4). He was, at the time, re-emphasising the Council’s earlier pleas for all, not just clergy and religious, to co-operate in Christ’s salvific mission, ‘And the Council Fathers, re-echoing the call of Christ, have summoned all the lay faithful, both women and men, to labour in the vineyard: “The Council, then, makes an earnest plea in the Lord’s name that all lay people give a glad, generous, and prompt response to the impulse of the Holy Spirit and to the voice of Christ, who is giving them an especially urgent invitation at this moment’. 1

Pope John Paul II goes on to highlight ‘The Coresponsibility of the Lay Faithful in the Church as Mission’ 2, placing particular emphasis for the Lay faithful to recognise their role in evangelisation. Drawing from the Council’s earlier declaration on the Lay Faithful, as stated in ‘Apostolicam Actuositatem’( No 10 ), he positions that, “As sharers in the mission of Christ, priest, prophet and king, the lay faithful have an active part to play in the life and activity of the Church…’ 3 He goes on to emphasis the responsibility we all share in the fulfilment of our mission and our response to the mandate of Christ with the following – ‘The entire mission of the Church, then, is concentrated and manifested in evangelization. Through the winding passages of history the Church has made her way under the grace and the command of Jesus Christ: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15) “… and lo, I am with you always, until the close of the age” (Mt 28:20). “To evangelize”, writes Paul VI, “is the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her most profound identity”’. 4

Re-evangelisation
However, he then goes further still, in recognition of the many nations that have at one time been evangelised and yet no longer exhibit any real propensity towards embracing Christian values within the framework of society, when he states that, ‘The hour has come for a re-evangelisation. Whole countries and nations where religion and the Christian life were formerly flourishing and capable of fostering a viable and working community of faith, are now put to a hard test, and in some cases, are even undergoing a radical transformation, as a result of a constant spreading of an indifference to religion, of secularism and atheism’. 5

No doubt it is to this he was alluding to when he later spoke of Scotland during the Scottish Bishop’s Ad Limina visit in March 2003, saying – ‘We may observe that in Scotland, as in many lands evangelised centuries ago and steeped in Christianity, there no longer exists the reality of a Christian society’. 6 This was in fact an echo from his earlier historical visit to Scotland in 1982 when he added, ‘… that is a society which despite human weaknesses and failings takes the Gospel as the explicit measures of its life and values’. 7

In order to make these once held traditions a viable and core tenet of the fabric of our society again, Pope John Paul II acknowledged that, ‘Only a re-evangelization can assure the growth of a clear and deep faith, and serve to make these traditions a force for authentic freedom. Without doubt a mending of the Christian fabric of society is urgently needed in all parts of the world. But for this to come about what is needed is to first remake the Christian fabric of the ecclesial community itself present in these countries and nations. At this moment the lay faithful, in virtue of their participation in the prophetic mission of Christ, are fully part of this work of the Church’. 8

This remaking ‘the Christian fabric of the ecclesial community’ should be the concern of all and has to start with the communities within our own Dioceses in order to grow outwards to then affect a nation. In essence, the real starting place is in the community of ‘self’, where we are enjoined with the community of God and grow in relationship with Him through Christ and then foster that relationship within our ecclesial communities. Indeed Pope John Paul II makes the point by stating that the purpose of this re-evangelisation ‘is the formation of mature ecclesial communities, in which the faith might radiate and fulfill the basic meaning of adherence to the person of Christ and his Gospel, of an encounter and sacramental communion with him, and of an existence lived in charity and in service’. 9

As lay people, we have to stop looking at what ‘others’ are going to be doing about it and in particular, at what the clergy and hierarchy of the Church are or should be doing about it. We need to start moving in our own calling by adopting a greater level of recognition and acceptance that we are indeed all ‘fully part of this work of the Church’. Pope John Paul II re-emphasises this when he goes on to stipulate that, ‘The lay faithful have their part to fulfill in the formation of these ecclesial communities, not only through an active and responsible participation in the life of the community, in other words, through a testimony that only they can give, but also through a missionary zeal and activity towards the many people who still do not believe and who no longer live the faith received at Baptism’. 10

Clearly, the work of evangelisation is not only important but pivotal for the Church to fulfill her mission and it is incumbent on the whole church, clergy, religious and lay alike to fully co-operate in this work. In this way we can all play our part in realising our identity as church and responding to our Baptismal calling. We need only look around to see how the ravishes of secularism, relativism, humanism etc has taken its toll on society in our own nation through the eradication of Gospel values once held so dear, and the loss of a living faith in people’s lives, to understand the need for a re-evangelisation.

New evangelisation
However, that was then, in 1987, when the Synod of Bishops was held twenty-five years after the opening of the Second Vatican Council. Now, a further twenty-five years later, when the Synod of Bishops is to be held from 7 – 28 Oct, 2012 in the Council’s Jubilee year, the topic is to be ‘The New Evangelisation for the Transmission of the Christian Faith’. It is now recognised that indeed a ‘New Evangelisation’ is required. So, what is meant by this new term?

Although Pope John Paul II first gave air to this new term during a Homily whilst in Poland in 1979, he did not express a definition of it until 1983, when in his Magisterium to the Churches in Latin America he exhorted the church to make a new commitment to evangelisation by clarifying this was to be, ‘…a commitment not of re-evangelization, but rather of a new evangelization; new in its ardour, methods and expression.”’ 11 It would not be till later, in 1990 when he opened this new term up to the entire Church, through his Encyclical letter, ‘Redemptoris missio’ – ‘On the permanent validity of the Church’s missionary mandate’. It is here that he gives air to his feelings for something new to affect the entire Church in its missionary activities, when he says, ‘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’. 12

Since then, an important further clarification on this term has been provided in the recent Lineamenta in 2011 by the Synod of Bishops for ‘The New Evangelisation for the Transmission of the Christian Faith’. As we grapple with what this new term means in the face of previous works of evangelisation, we find meaning of the definition provided as such, ‘Consequently, the new evangelization is not a matter of redoing something which has been inadequately done or has not achieved its purpose, as if the new activity were an implicit judgment on the failure of the first evangelization. Nor is the new evangelization taking up the first evangelization again, or simply repeating the past. Instead, it is the courage to forge new paths in responding to the changing circumstances and conditions facing the Church in her call to proclaim and live the Gospel today’. 13

It is towards forging these new paths then, new in its ardour, methods and expression that we aim to engage in our response to the ‘New Evangelisation’.

Evangelisation for whom?
When the term ‘evangelisation’ is used it is perhaps common for people to automatically associate this with those who are ‘lost’ i.e. who do not yet know God or have yet to hear the Gospel message. In other words, those people who either have not had the opportunity to hear the Truth or have been unwilling to do so as their faith lies in some other God or perhaps even in themselves. Through the spread of such alternative beliefs as secularism, relativism, humanism, atheism, New Age philosophies, occult practices etc it seems to have become easier for man to disassociate himself from a belief in Creator God and to establish a kingdom where ‘self’ is sovereign.

The need for evangelisation for such as these obviously still exists and we should all continue to give witness by the testimony of Christ in our own lives so that His light may penetrate the darkness surrounding us and attract others to His presence. There will always be an ongoing need for this type of missionary work and witness and so, our mission towards non-Christians should not be neglected or forgotten in our efforts of evangelisation.

However, as Catholics, there are two other categories that are in just as much need of evangelisation as the above. The first of these are those who have come under the term of being ‘lapsed’ i.e. fallen away from the practise of their faith, who no longer attend Church. They may indeed and often do still believe in God but have given up on what they see is the burden or point of fulfilling obligatory duties simply as a response to the institutional rules of a Church, whilst others have simply foregone any notion of Christian living from their lives, having removed themselves from any sense of a living faith. Pope John Paul II alluded to this in 1990, in his Encyclical Letter, ‘Redemptoris missio’, when he made his first universal call to the church to embrace a ‘new evangelisation’ whilst referring particularly to countries with ancient Christian roots and remarking on the situations, ‘where entire groups of the baptized have lost a living sense of the faith, or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church, and live a life far removed from Christ and his Gospel. In this case what is needed is a “new evangelization” or a “re-evangelization.”’ 14 Surely, as a nation, Scotland fits this description?

The second category referred to are those who do come to Church each week in order to fulfil their obligatory needs yet have very little, if any, relational dimension to Christ in their lives. Their faith lacks depth borne out of growing in intimacy with Christ. They ‘do’ God once a week and are happy to leave Him in the Church for the other six days until they visit Him again out of the same sense of obligational duty. This particular group could be termed as ‘lukewarm’, adopting a passive and legalistic approach to their faith i.e. God is reduced to a tick box in the hectic schedule of life where one can fulfil what is expected of them.

The Lineamenta for the Synod of Bishops XIII Ordinary General Assembly states that, ‘…the new evangelization is primarily addressed to those who have drifted from the Church in traditionally Christian countries’. 15 The primary purpose therefore for this ‘New Evangelisation’ would appear to be for those who have already been baptised but have fallen away from the practice of their faith. We would contend however that this second category, as above, share a similar and equally measured need to experience a new evangelisation in their lives – those who are baptised and practice their faith yet have still to experience the depth of relationship that God calls us to in Christ, lest anymore fall away to join the ranks of the ‘lapsed’.

Perhaps the most revealing indication of what Pope John Paul II meant by this term of ‘New Evangelisation’ was provided in 1991, which would support both categories of baptised people mentioned, when he said, “The task which awaits you – the new evangelisation – demands that you present, with fresh enthusiasm and new methods, the eternal and unchanging content of the heritage of the Christian faith. As you well know it is not a matter of merely passing on a doctrine, but rather of a personal and profound meeting with the Saviour.” 16 He later provided further clarification on this when, in 1993, he acknowledges that, “Sometimes even Catholics have lost or never had the chance to experience Christ personally: not Christ as a mere ‘paradigm’ or ‘value’, but as the living Lord, ‘the way, and the truth, and the life’ (Jn 14:6).” 17

This perhaps is the most significant difference between that of the first and oldest approach of evangelisation for non-Christians that we are accustomed to and the fresh focus for the ‘new evangelisation’ of those already baptised, as in the categories mentioned – where there appears to be a recognition of the preceding importance of conversion to Christ before conversion to the church.

Notwithstanding the need for us to be light to the world and salt of the earth (cf. Matt 5: 13-14) and to reflect Christ’s light to those in darkness, who have yet to hear of Him, it is more towards these latter two categories, as detailed above, where we see we can offer support and achieve the most impact in our response to the ‘New Evangelisation’ being asked for. For both are dealing with matters of exploring a deeper relationship with Christ, to a re-awakening of the Christ within, building greater knowledge and understanding, increasing confidence and conviction and receiving ministry to help promote and support greater growth of interior life and holiness. Indeed, we would place an equal priority on these two categories of ‘lapsed’ and ‘lukewarm’ in terms of the evangelisation required in order to more fully respond to the calling to, ‘Rebuild My Church’ or as St. Francis of Assisi learned – to see a re-animated church, a people re-awakened in their faith. It is essentially about helping Catholics to establish and then foster a greater depth of relationship with God, through the person of Jesus Christ so that their lives become more profoundly impacted by their identity in Christ and enriched from the inheritance of our apostolic faith. It is towards these goals of ‘outreach’ and ‘in-reach’ then that we are concerned with in our approach to deploying the means that will enable us to respond on our part to the ‘New Evangelisation’ process.

The dual purpose as stated in our Mission Statement of engaging ecumenically whilst moving forward prophetically in our expression of evangelisation might seem contradictory to some but is clearly not at odds with the mission of the Church in this regard. In fact, it is intrinsically linked, as can be affirmed with the following: – ‘The relationship between ecumenical activity and missionary activity makes it necessary to consider two closely associated factors. On the one hand, we must recognize that “the division among Christians damages the holy work of preaching the Gospel to every creature and is a barrier for many in their approach to the faith.” The fact that the Good News of reconciliation is preached by Christians who are divided among themselves weakens their witness. It is thus urgent to work for the unity of Christians, so that missionary activity can be more effective. At the same time we must not forget that efforts toward unity are themselves a sign of the work of reconciliation which God is bringing about in our midst’. 18 By submitting to a new evangelisation in our lives we become more able and better equipped to fulfil our mission as church.

It is our aim then that the means and various elements as described in the following pages will provide a rite of passage to the new evangelisation required in order to reach others and invite them to journey with us in the application of the methods previously described in order for us to realise our core values and move forward in our Mission Statement.


Notes
1 Christifideles Laici, n. 2.
2 Ibid., n. 32 – Title.
3 Ibid., n. 33.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid., n. 34.
6 Address of John Paul II to the Bishop’s of Scotland, Ad Limina visit, March 4th 2003, n. 2.
7 Cardinal O’Brien, Opus Dei Website, Transcript of homily at Mass, Jun 27th 2009, para 15.
8 Christifideles Laici, n. 34.
9 Ibid.
10 Ibid.
11 Address of Pope John Paul II to the Latin American Bishops, March 24th 1983.
12 Redemptoris missio, n. 3.
13 Synod of Bishops, Lineamenta – The New Evangelisation for the Transmission of the Christian Faith – 2nd Feb, 2011, n. 5.
14 Redemptoris missio, n. 33.
15 Synod of Bishops, Lineamenta – The New Evangelisation for the Transmission of the Christian Faith – 2nd Feb, 2011, preface, para. 7.
16 Pope John Paul II, (Commissioning Families, Neo-Catechumenal Way, 1991), L’Osservatore Romano (Eng ed.), Jan 14 1991, p.4.
17 Pope John Paul II, (American Bishops), L’Osservatore Romano (Eng ed.),Mar 24, 1993, p3
18 Redemptoris missio, n. 50.