14 February 2014

Preaching the New Evangelization

I gave a formation conference to the second and third theologians at NDS this morning.

Title: Preaching and the New Evangelization.

If you've been wondering what all the fuss is about the N.E., read this article by Msgr. Michael Hull. 

We, Christians and Catholics, want to see the Gospel renewed in our day. We want all humanity to enjoy the same relationship with Jesus the Christ that is ours. Benedict puts it well:  “As I stated in my first encyclical, Deus caritas est: ‘Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction’ (no. 1). Likewise, at the root of all evangelization lies not a human plan of expansion, but rather the desire to share the inestimable gift that God has wished to give us, making us sharers in his own life.”

Essentially, the N.E. is about evangelizing the baptized. We've lost a generation or two to Rainbows & Butterflies Catechesis, Pabulum Preaching, and Protestantized Pan-sacramentalism.

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  1. Anonymous7:18 PM

    I wonder and tremble about who will evangelize our bishops, the ones consenting to, if not mandating, Rainbows & Butterflies Catechesis, Pabulum Preaching, Protestantized Pan-sacramentalism, etc. Some would even say that one of them made it to Rome...

  2. The New Evangelization seems like a gimmick to me. Usually when people speak of "new evangelization" they mean the "new in method" part: setting up a blog, posting to youtube or facebook. That's fine, but it seems like it's just regular "evangelization". But "just regular evangelization" won't sell books or DVDs (which are themselve, somewhat "old in method" ironically).

    The New Evangelization has been around a while. What, other than talking about it, has anyone actually done about it? What parish activities are in place to train people to explain their faith in an increasingly hostile world? People naturally argue, but they might need some help to argue well, instead of simply bickering or agreeing to disagree. There are plenty of activities in a given parish to help the poor, distribute Holy Communion, and educate the kids. But the only "new evangelization" type programs I typically see are adult education type things on the theory that people need to learn the faith before they can share it. That's true, but do they then actually share it?

    Bishop Loverde wrote a pastoral letter to the Diocese of Arlington about the New Evangelization in which he encouraged his flock to bring "just one person" to church. That's a concrete, actionable goal. You invite at least one person to come to Mass, at least once. The Holy Spirit does the rest. That's a clear, simple goal. I don't live in Arlington but I assume he's trying to equip his people to have the confidence and gumption to actually do that (you can watch his talk on YouTube). That's what we need for the New Evangelization.

    1. The NE is about re-proposing the gospel to the baptized. Basically, it's recovering the Church for five decades of nonsense and decline.

    2. I think Bernard is right in that most of what we'll hear will be 95% about the New E and 5% actually the New E itself. That is ok to start. The Church is trying to turn a ship that been going in one direction for 500 years. Because I grew up in the Bible Belt, I, and others in my situation, were doing New E before we even had a name for it. We were just explaining and defending Catholicism to the wider Fundiegelical culture. And that's formed us in some atypical ways, for the better, I think.

  3. "What, other than talking about it, has anyone actually done about training people to explain their faith in an increasingly hostile world?" My wife and I ran RCIA years ago using our own syllabus with an explicitly scriptural and evangelical outlook. A few years later, I began teaching 6th-grade catechism the same way. It's turned into something of a calling, but I wouldn't have guess that in 1998.

  4. I could suggest five priorities for the New Evangelization.

    1) Recover the importance of the Kerygmatic proclamation, learn to proclaim it effectively, and constantly. From the pulpit, but not only from the pulpit......but teach people to grapple with its content and to experiment with effective delivery in their sphere of influence. The Kerygma is what starts the car. We've given this away to the protestants, and now we feel allergic to it, but it is our starter too. Without it we will only move forward with backbreaking effort.

    2) Build explicitly Christ-centered witness testimony into everything the Church does. We need to hear stories often about how people have encountered Christ, how it changed their lives, how the Lord answers prayers and intervenes in circumstances.

    3) Talk in the explicitly evangelical language of the last 4 popes. "Personal encounter with Christ"--not just objectively, but subjectively. Personal relationship with Jesus. Self-entrustment to Jesus. Intimacy with Jesus. (Catechesi Tradendae 5 and etc) "Conversion means accepting by a personal decision the saving sovereignty of Christ and becoming his disciple." (JP2, mission of the redeemer). What do we do strategically to prepare people to make this decision explicit? How do we create conditions that favor conversion? How do we honor their decision not to follow Christ? (ie. in the context of confirmation prep, do we confirm them anyway?)

    4) Saturation in the Word of God. --Exposure to Salvation History (getting the big picture); learning to do Lectio; training for habits of daily prayer in the Scripture; develop a variety of access tools to help youth, young adults, older adults, men, women.......etc.........to enter into the Word of God--especially to see "how God works with people"--how he trains their character, how he stretches their faith, how he fathers, how he relates, how he looks at his people, how his providence operates.

    5. Establish a permanent discipleship track in the parish. Not another program for all-comers that you run for a season. Rather, a small group process that starts with the effective proclamation of the Kerygma and what that has to do with "me"....tuning my spiritual senses with the Holy Spirit...... basic Christian disciplines (prayer, scripture, sacramental life, fellowship, service).....and finally, learning to lead others in the same process. (Could be done in parishes, KCs, or with Catholic school teachers, catechists, key personnel, couples groups, young moms.......etc.......the hope that it doesn't stop at the parish level......but that people are equipped to reach out in their own sphere of influence. See for example, www.cco.ca, and www.leadingdiscovery.ca. (Same organization)

    1. Carole, excellent! Getting Catholics to think and speak this way will be difficult. . .but it's not impossible.

  5. Revelation 2:29. "Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches."