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The New Evangelization Today: What is the New Evangelization?

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Cardinal Wuerl talks about the pressing task of our time: the New Evangelization. But what exactly is the New Evangelization? What is the message of the New Evangelization? Where and who is the intended audience? What do we seek to accomplish? What is needed for this work of the New Evangelization?

To answer these and other questions, he has produced a video series entitled, “The New Evangelization Today.” Each of these short videos is intended to help people to take up this critical task to which we are called and to become new evangelizers.

Watch below:

For more information, visit http://cardinalsblog.adw.org/2016/06/…

Remembering a Prophet of the New Evangelization: John Paul I 37 years after his election to the See of Peter

Thirty-seven years ago August 26, Cardinal Albino Luciani, Patriarch of Venice was elected Pope after the death of the Servant of God Blessed Paul VI. The conclave of 101 cardinals lasted 2 days and he was elected on the fourth ballot. Luciani took the name of John Paul I – the first pope to have two names. He wanted to continue the work of Pope Paul VI and Pope John XXIII.

Luciani was born in Canale d’Agordo near Belluno, Italy, on October 17, 1912. He entered the seminary at 11 years old, was ordained a priest at 23 years old, and was the Patriarch of Venice from 1969 until he became pope on September 3, 1978. Luciani held a theology degree from Gregorian University in Rome.

Because of his rural background and his ability to explain the catechism with such clarity and simplicity, Pope John Paul I was called “The Peasant Pope.” But he was known most for being “The Smiling Pope.” [Read more…]

Why going on a pilgrimage is worth every penny

New documentary 'Camino' follows hikers' trek from France to famed pilgrimage site in Spain

I came across an article the other day that indicated there’s research that suggests that experiences, not things, make us happier.

Turns out there are a few reasons for this – the value of experience increases over time, and it’s something that people share, and even bad experiences (apparently) are valued more over the course of time because they become good stories.

Reflecting on this research, what immediately popped into my mind was pilgrimages. Because it really doesn’t matter how terrible the accommodations or the inevitable logistical fiascos may be because, in the end, it is overcoming these trials or bad experiences, like the saints before us, that makes these journeys, these experiences, worthwhile.

To quote St. John Paul II, “For the Church, pilgrimages, in all their multiple aspects, have always been a gift of grace.”

The best part is that you don’t always have to be trekking halfway across the world to go on a good pilgrimage. There are many spots close to home that you can enjoy. One place in particular, which I thought I’d share with you, is a stunning exhibit of the life of St. John Paul II that allows pilgrims to immerse themselves in his life and teachings.

I caught up with Dr. Jem Sullivan, Director of Research and Education for the Saint John Paul II National Shrine to learn more.


The permanent exhibit is dedicated to preserving the legacy of St John Paul II – why is that important and what are some of the unique features of the exhibit?

Saint John Paul II is the “pope of the family,” as noted by Pope Francis when he canonized him a saint of the Church in 2014. Pope John Paul II’s clear and courageous witness to the gift and sanctity of the family continues to be among his most enduring legacies.

The exhibit is meant to be both an informative and a transformative experience that invites pilgrims to become part of the “spiritual family” of Saint John Paul II by walking in the footsteps of one of the great saints of our time.

Saint John Paul II’s entire life was an embodiment of his fearless preaching of the Gospel. From his early experiences of family, and his personal and physical sufferings, he showed the world that it is possible to live a fully human life through the power of faith in Jesus Christ.


Many people considered Pope John Paul an important player on the world stage, how does the exhibit explore this?

The permanent exhibit  explores the impact of his teachings and witness to the dignity of the human person through an extraordinary collection of photos, quotes, short films, personal interviews, artifacts, and original works of art.

Pilgrims can view his handwritten notes of his 1979 speech to the United Nations on display in the exhibit, and be inspired by his 1995 address to the United Nations when he said that, “…the answer to the fear which darkens human existence at the end of the twentieth century is the common effort to build the civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice, and liberty.” (John Paul II, Address to the United Nations, October 5, 1995).


How has John Paul’s life personally had an impact on who you are today?

As a young student of theology and philosophy in the 1980s and 1990s, I had the privilege of reading and reflecting on the writings of Pope John Paul II. The pope’s first encyclical, Redeemer of Man, and his writings on catechesis, evangelization, and art made a deep impression on me and was a guide to the subsequent intellectual paths I would take during my graduate and doctoral studies.

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The pope radiated the love of God in a way that had a strong impact on my faith and life, as a wife and mother, and as a catechist, teacher, and professor. His love for Christ was a powerful example of Christian discipleship that encouraged me to serve the Church over the past twenty years. I took to heart Saint John Paul II’s call and challenge to grow daily in prayer and holiness of life, and to “not be afraid” to give one’s life in service of Christ and His Church. His saintly witness and example of Christian discipleship was among the reasons I was led to serve through catechesis, evangelization, and the renewal of culture and art for the past two decades.


So this summer consider visiting this stunning exhibit to learn about a hero, live his life and share in something which will inspire you, challenge you and leave you grateful for his witness.

What could make you happier?

Exhibit photos courtesy of: Matthew Barrick, Barrick Photography and CNS.



CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.


Evangelization and Families


On February 24-25, 2015 in Victoria, British Columbia, Fr. Thomas Rosica addressed the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Western Canada on the themes of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family and on Evangelization and Families. The text of his address on “Evangelization and Families” is found below:

Your Excellencies,

In his homily at the Canonization Mass for Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II last April, Pope Francis described John Paul II with these words:

“In his own service to the People of God, Saint John Paul II was the pope of the family. He himself once said that he wanted to be remembered as the pope of the family. I am particularly happy to point this out as we are in the process of journeying with families towards the Synod on the family. It is surely a journey which, from his place in heaven, he guides and sustains.”

Reflecting on the legacy of St. John Paul II, there is no question that he was a preeminent champion of marriage and family life. He believed that the family would play a vital role in the new springtime of evangelization and was much more than mere bystander in the Church’s evangelizing mission. He presented a deeply positive and bold view of marriage and family life. He was confident that no ideology, however daunting, can extinguish what God has set in motion. While the family finds itself in the midst of an eroding cultural crisis, facing militant attempts to redefine marriage contrary to reason and the Gospel, John Paul II reoriented our gaze to the truth of Christian marriage as a fruit of the redemption of Christ. How many times did he say: “The future of humanity passes through the family!”

John Paul II’s writings on this topic “Original Unity of Man and Woman”Familiaris Consortio” and “Letter to Families,” presented the family as rooted in the economy of salvation: God’s act of creating the world and offering salvation through Christ—with an important role to play in the order of redemption. The family, as such, must continue the work of Christ and this work must begin first within itself, within each individual family before flowing outward to the extended community.

John Paul wished for us to understand the truth about ourselves and not settle for reductions of our personhood. Marriage faces the same reductionist onslaught which assails us, and this is the reason, in an era of anthropological confusion—who and what is a man and a woman? – that marriage between the two is under attack. Without a proper understanding of who we are, the purpose and meaning of marriage cannot be understood in its fullness.

Holy Family 2The Evangelizing Mission of the Family

The “future of evangelization,” insisted St. John Paul, “depends in great part on the Church of the home” (Familiaris Consortio 52). In Redemptor Hominis, he wrote that “the missionary attitude always begins with a feeling of deep esteem for what is in man” (RH 12). In a seemingly radical statement John Paul proclaimed that “Man is the primary and fundamental way for the Church, the way traced out by Christ Himself, the way that leads invariably through the mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption” (RH 14). In his 1994 “Letter to Families”, he repeated this theme, stating that “Christ entrusted man to the Church; he entrusted man to her as the way of her mission and ministry.

The lingering question for John Paul II was this: How can the family begin to evangelize and build a civilization of love? He notes that in order for the family to be a sign of Christ’s presence in the world and to take up its mission as evangelizing community, each member of the family, particularly the spouses, must end the reign of sin in their lives (cf. FC 63). You cannot bear fruit if you are severed from the vine, you cannot give what you do not have. In order for the family to participate in this task it has to be constantly nourished and sustained at the wellspring of grace in the Liturgy. Furthermore “the little domestic Church, like the greater Church, needs to be constantly and intensely evangelized: hence its duty regarding permanent education in faith” (FC 51).

John Paul II left us with a rich, impressive, profound and lofty theology of marriage and family life. His vision flowed from the inherent dignity of every man and woman, of every human being. Some people may be intimidated by John Paul’s reflections, seeing them as daunting, too philosophical and overly academic. Yet, despite the scholarship and depth of his writing, Pope John Paul II had no intention of having his teachings about the human person remain only on the academic level. I think you will agree that his reflections are deeply Christological and Trinitarian, and they are meant to change lives.

Pope Benedict XVI

Throughout his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI turned attention on many occasions to the sacrament of marriage and family life. The transmission of the faith from one generation to the next has always found a natural home in the family. In a May 2009 homily in Nazareth, he suggested that children need the benefits of a “human ecology,” need to be raised in “a milieu” where they learn: “To love and to cherish others. To be honest and respectful to all. To practice the virtues of mercy and forgiveness.”

