Friday, February 17, 2012

"The Church Needs Evangelization!" - Dolan

Here’s an excerpt from a meditation I read recently (from the writings of Cardinal Jean Danielou); it struck me that this is an apt characterization of our society today (my emphases):

…Being entirely engrossed in their effort to control the universe by technical science, modern men and women have lost the other half of themselves which expresses itself as sacrifice. For them the world has lost its sacred character; they see it only as the field for their experiments. They no longer grasp its symbolic aspect, its mystic side. They no longer see anything in it but the reflection of themselves which it offers them; they fail to see the imprints of God whose likeness they mirror.

How could a more lofty revelation take hold of a person or a world of this sort, so wholly unspiritual, when the very sense of the mystical, the very sense of the sacred is dead in them? How can one talk about a new creation to people who no longer 
recognize that they are creatures, or of the incarnation to those who no longer see the action of God in the world, or of contemplation to those whose knowledge of things is limited to their practical utility? What has to be restored to the world is the primary, original, universal basis of religion in the soul[1]

Indeed! And it just so happens that from October 11, 2012 to November 24, 2013, the Church will observe the “Year of Faith”. According to this article, one “major movement” at the level of the Universal Church will be the Synod in October 2012 on “the new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith”.  Given a society that fits the above description, this couldn’t come at a better time! The article notes that (emphases in original):

The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, for its part, will be in charge of promoting ecumenical initiatives on behalf of the restoration of unity among all Christians, which is “one of the principal concerns” of the Second Vatican Council.  A solemn ecumenical celebration “in which all of the baptized will reaffirm their faith in Christ” is thus planned as part of the program…

Okay, I admit, the word “ecumenical” is usually a red flag for me, but let’s let hope spring eternal. Ecumenism is a means to an end, not an end in itself, with that end being full incorporation into the Mystical Body of Christ, the Catholic Church. You can’t effectively preach the truth of the Catholic faith to one of our separated brethren until you know, understand, and appreciate where he is coming from, what are his objections to the Catholic faith, and where he is in error. Then you can focus your message of conversion.

On the other hand, you can’t preach the truth of the Catholic faith if you don’t know it yourself. And so we need to focus first on making sure Catholics know why they are Catholic.

The article about the Year of Faith goes on to say (emphasis in original; my comment):

The Year of Faith should be the occasion to rediscover the teachings of Vatican II [that’s a start; and maybe we can get them RIGHT this time!] and of the CCC.  Several international conferences will be organized, and seminarians will be invited to study these documents carefully.  Similarly, the CDF encourages a rereading of the homilies, catecheses, addresses and other texts by Benedict XVI.

I have been thinking about this need for Catholics to better understand their faith and to…well…believe it…for a couple of weeks; I wrote about it on February 9 in a post entitled “Yes, We ARE Out to Convert People”, saying:

If, as Catholics, we’re “not out to make converts”, it means we’re not convinced of the Truth of our faith…

If more of us really believed our salvation depended on our belief in “all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches”, we would first of all practice our faith with greater fidelity; and second, we would want to help others come to an understanding of why it is a very good thing to be Catholic.

And less than a week later, Michael Voris addressed the same issue in the February 15 Vortex (watch the video below). He said, in part:

The Catholic Mass occurs within the context of the Catholic Faith...and since the sacrifice of God to Himself is the most superior form of worship there is, then it follows that the Faith which believes this is the TRUE faith – meaning by extension and quite logically – that the other faiths... all of them... are false.

It’s just that simple…

..There is only one true religion. Period. And it’s not just a matter of faith or belief: it’s a fact. Undeniably. And please don’t start going on about silly notions of being “unconscious” Catholics and “anonymous” Catholics.

It is precisely the backing away from this fact that has caused SO much of a problem in the Church these days. Too many leaders in the Church have surrendered this truth so they could be more easily accepted, for whatever reason. Their motives or intentions we leave to God; the results are left for us to judge and the judgment is not favorable. Catholic identity has been lost because the unique claim of Catholicism has been abandoned – privately at least, if not totally publically.

Bottom line: do you believe that Catholicism is the One True Faith , or do you not?

Well, maybe we’re all starting to converge on the same page. Maybe the time is really ripe for a “new evangelization” that will be exactly what it calls itself. Maybe it will be an evangelization within the Church as well as an outreach.

Again, for me, hope springs eternal because Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan’s address to the Pope and the cardinals today (Feb. 17) seems to indicate that he also sees the need for this two-pronged approach. He stated:

The acclaimed American missionary and TV evangelist, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, commented, “Our Lord’s first word to His disciples was ‘come!’ His last word was ‘go!’ You can’t ‘go’ unless you’ve first ‘come’ to Him.”

Exactly! As Catholics, we are not going to be very good missionaries unless we have “come” to Him and know Him and the one, true Church which He established on earth.  But the Church has been under attack from within and without, and secular forces are busily subduing the faithful. Archbishop Dolan continued (my emphases):

A towering challenge to both the missio ad gentes and the New Evangelization today is what we call secularism. Listen to how our Pope describes it:

Secularization, which presents itself in cultures by imposing a world and humanity without reference to Transcendence, is invading every aspect of daily life and developing a mentality in which God is effectively absent, wholly or partially, from human life and awareness. This secularization is not only an external threat to believers, but has been manifest for some time in the heart of the Church herself. It profoundly distorts the Christian faith from within, and consequently, the lifestyle and daily behavior of believers. They live in the world and are often marked, if not conditioned, by the cultural imagery that impresses contradictory and impelling models regarding the practical denial of God: there is no longer any need for God, to think of him or to return to him. Furthermore, the prevalent hedonistic and consumeristic mindset fosters in the faithful and in Pastors a tendency to superficiality and selfishness that is harmful to ecclesial life. (Benedict XVI, Address to Pontifical Council for Culture, 8.III.2008)

the Church herself needs evangelization!

Archbishop Dolan then addressed the Year of Faith theme in the context of the need for interior conversion of the Church:

So, our mission has a substance, a content, and this twentieth anniversary of the Catechism, the approaching fiftieth anniversary of the Council, and the upcoming Year of Faith charge us to combat catechetical illiteracy.

True enough, the New Evangelization is urgent because secularism has often choked the seed of faith; but that choking was sadly made easy because so many believers really had no adequate knowledge or grasp of the wisdom, beauty, and coherence of the Truth.

Cardinal George Pell has observed that “it’s not so much that our people have lost their faith, but that they barely had it to begin with; and, if they did, it was so vapid that it was easily taken away.
And, just as Jesus tells us “I am the Truth,” He also describes Himself as “the Way, and the Life.”

The Way of Jesus is in and through His Church, a holy mother who imparts to us His Life.

Yes! That sounds like it’s getting back to what we need to know as Catholics – who we are in Jesus, who we are in His Church, our Catholic identity. And when we know who we are and why the Church established by Our Lord is so important, then we can effectively evangelize the world around us.

But if we don’t fully grasp our Catholic identity, we will be as likely to be evangelized by non-Catholic Christians as we are to be evangelized by them. Michael Voris closed his Vortex episode with this quote from Archbishop Fulton Sheen:

If you do not live what you believe, you will end up believing what you live.

There’s too much of that going on already. It’s time for a new New Evangelization.

[1] From the writings of Cardinal Jean Danielou (Holy Pagans of the Old Testament, 130-132) in A Word in Season: Readings for the Liturgy of the Hours, vol. VII, Augustinian Press, 1999

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