One of the tasks of the Synod of Bishops is to determine exactly what is meant by "the New Evangelization." As noted in the posts below, the term has been used in slightly different ways through the years, but much of that difficulty, if there is a difficulty, is because so many of the various elements of the transmission of the faith are interrelated -- given the mission of the Church, to re-evangelize ourselves is necessarily to prepare us to evangelize to others, each having a greater or lesser degree of openness to the Good News. Cardinal Wuerl spoke on this preliminary question during his address at the opening session of the Synod and, thanks to the diligent efforts of Rocco Palmo, we have early access to his remarks.
Report of Donald Cardinal Wuerl
Relator General for the Synod on the New Evangelization
Opening Session, 8 October 2012
It is a great honor for me to serve as the Relator General at this Synod and I am grateful to our Holy Father for this privilege. As we begin our deliberations on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, I want to touch on a number of points that I hope will help focus our discussion and provide some themes for reflection. . . .
In my observations, I include the following points:
(1) What or Who it is we proclaim – the Word of God;
(2) recent resources to help us in our task;
(3) particular circumstances of our day that render this Synod necessary;
(4) elements of the New Evangelization;
(5) some theological principles for the New Evangelization;
(6) qualities of the new evangelizers; and finally,
(7) charisms of the Church today to assist in the task of the New Evangelization.
(1) What/Who we proclaimRead the entire address at: Zenit News Service.
Our proclamation is focused on Jesus, his Gospel and his way. Christian life is defined by an encounter with Jesus. When Jesus first came among us, he offered a whole new way of living. The excitement spread as God’s Son, who is also one of us, announced the coming of the kingdom. The invitation to discipleship and a place in the kingdom that he held out to those who heard him, he continues to offer today. This has been true for 20 centuries. As his message was more fully understood, it became evident that Jesus offers us not only a new way of living, but also a whole new way of being. . . .
Jesus beckons us. The joy we experience compels us to share it with others. We are not only disciples, we are evangelizers. Like those first disciples, we are called to envision ourselves walking alongside Jesus as the sower of the seeds of a new way of living, of a share in a kingdom that will last forever. . . .
We need to be able, with lively faith, firm conviction and joyful witness, to renew our proclamation with the understanding that as God spoke to us in times past, so does he continue to speak to us today. . . .
The intellectual and ideological separation of Christ from his Church is one of the first realities we must deal with as we propose a New Evangelization of culture and people today. . . .
(3) Circumstances of Our Day
The dramatically changing societal background for the reception, appropriation and living of the faith is the context of this Synod. The call to repropose the Catholic faith, to repropose the Gospel message, to repropose the teaching of Christ, is needed precisely because we encounter so many who initially heard this saving proclamation and for whom the message has become stale. The vision has faded. The promises seem empty or unconnected to real life.
This current situation is rooted in the upheavals of the 1970s and 80s, decades in which there was manifest poor catechesis or miscatechesis at so many levels of education. We faced the hermeneutic of discontinuity that permeated so much of the milieu of centers of higher education and was also reflected in aberrational liturgical practice. Entire generations have become disassociated from the support systems that facilitated the transmission of faith. It is as if a tsunami of secular influence has swept across the cultural landscape, taking with it such societal markers as marriage, family,the concept of the common good and objective right and wrong. Tragically, the sins of a few have encouraged a distrust in some of the very structures of the Church herself.
Secularization has fashioned two generations of Catholics who do not know the Church’s foundational prayers. Many do not sense a value in Mass attendance, fail to receive the sacrament of penance and have often lost a sense of mystery or the transcendent as having any real and verifiable meaning. All of the above resulted in a large segment of the faithful being ill-prepared to deal with a culture that, as our Holy Father has pointed out on his many visits around the world, is characterized by secularism, materialism and individualism. . . .
A quality of the New Evangelization that is increasingly evident is that our efforts to spread the Gospel no longer necessarily take us to foreign lands and distant peoples. Those who need to hear of Christ, all over again, are with us in our neighborhoods and parishes even if they are distant from us in their hearts and minds. Immigration and widespread migration has created a new neighborhood environment for evangelization that too often is really an exercise in the New Evangelization. . . .
(4) Elements of the New Evangelization
The New Evangelization is not a program. It is a mode of thinking, seeing and acting. It is a lens through which we see the opportunities to proclaim the Gospel anew. It is also a recognition that the Holy Spirit continues actively to work in the Church.
At its heart the New Evangelization is the reproposing of the encounter with the Risen Lord, his Gospel and his Church to those who no longer find the Church’s message engaging. I believe there are three distinct, but interrelated stages:
(5) Theological Foundations for the New Evangelization
- the renewal or deepening of our faith both intellectually and affectively;
- a new confidence in the truth of our faith; and
- a willingness to share it with others. . .
Evangelization and the New Evangelization are theological concepts as well as pastoral initiatives. . . .
Since theology uses concepts to convey our faith that is rooted in the Gospel, the very tenets of our faith are threatened if people struggle with its conceptual framework. Secularism and rationalism have created an ideology that subjugates faith to reason. Religion becomes a personal matter. Doctrine in matters of faith is reduced to idiosyncratic positions without any possibility of ever claiming universal truth.
Concepts such as incarnation, resurrection, redemption, sacrament and grace - core themes of theology used to explain our belief in Jesus Christ – have little meaning for the Catholic and the fallen away Catholic in a culture where rationalism prevails. . . .
While it is important that the New Evangelization be alert to the signs of the time and speak with a voice that reaches people today, it must do so without losing its rootedness in the great living faith tradition of the Church already expressed in theological concepts. . . .
If secularization with its atheistic tendencies removes God from the equation, the very understanding of what it means to be human is altered. Thus the New Evangelization must points to the very origin of our human dignity, self-knowledge and self-realization. The fact that each person is created in the image and likeness of God forms the basis for declaring, for example, the universality of human rights. Here, once again, we see the opportunity to speak with conviction to a doubting community about the truth and integrity of realities such as marriage, family, the natural moral order and an objective right and wrong.
The New Evangelization must rest upon the theological understanding that it is Christ who reveals man to himself, man’s true identity in Christ, the new Adam. This aspect of the New Evangelization has a very practical meaning for the individual. If it is Christ who reveals to us who God is and, therefore, who we are and how we relate to God, then God is not remote or distantly far off.
The presumptive foundation of the New Evangelization must be the natural desire that all have for communion with the transcendent – with God. Within each human being is the basic orientation to the transcendent and the right order of life rooted in the natural created order. . . .