At the Milan World Meeting of Families in 2012, Pope Benedict XVI said: “Falling in love is a wonderful thing.” However, the pope described falling in love as the start of a couple’s journey, not its highest point. Something “more wonderful still” awaits the couple, he said. Responding to a question asked during a June 2, 2012 “evening of witness” in Milan by an engaged couple from Madagascar, the pope said: “I often think of the wedding feast of Cana. The first wine is very fine: This is falling in love. But it does not last until the end: A second wine has to come later, it has to ferment and grow, to mature…The definitive love that can truly become this ‘second wine is more wonderful still; it is better than the first wine. And this is what we must seek.”

“Discover the greatness and beauty of marriage,” Pope Benedict said to young people participating in the March 2010 International Youth Forum south of Rome. In a message to the forum, he wrote: “The relationship between the man and the woman reflects divine love in a quite special way; therefore the conjugal bond acquires an immense dignity.”

Because “human beings are made for love,” the pope said, “their lives are completely fulfilled only if they are lived in love.” He explained that “the vocation to love takes different forms according to the state of life,” one being marriage.

Over the years, at different times and speaking from different perspectives, Pope Benedict directed attention both to marriage’s “greatness and beauty” and to family life’s essential roles. Viewing the family as evangelization’s natural home, Pope Benedict began the 2012 Synod on the New Evangelization with the words: “a new evangelization is unthinkable without acknowledging a specific responsibility to proclaim the Gospel to families and to sustain them in their task of education.”

In his 2012 Apostolic Exhortation on the Church in the Middle East, he wrote: “Called to live a Christlike love each day, the Christian family is a privileged expression of the church’s presence and mission in the world.”

The Challenge of Evangelii Gaudium

Let us consider how Pope Francis is opening up the theological vision of his two immediate predecessors. In his first apostolic exhortation, on “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis takes the magnificent theology of John Paul II and Benedict XVI and shows us how to apply it in the trenches, in the peripheries of ordinary, daily life. This application is not without immense challenges. “The process of secularization tends to reduce the faith and the Church to sphere of the private and personal. Furthermore, by completely rejecting the transcendent, it has produced a growing deterioration of ethics, a weakening of the sense of personal and collective sin, and a steady increase in relativism” (64).

66. (EG) The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. In the case of the family, the weakening of these bonds is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children. Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will. But the indispensible contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple.

From the Vatican, February 2, 2014
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

Dear families,

I am writing this letter to you on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. The evangelist Luke tells us that the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph, in keeping with the Law of Moses, took the Baby Jesus to the temple to offer him to the Lord, and that an elderly man and woman, Simeon and Anna, moved by the Holy Spirit, went to meet them and acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah (cf. Lk 2:22-38). Simeon took him in his arms and thanked God that he had finally “seen” salvation. Anna, despite her advanced age, found new vigour and began to speak to everyone about the Baby. It is a beautiful image: two young parents and two elderly people, brought together by Jesus. He is the one who brings together and unites generations! He is the inexhaustible font of that love which overcomes every occasion of self-absorption, solitude, and sadness. In your journey as a family, you share so many beautiful moments: meals, rest, housework, leisure, prayer, trips and pilgrimages, and times of mutual support… Nevertheless, if there is no love then there is no joy, and authentic love comes to us from Jesus. He offers us his word, which illuminates our path; he gives us the Bread of life which sustains us on our journey.”

In Rio de Janeiro during the mega-World Youth Day of 2013, Francis offered us five key elements of marriage and family life:

  • Thursday, July 25 Address to Community of Varginha (Manguinhos): There is neither real promotion of the common good nor real human development when there is ignorance of the fundamental pillars that govern a nation, its non-material goods: life, which is a gift of God, a value always to be protected and promoted; the family, the foundation of coexistence and a remedy against social fragmentation; integral education, which cannot be reduced to the mere transmission of information for the purposes of generating profit; health, which must seek the integral well-being of the person, including the spiritual dimension, essential for human balance and healthy coexistence; security, in the conviction that violence can be overcome only by changing human hearts.”
  • Friday, July 26 Angelus:How precious is the family as the privileged place for transmitting the faith! Speaking about family life, I would like to say one thing: today, as Brazil and the Church around the world celebrate this feast of Saints Joachim and Anne, Grandparents Day is also being celebrated. How important grandparents are for family life, for passing on the human and religious heritage which is so essential for each and every society! How important it is to have intergenerational exchanges and dialogues, especially within the context of the family.”

  • Saturday, July 27 Interview on Radio Catedral (radio broadcasting station of the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro): “Not only would I say that the family is important for the evangelization of the new world. The family is important, and it is necessary for the survival of humanity. Without the family, the cultural survival of the human race would be at risk. The family, whether we like it or not, is the foundation.

  • Sunday, July 28 Address to the World Youth Day Volunteers: “God calls you to make definitive choices, and he has a plan for each of you: to discover that plan and to respond to your vocation is to move forward toward personal fulfillment. God calls each of us to be holy, to live his life, but he has a particular path for each one of us. Some are called to holiness through family life in the sacrament of Marriage. Today, there are those who say that marriage is out of fashion. Is it out of fashion? In a culture of relativism and the ephemeral, many preach the importance of ‘enjoying’ the moment. They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, ‘for ever’, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love. I have confidence in you and I pray for you. Have the courage ‘to swim against the tide’. And also have the courage to be happy.”

  •  Sunday, July 28 Address to the Bishops of Brazil: “In mission, also on a continental level, it is very important to reaffirm the family, which remains the essential cell of society and the Church; young people, who are the face of the Church’s future; women, who play a fundamental role in passing on the faith and who are a daily source of strength in a society that carries this faith forward and renews it.”

Last November 2014, Pope Francis addressed a Colloquium being held at the Vatican on the theme “The Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage.” Contrary to some thoughts circulating about this meeting, the colloquium was not called to serve as a corrective to October’s Synod. Francis began his address by dwelling on the word “complementarity”: “a previous word, with multiple meanings.” Although complementarity can refer “situations where one of two things adds to, completes, or fulfills a lack in the other” it also means much more than that. Christians, he said, “find its deepest meaning in the first Letter to the Corinthians where Saint Paul tells us that the Spirit has endowed each of us with different gifts so that-just as the human body’s members work together for the good of the whole-everyone’s gifts can work together for the benefit of each.”

“Complementarity is at the root of marriage and family.” Although there are tensions in families, the family also provides the framework in which those tensions can be resolved.” He said that complementarity should not be confused with a simplistic notion that “all the roles and relations of the sexes are fixed in a single, static pattern.” Rather, “complementarity will take many forms as each man and woman brings his or her distinctive contributions to their marriage and to the formation of their children.”

Pope Francis said that the crisis in the family has produced a crisis “of human ecology,” similar to the crisis that affects the natural environment. “Although the human race has come to understand the need to address conditions that menace our natural environments, we have been slower to recognize that our fragile social environments are under threat as well, slower in our culture, and also in our Catholic Church. It is therefore essential that we foster a new human ecology and advance it.”

To do that, the Pope said, “It is necessary first to promote the fundamental pillars that govern a nation: its non-material goods.” He noted that the family is the foundation of society, and that children have the right to grow up in a family with a mother and a father “capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity.”

He also called on participants in the Colloquium “to lift up yet another truth about marriage: that permanent commitment to solidarity, fidelity, and fruitful love responds to the deepest longings of the human heart.” This is especially important for young people “who represent our future.” Finally, Pope Francis said the family is not an ideological concept, but an “anthropological fact.” That is, the family is not a “conservative” or a “progressive” notion, but is a reality that transcends ideological labels.

During his recent trip to Manila, Francis held a meeting with 20,000 Filipino families in which he blasted the “ideological colonization” of the family. It refers to the strongly held belief among many Catholics in places such as Africa, Latin America, and Asia that Western governments and NGOs, as well as international bodies such as the United Nations, are using their control over development aid to impose their agendas. That same night in Manila, Francis again departed from his prepared text to offer a strong defense of Pope Paul VI and his controversial 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae that upheld the contraception ban.

“He (Paul VI) had the strength to defend openness to life at a time when many people were worried about population growth.”

On the return flight from Manila to Rome, Francis gave a long answer to a question asked of him about the meaning of ideological colonization. He told a story from his time as an Argentinian bishop about a government education minister needing a loan to build schools for the poor, and getting an offer on the condition that textbooks in these schools contain references to “gender theory.” This phrase refers to the idea that sexual identity is a social construct, not part of any natural law, and thus all types of sexual orientations and behaviors are perfectly acceptable. Francis described this colonization as an assault on the right of peoples to make their own choices and to preserve their own identity.

Some headlines from that in-flight news conference focused on the pope’s green light to limit the size of Catholic families, in part because he served up an irresistible sound-bite: “To be good Catholics, we don’t have to breed like rabbits.” Yet as insiders parse the pope’s words, they’ll discover that he was in no way talking about contraception, since he once again praised Paul VI and even said that Pope Paul was trying to ward off a “neo-Malthusian” ideology of population control.

