What is the New Evangelization?
It’s an exciting time in history to be Catholic. While there seems to be no end in sight to the bad news we see day after day in the news, it also presents a tremendous door of opportunity for a Catholic voice. But will that voice be heard? And will the language of that voice be understood by today’s secular culture?
This is what the ‘new evangelization’ is all about – reminding ourselves that God has called all Catholics to reach out to others with the timeless gospel of Jesus Christ and to learn how to do that in a way the culture around us can understand and respond; to build bridges for the world that “God so loved” in order that all people may know the love of God in Jesus Christ.
But let’s be honest. The reality is that the vast majority of Catholics in the United States are not inclined to evangelization, though we’re beginning to see hopeful signs of change. The term ‘evangelization’ itself for most Catholics sounds Protestant. But the Church teaches that she is missionary by her very nature. Pope Paul VI in his apostolic exhortation Evangelization in the Modern World states:
"We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church. It is a task and mission which the vast and profound changes of present day society make all the more urgent. Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize. . ."
In 1990, Pope John Paul II wrote in Mission of the Redeemer:
“I sense that the moment has come to commit all the Church’s energies to a new evangelization...No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.”
So how do we fulfill this call? Recently, New York Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan uttered a profound, yet simple statement: “The New Evangelization will be fulfilled with a yes and not a no.” In other words, this is our opportunity to tell the world all of the true, good and beautiful things the Catholic Church is for and not just what we are against. It’s an opportunity to propose (not impose) a new and living way to do life based on the love and truth revealed in Christ.
Every person is created with unique gifts, talents and temperaments – all of which can be used to reach others who have yet to hear or understand the good news of God’s plan of salvation in Jesus Christ. Whether you are an extrovert and like to engage others in faith conversation or are more reserved and prefer to let your life do the talking, as Catholics, we’re all called to this work, not just priests and religious.
When John Paul II uses the term "a new evangelization" he does not mean a new message. Evangelization cannot be new in its content since its very theme is always the one gospel given in Jesus Christ. But he does provide some detail about how to go about fulfilling the new evangelization in The Church in America:
The new evangelization calls for a clearly conceived, serious and well organized effort to evangelize culture in such a way that the Gospel is proclaimed in the language and in the culture of its hearers (pg. 70)… It is more necessary than ever for all the faithful to move from a faith of habit, sustained perhaps by social context alone, to a faith which is conscious and personally lived (pg. 72).
In order to share Christ with others in their own ‘language and culture’ we need to know where people are today in their worldview. Often in Catholic circles we can presume that the world outside the Church has some understanding of our traditions or our Faith. But this couldn’t be further from the truth, which is why Christ and the Church are calling us to use ‘new methods, ardor and expression’ in our effort to bring the riches of Christ and His gospel to them.
We want to offer you a free Catholic Study called, ‘Saying Yes!’ that will help you get started and equip you to be an effective communicator of the good news of Jesus Christ. God is changing the world one soul at a time and wants to reach others through you. Welcome to this labor of love! You can download the free study here.