Naturally, there is a lot of talk about the New Evangelization circulating around the Year of Faith. There is a giant kick-off conference in Rome with dozens of bishops and cardinals and the like and evangelization efforts will be the central topic.
But…something seems to be a little off base with all this new evangelization, talk it seems. Not that any of it is bad, but in some kind of fuzzy sort of way, it just seems to be more of an administrative program, or reason to establish another office or department, than calling people to convert to the Faith.
And maybe that’s it. Evangelization is all about and solely about making better Catholics out of the already existing ones, but most especially about converting people to the faith…and that’s where it seems all this talk misses the point.
Has anything been prepared that REALLY challenges non-Catholics to convert to the Catholic Faith? Any documents from the bishops’ headquarters? Any editorial in the Vatican newspaper? Any videos from the shrinking pool of celebrity priests? Any direct appeals to a mass audience from Catholic radio people?
Where in the Catholic world is there a serious, day-in day-out proclamation that the Catholic Faith is the One True Faith established by Christ personally, and that all other Christian faiths are man-made knock-offs – however sincere some of their adherents might be?
Where is that?
What is the actual work of evangelizing, if not engaging and persuading and convincing others that they need to convert? That requires a serious belief in the fact that the Catholic Faith is the one which contains the fullness of truth.
If anyone involved in any New Evangelization programs doesn’t seriously believe that – we mean seriously – then they shouldn’t be doing the work. In fact, it needs to be wondered about if they should even be in the Church at all.
When WE talk with Protestants – which is quite frequently – it all comes down to this one question: do I have to be Catholic to go to Heaven?
It’s kind of an odd question when you think about it, but it is a very American question – a bottom-line, just-the-facts-ma’am, practical question. “I need to get to heaven; that’s the objective. Is the way to do it?”
And the answer is – yes. Most definitely. Our Blessed Lord said quite a few things about who would get to Heaven and how to get there.
Faith, of course…but that faith must be tangible and realized in the fabric of life. So…you must be baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. You must act rightly and perform good deeds. These are requirements, and Our Lord is quite clear that we will be judged according to our deeds.
They are not just expressions that spontaneously erupt from our Christian faith, but actual requirements – necessities done out of love for Him.
We must eat His Body and drink His Blood. He says that EXPLICITLY in John’s Gospel, and moreover, he not only commands it, but also says those who do NOT have no life within them.
He warns that familiarity with Him – even much familiarity – is insufficient to enter the Kingdom. He says very plainly that many who associated themselves with Him in this life will be left knocking at the door and refused entrance.
And most of all, He is adamant that He established One Church and One Church alone, and has given to it in the person of Peter – the Pope – the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven with the command to feed the sheep and tend the lambs.
So when a Protestant asks us the question “Do I need to be Catholic to get to Heaven?” our answer is, “Well, knowing everything that Jesus taught…EVERYTHING…not just the parts you like, but EVERYTHING…you do the math.”
With the exception of the roll of saints, no one here on earth to speak of knows who’s saved and who’s not; who has made it to heaven and who is suffering eternal damnation.
But when the Son of God establishes a Church, appoints its leaders, vests it with His own authority to forgive sins and consecrate His Body and Blood, commands adherence to its teachings and says we will be judged accordingly – we can’t speak for others, but as far we’re concerned, that seems pretty darn clear.
This is what was preached and how it was preached from day one when Peter kicked open the door on Pentecost Sunday and told his fellow Jews gathered for the feast to get on board or perish, and this is how it’s been told and preached ever since.
…E-X-C-E-P-T for the last 40 or 50 years. Now we’re so much more concerned with giving offense or hurting people’s feelings or being afraid they’ll be insulted. The last thing we want – more than informing them about the reality of Hell or the Absolute Truth of the Holy Catholic Faith – is to be intolerant.
There are two paths down which this whole New Evangelization effort can proceed: tell it like it is, or sugar coat it – lather it up with political correctness and do such a soft sell Madison Avenue packaging of the Faith that at the end of the day, you might as well have not wasted your time.
It will very curious to see which way this all unfolds. Bottom line: if people aren’t converting and reverting the Faith, then this will prove to be just one more Establishment Church program that everyone can get all excited about and write articles about in parish bulletins that will be thrown away and forgotten before the Sunday sun sets.
Be Catholic, in every sense of the word. It’s what God desires and ultimately why He chose to die on the Cross.