Holy Family 4Family as Domestic Church

The family functions as a small “domestic church” that can be a privileged route to evangelization. Cardinal Kasper has spoken and written about the rediscovery of the “gospel of the family,” the vision of the family in the Book of Genesis and in God’s plan. Kasper reflects on the structures of sin within the family, including family problems, tensions between men and women, and the suffering of women and mothers. But Cardinal Kasper also said that the main purpose of his now well-known address to the cardinals in consistory in February 2014 was to deepen the theological understanding of challenges facing the family, ahead of the first synod on that subject to be held in the Vatican last October. While the Church must remain faithful to its teaching on the indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage, it is vital to “help, support, encourage” those experiencing difficulties in their family life. “The Church has to be close to them, to help, support and encourage them, to find a way between ‘rigorism’ (strictness) – which cannot be the way of normal Christians – and a pure ‘laxism’ (leniency) …I think this can be the only approach of the Church today…”

Pope Francis and Cardinal Kasper maintain the full teaching of the Church but the teaching has to be applied to concrete situations, as Jesus did and as Pope Francis does very often. The doctrine of the Church is not an ideology in the clouds. It’s about a God who wishes to be present and close to his people. Since the topic of this presentation is about challenges facing marriage and family life. I would like to propose to you several Scripture passages for your consideration. Passages which remind us that though we should strive for the highest ideals, we must also recognize and accept people where they are at.

Emmanuel, the Prayer and the Promise

Matthew’s infancy narrative (1:1-25), provides a wide-angle view of the Incarnation event, against a rich, biblical panorama. More than Mark and Luke, Matthew stresses the Jewish origin of Jesus: the genealogy presents him as “son of David, son of Abraham” (1:1) and goes back no further. Matthew is concerned with 14 generations, probably because 14 is the numerical value of the Hebrew letters forming the name of David.

While the genealogy shows the continuity of God’s providential plan from Abraham on, discontinuity and irregularity are also present. The women Tamar (1:3), Rahab and Ruth (1:5), and the wife of Uriah, Bathsheba (1:6), bore their sons through unions that were in varying degrees strange and unexpected.

These “irregularities” culminate in the great “irregularity” of the Messiah’s birth of a young virgin. Matthew has drawn our attention to the peculiarities of these biblical women of the Old Testament, perhaps in order to warn us that something even stranger is coming, or perhaps to enable us, when the news is announced, to connect it with God’s strange way of operating in the past. Our God writes straight with crooked lines, and Jesus’ genealogy is living proof of that fact!

From Joseph’s perspective

Matthew’s story is told from Joseph’s point of view, while the more familiar account from Luke is told from the perspective of Mary. Joseph, a righteous man, is presented as a devout observer of the Mosaic Law (1:19). His betrothal to Mary was the first part of the marriage, constituting a man and woman as husband and wife. Subsequent infidelity was considered adultery. Some months after the betrothal, the husband would take his wife into his home, at which time normal married life began. Joseph’s decision to divorce Mary is overcome by the heavenly command that he take her into his home and accept the child as his own. The natural genealogical line is broken, but the promises to David are fulfilled; through Joseph’s adoption the child belongs to the family of David.

Joseph protected and provided for Jesus and Mary. He named Jesus, taught him how to pray, how to work, how to be a man. While no words or texts are attributed to him, we can be sure that Joseph pronounced two of the most important words that could ever be spoken, when he named his son “Jesus” and called him “Emmanuel.” At Christmas Eve each year, it becomes clear to us that the story of the birth of a baby in Bethlehem was no idyllic country folk tale. It was the true fulfillment of the hopes and longings, dreams and desires of the people of ancient Israel.

What do we learn from this powerful story of Jesus’ origins? God never abandons humanity, but rather enters into all that frequently makes life on earth so difficult. In the name “Emmanuel,” we find the answer to humanity’s deepest longings for God throughout the ages. Emmanuel is both a prayer and plea on our behalf, and a promise and declaration on God’s. When we pronounce the word, we are really praying and pleading: “God, be with us!” And when God speaks it, the Almighty, Eternal, Omnipresent Creator of the world is telling us: “I am with you” in this Child. The name Emmanuel is also alluded to at the end of Matthew’s Gospel where the Risen Jesus assures his disciples of his continued presence: “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (28:20).

The Future of Humanity Passes Through the Family
Reflection on the Holy Family

There is a Gospel story unique to Luke (2:41-52) that relates an incident from Jesus’ youth. Luke’s infancy narrative, however scarce in details concerning the first part of Jesus’ life, mentions that “his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover” (2:41), an indication of their piety, and of their fidelity to the law and to the tradition of Israel.

“When Jesus was 12 years old, they went up according to custom. When they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, without his parents knowing it” (2:42-43). After searching for three days, “they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (2:46). Jesus’ mysterious words to his parents seem to subdue their joy at finding him: “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (2:49) The later question can also be translated, “Did you not know that I must be immersed in my Father’s work?” In either case, Jesus refers to God as his Father. His divine sonship, and his obedience to his heavenly Father’s will, take precedence over his ties to his family.

Apart from this event, the whole period of the infancy and youth of Jesus is passed over in silence in the Gospel. It is the time of his “hidden life,” summarized by Luke in two simple statements: Jesus “went down with [Mary and Joseph] and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them” (Luke 2:51); and “He progressed steadily in wisdom and age and grace before God and men” (Luke 2:52). With this episode, the infancy narrative ends just as it began, in the setting of the Jerusalem Temple. We learn from the Gospels that Jesus lived in his own family, in the house of Joseph, who took the place of a father in regard to Mary’s Son by assisting and protecting him, and gradually training him in his own trade of carpentry. Indeed, the people of the town of Nazareth regarded him as “the carpenter’s son” (Matthew 13:55), asking with surprise: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?” (Mark 6:3).

Besides his mother, they mentioned also his “brothers” and his “sisters,” who lived at Nazareth. It was they who, as the evangelist Mark mentions, sought to dissuade Jesus from his activity of teaching (Mark 3:21). Evidently, they did not find in him anything to justify the beginning of a public ministry. They thought that Jesus was just like any other Israelite, and should remain such.

Does the story sound familiar? The anxiety and misunderstanding experienced by the Holy Family should not be hidden from families today that experience similar situations. We have often presented the Holy Family of Nazareth as the picture perfect snapshot of family life, without any blemish or difficulty. When we connect people with the real, daily life situations of the Holy Family, and allow the utter humanity of Mary, Joseph and Jesus to shine through, contemporary families will look to them for inspiration, intercession and hope.

In the midst of last October’s Extraordinary Synod, Peter Manseauoct wrote an article for the New York Times in which he asked the fundamental question: What is a Catholic Family?” (NYT October 17, 2014), He concluded his article with these words:

“…a woman who conceived a child before she was married, a chaste stepfather who nearly divorced her as a result, and that original sign of contradiction, the human son of God. A church that claims to descend from this most untraditional of domestic arrangements might ask itself: Was any family ever more irregular than that?”

It was through the irregularity at the beginning, ordinary daily living, and daily acts of faithfulness, kindness, generosity and love that surrounded Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Mary, that provided for him a beautiful environment in which to grow and mature. Holiness flows from wholeness and goodness.

School of Nazareth

The moving words of Pope Paul VI spoken in Nazareth on January 5, 1964, are a beautiful reflection on the mystery of Nazareth and of the Holy Family. His words inspire all of us to imitate God’s family in their beautiful values of silence, family life, and work. He said:

Nazareth is a kind of school where we may begin to discover what Christ’s life was like and even to understand his Gospel. Here we can observe and ponder the simple appeal of the way God’s Son came to be known, profound yet full of hidden meaning.

First we learn from its silence. If only we could once again appreciate its great value. We need this wonderful state of mind, beset, as we are, by the cacophony of strident protests and conflicting claims so characteristic of these turbulent times. The silence of Nazareth should teach us how to meditate in peace and quiet, to reflect on the deeply spiritual, and to be open to the voice of God’s inner wisdom and the counsel of his true teachers. Nazareth can teach us the value of study and preparation, of meditation, of a well-ordered personal spiritual life, and of silent prayer that is known only to God.

Second, we learn about family life. May Nazareth serve as a model of what the family should be. May it show us the family’s holy and enduring character and exemplifying its basic function in society: a community of love and sharing, beautiful for the problems it poses and the rewards it brings – in sum, the perfect setting for rearing children – and for this there is no substitute. 

Finally, in Nazareth, the home of a craftsman’s son, we learn about work and the discipline it entails. I would especially like to recognize its value – demanding yet redeeming – and to give it proper respect. I would remind everyone that work has its own dignity. On the other hand, it is not an end in itself. Its value and free character, however, derive not only from its place in the economic system, as they say, but rather from the purpose it serves.

Holy Family 3Contemporary Challenges for Marriage and Family Life

As bishops, priests and the entire Christian community, and as society in general, we must do more to encourage the committed relationship of man and woman that remains so basic to all civilizations, and has proven to be the best support for the rights and needs of children. The Christian family is no longer capable of singularly transmitting the faith to the next generation, and neither is the parish, even though it continues to be the indispensable structure for the Church’s pastoral mission in any given place. As the keystone of society, the family is the most favorable environment in which to welcome children.

We must reflect carefully on the social consequences involved in the redefinition of marriage, examining all that is entailed if society no longer gives a privileged place and fundamental value to the lifelong union of a man and a woman in matrimony. Care must be taken with the language we use to describe these consequences. Parishes, dioceses, and lay movements that do not have creative pastoral strategies and vocational programs about marriage for young people leave the door open to tremendous moral confusion and misunderstanding, misinformation, emptiness.

At the same time, we cannot forget that other bonds of love and interdependency, of commitment and mutual responsibility exist in society. They may be good; they may even be recognized in law. They are not the same as marriage: they are something else. No extension of terminology for legal purposes will change the observable reality that only the committed union of a man and a woman carries not only the bond of interdependency between the two adults, but the inherent capacity to bring forth children.

“The future of humanity passes through the family,” as Saint John Paul II would say so often. The foundation of society is the family. And the foundation of the family is marriage. The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman. The family is the most favorable environment in which children can be born and raised. We need young adults to say “I do” with joy, conviction, faith, and hope. They are our future and our hope. Without married people, we cannot build the future of society and the Church. Without committed, married people, our world will not give rise to the holy families of today.

The recently published Directory for Homilies includes two sections on marriage and family life:

From the Directory for Homilies

  1. The institution of the family faces great challenges in various parts of the world today, and it is entirely appropriate for the homilist to speak about these. However, rather than simply giving a moral exhortation on family values, the preacher should take his cue from the Scripture readings of this day to speak of the Christian family as a school of discipleship. Christ, whose birth we are celebrating, came into the world to do the will of his Father, such an obedience that is docile towards the movements of the Holy Spirit has a place in the life of every Christian family. Joseph obeys the angel and takes the Child and his Mother into Egypt (Year A); Mary and Joseph obey the Law by presenting their Baby in the Temple (Year B) and going on pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover (Year C); Jesus for his part is obedient to his earthly parents, but his desire to be in his Father’s house is even greater (Year C). As Christians, we are also members of another family, which gathers around the family table of the altar to be fed on the sacrifice that came about because Christ was obedient unto death. We should see our own families as a domestic Church in which we put into practice the pattern of self-sacrificing love we encounter in the Eucharist. Thus all Christian families open outward to become part of Jesus’ new and larger family: “For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (Mk 3:35).
  1. This understanding of the Christian meaning of family life assists the preacher in speaking about the reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians. The Apostle’s instruction that wives should be subordinate to their husbands can be disturbing to people of our day; if the homilist does not plan to speak about this directive, it might be more prudent to use the shorter version of the reading. However, the difficult passages of Scripture often have the most to teach us, and this reading provides an opportunity for the homilist to address a theme that may be uncongenial to modern ears, but which in fact does make a valuable and necessary point when properly understood. We can gain insight into the meaning of this text by consulting a similar one, Eph 5:21-6:4. There also Paul is speaking about the mutual responsibilities of family life. The key sentence is this: “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:21). The originality of the Apostle’s teaching is not that wives should be submissive to their husbands; that was simply presumed in the culture of his day. What is new, and distinctively Christian, is, first, that such submission should be mutual: if the wife is to obey her husband, the husband in turn should, like Christ, lay down his very life for his wife. Secondly, the motive for this mutual subordination is not simply for the sake of harmony in the family or the good of society: no, it is made out of reverence for Christ. In other words, mutual submission in the family is an expression of Christian discipleship; the family home is, or should be, a place where we manifest our love for God by laying down our lives for one another. The homilist can challenge his hearers to make real in their own relationships that self-sacrificial love which is at the heart of Christ’s life and mission, and which we celebrate in our “family meal” of the Eucharist.


We need new strategies, new language, and creative pastoral outreach to encourage young adults to consider sacramental marriage and family life. We must develop better methods of evangelization and catechesis to convince young adults that marriage is good, beautiful and worthwhile! We must discover new avenues of communication and outreach to those recently married. What do we provide for them? How do we thank the thousands of couples who, day in and day out, before our very eyes, lay down their lives for others and serve the Lord and their families with great generosity. And let us never forget those who have loved and lost, and those who have suffered the pain of separation, divorce and alienation. May our field hospitals provide for them healing, consolation and loving welcome.

Pope Francis reminds us each day in word and by his actions of the importance of being close to people and accompanying them along the way. In Evangelii Gaudium, Francis devotes much attention to the homily at mass. I consider this a brilliant pastoral strategy to reach people today and let them know of the beauty of marriage and family life.

“The homily joins the living hearts of the Lord and his people. The people are silent and listen as God speaks.”

“The preacher is called to recognize in the people the living water of their faith and culture; where the desire for God is ardent and alive, as well as where the dialogue with God has broken down.”

“The Church preaches as a mother. There is trust in children when their mother speaks. Both mother and child listen to each other. Their conversation can lead to learning and correction.”

“Our preaching is to be maternal: close to the people, with a warm tone of voice, unpretentious and joyful.”

“When Jesus preached he looked beyond the weaknesses and failings of the people. He preached with mercy and kindness. He was filled with the joy of the spirit. He preached the truth with the beauty of images.”

“Our challenge as preachers is to communicate the truth of God’s love and to encourage the joyful living of good lives.”

“Our task is to help our people desire the joy of God’s embrace.”

Dressing Properly for the Feast

Jesus at Table cropped

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – October 12, 2014

Matthew’s parable of the wedding feast and the declined invitations (22:1-14) is the last of three successive parables of judgment (beginning in 21:28) against Israel, especially her leadership. There are obvious connections among the three parables. Each has an “authority figure” (father, landowner, and king respectively). “Sons” or “a son” appear in all three. The second and third parables share the two groups of slaves and the severe judgment against those who oppose the son.

In today’s parable, the king represents God; the son, Jesus; and the wedding banquet, the time of divine-human celebration symbolized by the kingdom. The beautiful spousal imagery of the Lord (YHWH) and Israel (Hosea 2:19-20; Isaiah 54:4-8; 62:5) provides a rich, biblical backdrop. Today’s story incorporates two favourite Old and New Testament images: a feast and a marriage.

Matthew has provided many allegorical traits to today’s story, e.g. the burning of the city of the guests who refused the invitation (22:7), which corresponds to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD. It has similarities with the preceding parable of the tenants: the sending of two groups of servants (22:3, 4), the murder of the servants (22:6), the punishment of the murderers (22:7), and the entrance of a new group into a privileged situation of which the others had proven themselves unworthy (22:8-10). The parable ends with a section that is very peculiar to Matthew (22:11-14) which some take as a distinct parable on its own.

Matthew’s parable appears in significantly different form in Luke 14:16-24. Today’s story most likely comes from “Q,” a hypothetical written source for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. “Q” (short for the German Quelle or “source”) is defined as the “common” material found in Matthew and Luke but not in the Gospel of Mark. This ancient text supposedly contained the logia or quotations from Jesus.

The King’s Feast

In today’s story, the king has gone to great trouble preparing a wedding feast for his son, slaughtering enough oxen and fatted calves to feed several hundred people. It was not uncommon in Jesus’ day that invitations would be sent out in two instalments: first, a general invitation to a future event; then, on the day itself or just before, a “reminder” to come since everything was prepared for the celebration. Not only do the guests refuse, but some of them seize the king’s messengers and kill them. In response, the king sends his troops to burn their city. Then he sends out another invitation requesting that all persons – the “good” and the “bad” – be brought to the celebration.

The succession of invitations corresponds to God’s declaration of truth concerning his Kingdom and his Son – first to Israel and then to the Gentile nations. Matthew presents the Kingdom in its double aspect: already present and something that can be entered here and now (22:1-10); and something that will be possessed only by those present members who can stand the scrutiny of the final judgment (22:11-14).

Proper attire for the feast

Matthew’s addition of the guest without the wedding garment (22:11-14) can certainly leave the reader perplexed. I remember my first reaction to reading about this poor man without the proper vesture. Who is this king who dared to ask the poor man: “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” Was it not the king who commanded his slaves to go out to the highways and byways and bring in anyone they could find? How then could the king be so cold and harsh to someone who has been “rounded up” for the royal feast, without even having the time to procure clean and proper clothing?

It is important to recall that this story is an allegory and doesn’t necessarily follow normal ways of thinking and acting. Some scholars believe that the king provided the proper attire for his guests. It is not surprising then that the king becomes furious upon seeing a man improperly attired. This shows that this man deliberately refuses to receive the generous gesture of the king in providing proper attire.

The garment of righteousness and holiness

The parable of the wedding feast is not only a statement of God’s judgment on Israel but a warning to Matthew’s Church. As early as the second century, Irenaeus wrote that the wedding garment signified works of righteousness. The wedding garment signified repentance and a change of heart and mind. This is the condition for entrance into the Kingdom and must be continued in a life of good deeds.

The saying: “For many are called, but few are chosen” (22:14), should not be taken as a forecast of the proportion of the saved to the damned. Rather the saying is meant to encourage vigorous efforts to live the Christian life. The wedding feast is not the Church but the age to come. Matthew’s parable confronts us with the paradox of God’s free invitation to the banquet with no strings attached and God’s requirement of “putting on” something appropriate to that calling. Who are the many and the few concerning the wedding garment? Are there some people God doesn’t choose? How is being chosen different from being called?

The wedding garment of love

Let us consider the moving words of St. Augustine of Hippo in his sermon (#90) on today’s Gospel passage:

What is the wedding garment that the Gospel talks about? Very certainly, that garment is something that only the good have, those who are to participate in the feast… Could it be the sacraments? Baptism? Without baptism, no one comes to God, but some people receive baptism and do not come to God… Perhaps it is the altar or what a person receives at the altar? But in receiving the Lord’s body, some people eat and drink to their own condemnation (1 Corinthians 11:29). So what is it? Fasting? The wicked also fast. Going to church often? The wicked go to church just like others…

So what is this wedding garment? The apostle Paul tells us: “What we are aiming at… is the love that springs from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). That is the wedding garment. Paul is not talking about just any kind of love, for one can often see dishonest people loving others… but one does not see among them this love “that springs from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith. ” Now that is the love that is the wedding garment.

The apostle Paul said: “If I speak with human tongues and angelic as well, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal… If I have the gift of prophecy and, with full knowledge, comprehend all mysteries, if I have faith great enough to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-2). He said that even if he had all that, without Christ “I am nothing.” It would be useless, because I can act in that way for love of glory… “If I have not love, it is of no use.” That is the wedding garment. Examine yourselves: if you have it, then come to the Lord’s banquet with confidence.

Invite everyone to the banquet

Let us consider section #22, “Evangelizers and Educators as Witnesses,” of the Lineamenta for the 2012 Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization:

The formation and concern needed to sustain those already engaged in evangelization and recruiting new forces should not be limited simply to practical preparation, albeit necessary. Instead, formation and pastoral care is predominantly to be spiritual in nature, namely, a school of faith, enlightened by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and under the guidance of the Spirit, which teaches people the implications of experiencing the Fatherhood of God. People are able to evangelize only when they have been evangelized and allow themselves to be evangelized, that is, renewed spiritually through a personal encounter and lived communion with Jesus Christ. Such people have the power to transmit the faith, as St. Paul the Apostle testifies: “I believed, and so I spoke” (2 Cor 4:13).

The new evangelization, then, which is primarily a task-to-be-done and a spiritual challenge, is the responsibility of all Christians who are in serious pursuit of holiness. In this context and with this understanding of formation, it will be useful to dedicate space and time to considering the institutions and means available to local Churches to make baptized persons more conscious of their duty in missionary work and evangelization. For our witness to be credible, as we respond to each of these areas requiring the new evangelization, we must know how to speak in ways that are intelligible to our times and proclaim, inside these areas, the reasons for our hope which bolsters our witness (cf. 1 Pt 3:15). Such a task is not accomplished without effort, but requires attentiveness, education and concern.

Questions for reflection this week

  1. Do our Christian communities plan pastoral activity with the specific aim of preaching conformity to the Gospel and conversion to Christianity?
  1. What priority have individual Christian communities placed on the commitment to attempt bold new ways of evangelization? What initiatives have been most successful in opening Christian communities to missionary work?
  1. How do the local churches view the role of proclamation and the necessity of giving greater importance to the genesis of faith and the pastoral programme for baptism?
  1. How are our Christian communities displaying their awareness of the urgency of recruiting, forming, and supporting persons to be evangelizers and educators through the witness of their lives?

[The readings for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time are: Isaiah 25:6-10a; Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20; and Matthew 22:1-14.]

This reflection first appeared on the Zenit International News Service in 2011 as well as on the Salt + Light Blog. The complete collection of reflections for Year B, entitled “Words made Flesh,” is now available in book form through our online store. Book editions for Year A and C reflections are coming soon.

The Original Dynamic Duo

During my research for the Church Alive series I came across this epic CNS file photo of Pope Paul VI and Cardinal Karol Wojtyla. The photo’s caption reads, “Paul VI, who served in Poland during his early priesthood, held the future Pope John Paul II in high regard.” Not only do they both look like don dadas, but they’re the original dynamic duo when it comes to the Second Vatican Council. Although John XXIII called the Council, Paul VI was the person who actually did all the work. He’s responsible for promulgating the major documents that came out of the Council. Pope John Paul II, moreover, was the person who enacted the Council’s vision throughout his reign as one of the longest serving pontiffs in Church history.

So if you want to know what the New Evangelization is, just take a page out of either one of these men’s lives. I highly recommend Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi: although this document was penned just under forty years ago, it reads as if it was written yesterday.

And if you really want to up your game, check out the Church Alive series! This is a sure way to level up when it comes to this huge and sometimes intimidating topic. Included in our DVD set is a 75-page study guide which is very handy literally and figuratively: its small and fits in the palm of your hand and it gives you all the goods like bios, resources, synopses, and study questions.

As Robin would say: Holy History, Batman!


Credit: CNS file photo

Following Jesus implies suffering and a cross

Get Behind Me cropped

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – August 31, 2014

Today’s Gospel from Matthew 16:21-27 presents us with the first prediction of Jesus’ passion. It follows the story told in Mark 8:31-33 and serves as a corrective to the misunderstanding of Jesus’ Messiahship as solely one of glory and triumph. Matthew’s account of the first passion prediction is also about the sufferings of the Son of Man. In the New Testament Greek text, Matthew’s formulation is almost identical with the pre-Pauline fragment of the kerygma in 1 Corinthians 15:4 and also with Hosea 6:2, which many take to be the Old Testament background to the confession that Jesus was raised on the third day.

By his addition of the words “from that time on” (16:21), Matthew has emphasized that Jesus’ revelation of his coming suffering and death marks a new phase of the Gospel. Immediately following Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus “began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (16:21). We are told that in response to Jesus’ statement, Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you” (16:22). But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things” (16:23).

Peter’s refusal

Peter’s refusal to accept Jesus’ predicted suffering and death is seen as a satanic attempt to deflect Jesus from his God-appointed course, and the disciple is addressed in terms that recall Jesus’ dismissal of the devil in the temptation account (Matthew 4:10: “Get away, Satan!”). Peter’s satanic purpose is emphasized by Matthew’s addition to the Marcan source of the words “You are a stumbling block to me.” A readiness to follow Jesus even to giving up one’s life for him is the condition for true discipleship, which will be repaid by the Lord at the final judgment (16:24-28).

What is behind Peter’s refusal to accept Jesus’ suffering and death? Peter gives voice to the bewilderment and dismay of the other apostles at Jesus’ announcement of his imminent passion. “This cannot be, Lord! This should not be! It just isn’t fair or right!” Such a reaction portrays Peter’s and our own inability to understand the mystery of God at work in Jesus, and in our lives. Peter and the others are confronted with the harsh reality of God’s designs, completely unacceptable from the perspective of human logic. To undergo great suffering at the hands of the religious authorities, to take up a cross, to be killed – is this all part of Jesus’ package? Are there no incentives or benefits? Wouldn’t it be better to erase the cross and suffering from the whole plan? Is it really necessary? Is Jesus experiencing some form of depression in saying these things?

From “Rock” to scandalon

Just last week at Caesarea Philippi, Peter was called “Rock.” Now he is called scandalon – a stumbling block or stone! Jesus reminds Peter that he understands nothing of the reality and mystery of God’s designs for him and for us!

Jesus tells his disciples if they want to become his followers, they must deny themselves, and take up their cross, and follow him (16:24). What does it mean, “to deny oneself”? To deny someone is to disown him and to deny oneself is to disown oneself as the centre of one’s existence. Think for a moment of Peter who would later deny his friend and Lord – “I do not know him!” (26:74) It means precisely that for us as well. To deny myself means that I no longer know myself, I no longer take my own life into account, I no longer think of myself – I am no longer at the centre of my universe. But the action does not stop there: the whole force of this injunction rests on Jesus’ invitation “Follow me.” Everything said before and after are the necessary prerequisites for being able to love Jesus and stay with him, and to continue staying with him.

Following Jesus

This teaching of Jesus to the small group of the Twelve can be summarized as follows: “Whoever has accepted the personal call to follow me, must accept me as I am.” Following Jesus implies suffering and a cross! The mark of the Messiah is to become the mark of his disciples! They are to get behind him and follow him as he goes up to Jerusalem.

That which gives fullness of meaning to the cross is to carry it behind Jesus, not in a journey of anguished solitude, hopeless wandering or rebellion, but rather in a journey sustained and nourished by the presence of the Lord. Jesus asks us to courageously choose a life similar to his own. Those who would follow Jesus cannot avoid suffering. God’s ways are not our ways – today we are encouraged to conform our ways to God’s.

Discerning God’s will

Since Christ marks the termination of the Mosaic Law as the primary source of guidance for God’s people, the Apostle Paul explains in his letter to the Romans (12:1-2) how Christians can function – in the light of the gift of justification through faith – in their relation to one another and to the state. The Mosaic code included elaborate directions on sacrifices and other cultic observances. The Gospel, however, invites believers to present their bodies as a living sacrifice (12:1). Instead of being limited by specific legal maxims, Christians are liberated for the exercise of good judgment as they are confronted with the many and varied decisions required in the course of daily life. Paul invites Christians to be “transformed by the renewal of their minds, so that they may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (12:2).

Grasping the mystery of Christ

In his homily at the concluding Mass of World Youth Day at the Cuatro Vientos Airforce base in Madrid, Spain on Sunday, August 21, 2011, Pope Emeritus Benedict said this of our belief in Jesus Christ:

Faith is more than just empirical or historical facts; it is an ability to grasp the mystery of Christ’s person in all its depth. Yet faith is not the result of human effort, of human reasoning, but rather a gift of God: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.” Faith starts with God, who opens his heart to us and invites us to share in his own divine life. Faith does not simply provide information about who Christ is; rather, it entails a personal relationship with Christ, a surrender of our whole person, with all our understanding, will and feelings, to God’s self-revelation. So Jesus’ question: “But who do you say that I am?”, is ultimately a challenge to the disciples to make a personal decision in his regard. Faith in Christ and discipleship are strictly interconnected.

And, since faith involves following the Master, it must become constantly stronger, deeper and more mature, to the extent that it leads to a closer and more intense relationship with Jesus. Peter and the other disciples also had to grow in this way, until their encounter with the Risen Lord opened their eyes to the fullness of faith.

Dear young people, today Christ is asking you the same question which he asked the Apostles: “Who do you say that I am?” Respond to him with generosity and courage, as befits young hearts like your own. Say to him: “Jesus, I know that you are the Son of God, who have given your life for me. I want to follow you faithfully and to be led by your word. You know me and you love me. I place my trust in you and I put my whole life into your hands. I want you to be the power that strengthens me and the joy which never leaves me.”

The Church’s fundamental mission

Returning to the Lineamenta for the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization that took place in October 2012, we find a striking connection between today’s Gospel reading and section #10, entitled “The First Evangelization Pastoral Solicitude and the New Evangelization”:

The new evangelization is the name given to the Church’s project of undertaking anew her fundamental mission, her identity and reason for existence. Consequently, it is not limited to delineated, well-defined regions only, but is a way to explain and put into practice the apostolic legacy in and for our times. In the project of the new evangelization, the Church desires to bring her unique message into today’s world and the present discussion, namely, to proclaim the Kingdom of God, begun in Christ Jesus. No part of the Church is exempt from this project. The Christian Churches of ancient origin must deal with the problem of the many who have abandoned the practice of the faith; the younger Churches, through the process of inculturation, must continually take measures allowing them to bring the Gospel to everyday life, a process which not only purifies and elevates culture, but, above all, opens culture to the newness of the Gospel. Generally speaking, every Christian community must rededicate itself to its programme of pastoral care which seems to become more difficult and in danger of falling into a routine, and thus little able to communicate its original aims and goals.

A new evangelization is synonymous with mission, requiring the capacity to set out anew, go beyond boundaries and broaden horizons. The new evangelization is the opposite of self-sufficiency, a withdrawal into oneself, a status quo mentality and an idea that pastoral programmes are simply to proceed as they did in the past. Today, a “business as usual” attitude can no longer be the case. Some local Churches, already engaged in renewal, reconfirm the fact that now is the time for the Church to call upon every Christian community to evaluate their pastoral practice on the basis of the missionary character of their programmes and activities.

Questions for reflection this week

1) What have been the principal obstacles and the most challenging efforts to raise the question of God in today’s world? What have been the results of asking such a question?

2) Have I ever “rebuked” God for an outcome or situation I wasn’t expecting? In the end, what did I learn from this experience? Did I grow from it?

3) Do my expectations of who Jesus is and what he wants from me keep me closed and resistant to anything beyond those boundaries? How do I form my ideas of Christ and His will? What are they grounded in – the truths transmitted by the Catholic faith, or something else?

4) When do I make sacrifices for my faith, my family, or others? Are they done grudgingly or with an attitude of joy?

[The readings for the Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time are: Jeremiah 20:7-9; Roman 12:1-2; and Matthew 16:21-27.]

This reflection first appeared on the Zenit International News Service in 2011 as well as on the Salt + Light Blog. The complete collection of reflections for Year B, entitled “Words made Flesh,” is now available in book form through our online store. Book editions for Year A and C reflections are coming soon.

Do Monkeys Go To Heaven?

Do Monkeys Go To Heaven?

“Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them.” Psalm 111:2

Do Monkeys Go to Heaven?  And by that I don’t mean you and me. Real monkeys, you know the ones that climb in trees or apparently pose for selfies (true story).  Well, that’s the question posed by a new book by Fr. John McCarthy, SJ an expert in boreal forest ecology. The book is a compilation of his musings on everything from Our Lady to monkeys, and everything in between.  Although the title of the book suggests something light and cheeky, I’d liken reading this book to the delight of eating a chocolate cake (only to realize it was actually a bowl of bran).  The ol’ bait and switch, in a good way.  I enjoyed it so much that we’ll feature Fr. John McCarthy and his book Do Monkeys Go to Heaven on an upcoming episode of Catholic Focus, so stay tuned for that!

Even though concerns about the environment are pressing, let’s get real, the minute you pull out a long list of encyclicals one should read (and no, Church nerds I’m not talking to you here) most people’s first reaction is “ain’t nobody got time for that. No matter how much you admire the Popes, or the Church, or monkeys.

And herein lies the rub…

Although these encyclicals are great, can you imagine reading a 32 page blog or 60 000 character tweet?  Consider today’s mediums, the reality is people’s attention spans are growing shorter and shorter.   When it comes to the written medium, it’s a situation of diminishing returns; the more one writes, the less one is inclined to read.  So perhaps, it’s time to the get back the basics. As St. Paul says, there are two books by which we can come to know God, the book of nature and the good book.  And what better way to contemplate the divine than with the rediscovery of awe?  I suspect that’s what Jesus meant when he invited us to become like children; it’s an invitation to childlike curiosity and wonder at the goodness of the created order. It’s only when you see how smart ravens really are, or delight in the superb complexity of a beetle that your imagination gets fired up and you start asking the really important questions – why do we exist, and how did we get here?  It’s then that you intuit that creation is precious and fragile and that our fate as human beings is intricately intertwined with the environment – but enough from me; I’ll leave the last word to the Pixies.

Okay I have to add one more thing: another great resource for those who want to get a crash course in how the new evangelization can be a bridge between the church’s theology of creation and the growing concern for the environment is the Church Alive Series Episode 12. We’ve even short listed the encyclicals, in our super-nifty study guide, just in case you wanted to get into the meaty stuff. We promise you won’t be disappointed!

Thanks to Cardinal Donald Wuerl

sebastian with wuerl


The following is the thanks expressed by Sebastian Gomes to Cardinal Donald Wuerl on behalf of Salt + Light Television and Assumption University for his talk, which made up part of the Faith and Culture series presented by Assumption University.

Thank you very much Your Eminence…

By way of conclusion, I have the privilege of thanking the Cardinal for his wonderfully insightful lecture.

On the night of February 28th (when Pope Benedict officially stepped down from office) I had the opportunity to interview Cardinal Wuerl, who was one of the few Cardinals who made himself available to the media for comment that night.

The mood was incredibly heavy.  People were walking slowly through St. Peter’s Square and looking up at the Apostolic Palace where the Pope’s study and bedroom are.  Typically the lights are on until about 10 o’clock.  But, of course, the they were off that night and the apartment was empty.  Everyone in Rome felt empty, and uncertain about the future.  We didn’t know what was going to happen, but we knew things were going to be different.

I asked Cardinal Wuerl, “How do you feel, having witnessed all of this, knowing Pope Benedict, and now turning to the daunting task of electing his successor?”

To my surprise, he looked at me and smiled and said, “Sebastian, I have so much hope at this moment!”  I was taken aback!  I said to myself, “really?!  I wasn’t expecting to hear that.”  05 Sebastian thanking Cardinal Wuerl

He continued, “What Pope Benedict has taught us through this incredibly humble gesture, is that we can and should do things differently.  That we don’t have to be afraid, because the Lord is with us.”

Through the whole process of the papal transition, that for me, was one of the most profound lessons in ecclesiology.  Even in that sad, empty moment, when nothing was certain, you taught us that a deep faith is always hopeful, always forward looking, always focused.

Again tonight you’ve shared your deep wisdom and faith with us:

–          The need to renew our faith, especially in our day-to-day activities

–          The importance of content: that there is a profound substance in the Revelation that is carried forward through history in the Apostolic Tradition

–          For reminding us that we are very concretely connected to Jesus

Recognizing simplicity, clarity, confidence, humility and joy in knowing God loves each of us and every person in this world is a good place to start when it comes to the New Evangelization.

So, on behalf of Assumption University and Salt and Light Television, I thank you for your brief but wonderful visit; for your tireless work for the Gospel and for the Church; for being a shepherd of the New Evangelization.  Thank you!

The Challenges and Joys of the New Evangelization


By His Eminence

Donald Cardinal Wuerl

Archbishop Of Washington


Christian Culture Series

Assumption University

Windsor, Canada

Sunday, December 1, 2013, 3:00 P.M.

            Before I begin these reflections on “The Challenges and Joys of the New Evangelization” I want to thank Father Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., the President of Assumption University, for the invitation to be a part of this series.  I also want to express my great admiration for him, his extraordinary ministry in the Church, his leadership of Salt and Light Media and his unique role in the recently concluded Synod on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.

There is a very real sense in which Father Rosica and Salt and Light Media were truly the voice and vision to the world of  02 Sebastian Cardinal Wuerl Fr. Rosica 1 the Synod on the New Evangelization.  I also want to recognize Mr. Sebastian Gomes, Salt and Light Producer.  I am grateful to Assumption University for providing me this opportunity to speak about the New Evangelization.

We have three realities that help us focus on what is the New Evangelization and how it is lived today.  The first of these obviously is the Synod on the New Evangelization that was held in Rome in October of 2012. 

Secondly, we must see the efforts of the New Evangelization now through the lens of Pope Francis who assumed the office of Bishop of Rome and Shepherd of the Universal Church in March of 2013.  Finally, we have the document that reflects the work of the Synod and the mind of Pope Francis, the recently published Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium.

Nine months ago the whole world was focused on the chimney at the Sistine Chapel in Rome.  Some 5,500 journalists were accredited to the Holy See as world media awaited the white smoke. 

 Between the time that the smoke appeared and Pope Francis stepped onto the balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica about an hour passed.   Yet the Square was filled with people chanting, Viva il Papa! – Long live the Pope!”  Even before they knew who he was the crowds were elated because, once again, we have a Pope.  Their voices highlighted the understanding of Catholics around the world of the importance of the Pope.  He is the link of continuity connecting us today with Peter and therefore with Jesus, his Gospel, his death and Resurrection.

 But a whole new dimension of appreciation for the Pope became apparent with Pope Francis’ new style.  He began with a simple “Buona sera” – “Good evening” that has had a ripple effect through the Church. 

 This engaging informal style is captured in scene after scene as our Holy Father wades into the crowds of pilgrims at Saint Peter’s Square blessing the sick, hugging children, and joining in “selfies,” the picture taken with him by people holding their own phone camera. 

 Everywhere we see the Pope’s smile reflecting his joy.  It is not that he is giving us new teaching about the Gospel.  Rather he is showing us a new way of doing the Gospel. 

 But the wider background for everything that Pope Francis proclaims, that the New Evangelization is all about and that Evangelii gaudium announces with insistence is the challenging secularism that dominates modern culture.  In his first apostolic exhortation, Pope Francis notes some challenges of today’s world.  “The process of secularization tends to reduce the faith and the Church to sphere of the private and personal.  Furthermore, by completely rejecting the transcendent, it has produced a growing deterioration of ethics, a weakening of the sense of personal and collective sin, and a steady increase in relativism” (64). 

It is against this conditioning of human thought summed up in words like “secularism” and “relativism” that the proclamation of the Gospel – the New Evangelization proceeds.

 A number of years ago I was invited to speak at the Catholic Center at Harvard University.  The designated theme was “The Role of Faith in a Pluralistic Society.”  At the conclusion of my presentation, a man who self-identified as an atheist and who taught in the law school was the first to present a question.  He asked, “What do you people think you bring to our society?”  The reference to “you people” was to the front row of the audience that was made up of representatives of a variety of religious traditions all of whom were in their appropriate identifiable robes. 

Since he was a lawyer, I asked if he would mind if I answered his question with a question of my own.  When he nodded in agreement, I asked: “What do you think the world would be like if it were not for the voices of all of those religious traditions represented in the hall?  What would it be like if we did not hear voices in the midst of the community saying, you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness?  What would our culture be like had we not heard religious imperatives such as love your neighbor as yourself, do unto others as you would have them do to you?  How much more harsh would our land be if we did not grow up hearing, blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the peacemakers?  What would the world be like had we never been reminded that someday we will have to answer to God for our actions?”

To his credit, the man who asked the question smiled broadly and said, “It would be a mess!”

What the Church Offers

The Church brings what it has always brought an invitation to faith, an encounter with Christ, a whole way of living.

Yet the Christian way of life and the Gospel vision of right and wrong, virtue and God’s love all seem to be eclipsed by a strong secular voice that comes even from some within the Church that find the Church’s perennial teaching somehow distasteful. 

So pervasive is this “other message” that today many never even get to hear the truth, richness and joy of the authentic Gospel of Christ.

The Context of Our Faith Experience

and Proclamation

The context then of the New Evangelization and the very reason why we repropose our Catholic faith to the world around us and of which we are a part is, as successive popes have indicated, the secularism that is now rapidly enveloping our society and our Western culture.

Pope Francis has noted the spiritual poverty of our time, which is the “tyranny of relativism,” as well as one of the most dangerous pitfalls of our time, “a one-dimensional vision of the human person, according to which man is reduced to what he produces and consumes” (March 20, 2013).  Shortly after his election he said, “We know how much violence has been produced in recent history by the attempt to eliminate God and the divine from the horizon of humanity, and we experience the value of witnessing in our societies to the original opening to transcendence that is inherent in the human heart” (March 20, 2013).

These challenges must be overcome by a fullness of faith which overflows into the very society in which we live. As the Pope said, “Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel.”

New Evangelization – A Definition

 It is against this background – a diminished appreciation of the faith – that we were called to a Year of Faith and an ongoing New Evangelization.

The New Evangelization is a term that has become very familiar in the Church today.  Blessed John Paul II began, more than three decades ago, to speak of the need for a new period of evangelization.  He described it as announcement of the Good News about Jesus that is “new in ardor, method and expression” (Address to the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM), March 9, 1983). 

Pope Benedict XVI affirmed that the discernment of “the new demands of evangelization” is a “prophetic” task of the Supreme Pontiff (Caritas in veritate, 12).  He emphasized that “the entire activity of the Church is an expression of love” that seeks to evangelize the world (Deus caritas est, 19). 

Likewise, in continuity with his predecessors, Pope Francis calls us to the work of the New Evangelization.  This was also a major initiative of his when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires.  As in his ministry there, already we can see as a hallmark in this papacy the emphasis that the Church “go out” into the world, to not stay wrapped up within herself, but to go out to give to people the beauty of the Gospel, the amazement of the encounter with Jesus.  I think we are going to have, as we move forward, a time of blessing, a time of renewal, of looking to the future to bring that New Evangelization to the hearts of people we know.

From October 7 through October 28, 2012, in response to the Pope’s invitation, over 250 bishops from around the world, together with nearly 100 men and women, representative of the Church, religious communities and expertise in various related areas, gathered for the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.

At the Mass on Sunday, October 28 at Saint Peter’s Basilica for the closing of the synod, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on some aspects of the New Evangelization.  He spoke of the three areas and dimensions of the work of sharing and living the Gospel. 

In Evangelii gaudium, Pope Francis quotes at length from Proposition 7 of the Synod on the New Evangelization.  He also quotes from the homily of Pope Benedict XVI at the Mass for the Conclusion of the Synod.  The New Evangelization, he said, “applies, in the first instance, to the ordinary pastoral ministry that must be more animated by the fire of the Spirit.”  We shall return to this point when we look at all of the ways in which we can be engaged in our own parish life, in renewing our faith and helping to fan into flame the embers of the Holy Spirit that animates the Church.

The second aspect of the New Evangelization, the Pope points out, is the Church’s task “to evangelize, to proclaim the message of salvation to those who do not know Jesus Christ.”  This we traditionally refer to as the “missio ad gentes” or “mission to the nations.” We all recall the terms “foreign missions” and “mission lands.”  The Pope went on to say that there were still many regions “whose inhabitants await with lively expectation, sometimes without being fully aware of it, the first proclamation of the Gospel.”  The essential missionary work continues as it always has.

A new dimension of the misso ad gentes is, of course, the realization that many of the people from lands that were once described as “foreign missions” now live with us – in our neighborhoods – next door to us.

The third aspect, the Pope notes in his homily, concerns “the baptized whose lives do not reflect the demands of baptism…the Church is particularly concerned that they should encounter Jesus Christ anew, rediscover the joy of faith and return to religious practice in the community of the faithful.”  We all know people – friends, colleagues, even family members – who are a part of this group.

At its heart the New Evangelization is the reproposing of the encounter with the Risen Lord, his Gospel and his Church with those who no longer find the Church’s message engaging.  Pope Francis, in his apostolic exhortation says, “I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: ‘Being a 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’ (Deus Caritas Est)” (7).

As we look at how we repropose the encounter with Jesus and how we can take it upon ourselves that responsibility, I believe there are three distinct, but interrelated stages the renewal of our faith both intellectually and affectively,               a new confidence in the truth of our faith and a willingness to share it with others.

The New Evangelization begins with each of us taking it upon ourselves to renew once again our understanding of the faith and our appropriation of it in a way that embraces the Gospel message and its application today.  The Gospel offers humanity a different way of seeing life and the world around us.  We bring a fuller vision of life than that offered by an individualistic secular society that lives as if God did not exist.

In the Sermon on the Mount presented in Matthew’s Gospel, we hear of a new way of life and how it involves the merciful, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who mourn, the peacemakers, the poor in spirit.  Here we learn of the call to be salt of the earth and a light set on a lamp stand.  Later in that same Gospel, we hear the extraordinary dictum that we should see in one another the very presence of Christ.  Jesus’ disciples are challenged to envision a world where not only the hungry are fed, the thirsty are given drink, the stranger is welcomed and the naked are clothed, but also most amazingly sins are forgiven and eternal life is pledged.

For the Christian, there is a whole new way of seeing reality – experiencing life.  We see with the eyes of faith and thus experience so much more.  It is precisely through that lens that we see the world around us and seek to invite others to experience with us the joy of Jesus Christ. 

In his apostolic exhortation, Pope Francis puts it this way, “All of [the practical implications for the Church’s mission today] help give shape to a definite style of evangelization which I ask you to adopt in every activity which you undertake.  In this way, we can take up, amid our daily efforts, the biblical exhortation: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say: Rejoice’ (Phil 4:4) (18).”   

When we speak of faith, we use the word in two ways, really. We use it to speak of the act by which we place our trust in God. We accept God’s word; we accept Jesus. We “have faith.” Some people call this trust a “leap” of faith, because there is no way to prove that it is actually God who is speaking to us. We can cite evidence and point to the authority of reputable people—saints and scholars—but we’re never going to be able to demonstrate with mathematical precision that the Almighty has spoken to us in revelation. We choose to trust God’s ways of communicating.

But faith has another sense. We use the term to mean, not only the act of believing, but also the facts we believe in. Thus, we speak of “the Catholic faith,” or simply “the faith.”

It is one thing to say, “I place my faith in Jesus. I believe him.” But faith requires more. Faith requires us to ask the follow-up question: Well, what did Jesus say? What is the content of the message that he revealed and taught? And that brings us back to the Creed.

 Every Sunday at Mass, we recite the words of the Nicene Creed. Each of us makes a personal and public commitment of faith, in the presence of our neighbors. We say, “I believe” to a rather long list of demanding propositions. “I believe . . .” in one God who is three divine persons, in a fatherly God who relates to me as his child; in a God who became man, in a God who continues to act through the Church, in a God who will raise me, body and soul, from the dead.

 When we stop to think about any one of these propositions, we can identify with the man in the Gospel who “cried out” to Jesus, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). For we know, as that man knew, that we all need help. The truths of our faith are demanding. They are more than words, more than boxes we must check so that we can call ourselves Catholic. They are living truths that are meant to make a difference in our lives.

Faith has a language all of its own.  It speaks to us of a realm, a world, a reality all of its own.  We should not be surprised that when we try to get beyond this immediate material world into the transcendent world of the Spirit, we find our words inadequate.  So we have to use special words with unique meaning. 

Precisely in order to understand what it is that Jesus is revealing to us, we turn to his Church and the continuous apostolic tradition in the Body of Christ to clarify, reaffirm and assure us of what it is Jesus says to us.

A deepened appreciation for our faith should lead us to a new level of confidence in its truth.  The words of the Gospel are the words of everlasting life.  The teaching of the Church is God’s word applied to our day.  We need to be confident that we stand in the truth so that we are not shaken by every challenge to the Gospel message. 

The wide spread and deep seeded hesitancy among Christians to speak up and even stand up for the faith, for our Christian heritage and the values it brings to our world, is one of the marked signs of our time.  Or at least it is part of the inheritance of several generations of questioning the validity of our message that has left many Christians shy. 

It is precisely the recovery of confidence in the truth of the Gospel that is a part of the new Pentecost we are experiencing today and the partial explanation for why so many young people are once again turning to the Church, her Gospel, her message.  

Out of our knowledge of the faith and our confidence in it, we should be prepared to share it with others.  This can take place in many ways.

We are called to re-propose Christ as the answer to a world staggering under the weight of so many unanswered questions of the heart. We are called to be missionaries in the circumstances of our day with all of its challenges, within the context of the lives of the people who receive the message.

Theological Foundations

Because the New Evangelization seeks to increase people’s understanding of the faith, its theological foundations are very important.  These foundation blocks are all the more significant today because of the need to bring back into equilibrium the balance between the proper understanding of the individual and the correct appreciation of the obligations of the collective society in civil terms and ecclesial communion in spiritual terms.

Among the theological foundation blocks, I would include the Anthropological, the Christological, the Ecclesiological and the Soteriological foundations which we will briefly examine.

(1) Anthropological Foundation of the New Evangelization

Human beings, made male and female, are by their nature social beings, created in the image and likeness of the Triune God who is Love and Truth.  Thus, we are made to live in relationship and community.

Thus, the New Evangelization must point to the dignity of the human person, whose inherent nature is not to exist in solitude, as merely an individual closed-in on himself, but in solidarity with others.  In short, we call for an authentic humanism, for man to be true to his nature, which is to love and be loved in truth.

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 and the harmony that should exist among peoples.  We must speak with conviction to a doubting civil society about the truth and integrity of realities such as marriage, family, the natural moral order, and objective right and wrong.

(2) Christological Foundation of the New Evangelization

“Who do you say that I am?” asked Jesus.  Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13-16)

The New Evangelization is the re-introduction, the re-proposing, of Christ, the center of our faith – who Christ is, his relationship to the Father, his divinity and humanity, the reality of his death and Resurrection, and his sending of the Holy Spirit.  We are summoned to stand as one with Peter and, like him, profess that Jesus is Lord.

Our proclamation is focused on Jesus, his Gospel and his way.  Christian life is defined by an encounter with Jesus.  When our Lord first came among us, he offered a new way of living.  The excitement spread as God’s Son, who is also one of us, announced the coming of his kingdom.

The Gospel that Jesus Christ came to reveal is not information about God, but rather God himself in our midst. God made himself visible, audible, tangible.  In return, he seeks our love.

(3) The Ecclesiological Foundation of the New Evangelization

 The New Evangelization must also clearly explain the necessity of the Church for salvation.  The Church is not just one way among many to reach God, all of them equally valid.  While the Lord does wish all to be saved, he specifically established the Church to continue his living and saving presence. 

Our understanding of the nature and significance of the Church explains why the missionary activity of the Church is essential to her identity.  The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity (Ad Gentes) and subsequent documents such as Evangelii Nuntiandi (1975) of Pope Paul VI and Redemptoris Missio (1990) of Blessed John Paul II all insist that essential to the mission of the Church is the work of bringing every individual into communion with the divine persons revealed in Jesus Christ. 

In Evangelii gaudium, Pope Francis tells us, “The Church’s closeness to Jesus is part of a common journey; “communion and mission are profoundly interconnected.”  In fidelity to the example of the Master, it is vitally important for the Church today to go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear” (23). 

The Pope goes on to say, “The Church which ‘goes forth’ is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice” (24).   

(4) Soterological Foundations of the New Evangelization

Intrinsic to understanding God’s presence with us today is understanding what we mean by his kingdom.  The kingdom of God is manifest in his Church, but will reach its final fullness only in glory at the end of time.  Thus, even though it is unfashionable to do so, we must speak the truth regarding sin and judgment after death, with the possibility of hell, but we also speak the truth of heaven through redemption in Christ, that God sent his Son into this world to offer us forgiveness of sin and new life.

Where the Work of the New Evangelization Takes Place:

Particular Churches and Parishes

 The Holy Spirit is the principal agent of evangelization, and pours out many gifts to guide the Church in her mission.  The New Evangelization impels all of us to use this grace to discover fresh resources, to open original avenues and to summon new strength to advance the Good News of the Lord.

This brings us to a reflection on where, within the Church, the work of the New Evangelization takes place.  One of these places deserves special mention: the particular church, or diocese and its expression in the parish. 

Parishes, gathered in communion with the bishop, are natural centers of the New Evangelization because they “offer opportunities for dialogue among men, for listening to and announcing the Word of God, for organic catechesis, for training in charity, for prayer, adoration and joyous Eucharistic celebrations” (Prop. 26).

Across this country, parishes need to be invited into a process whereby they collectively undertake a review of their vitality.  In the Archdiocese of Washington, we have initiated a parish-by-parish self-evaluation around five principles of ecclesial life: worship, education, service, community and stewardship.  Collectively we call these points the “Indicators of Vitality.” 

For sure the light of Christ already shines brightly in each parish.  Yet all of us recognize there is more to be done.  Our efforts at a New Evangelization call us to look deeper into the vitality of our faith as it is expressed and lived in our parishes and in the homes of the faithful. 

 Penance – The Sacrament of the New Evangelization

The Sacrament of Penance looms large in the renewal of the life of the Church and particularly in proclaiming the Good News.  The forgetfulness about God that is the result of secularism has included a dramatic decrease over the years in people going to Confession.  Accordingly, the Synod Fathers saw Penance as the sacrament of the New Evangelization because it offers us “a new and personal encounter with Jesus Christ, as well as a new encounter with the Church, facilitating a full reconciliation through the forgiveness of sins.  Here the penitent encounters Jesus and at the same time he or she experiences a deeper appreciation of himself and herself” (Prop. 33).

Pope Francis tells us, “Now is the time to say to Jesus: ‘Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you.  I need you.  Save me one again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace.’”  Pope Francis goes on to remind us, “Christ, who told us to forgive one another ‘seventy times seven’ (Mt 18:22) has given us his example: he has forgiven us seventy times seven” (3).

A particularly effective pastoral initiative is entitled “The Light is On for You.”  At the heart of this program is the commitment of a diocesan Church to see that on a specific evening during the week at a given time, confessions will be heard in all of the churches across the diocese.  In this way, the people will have an opportunity no matter where they are to avail themselves of this sacrament.

In a public way, the campaign highlights the importance of the sacrament of Reconciliation and our need for God’s help, love and mercy.  Some people have experienced the joy of returning to the sacrament after not having gone to Confession for decades.  That symbol of the light on in churches provides people with a beacon of hope, reconciliation, and healing.

What are some of the qualities required for the new evangelizer today?

Many can be identified, but four stand out: (1) boldness or courage, (2) connectedness to the Church, (3) a sense of urgency, and (4) joy.

In the Acts of the Apostles, the word that describes the Apostles after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is “bold.”  Peter boldly stands up and preaches the Good News of the Resurrection. Paul boldly announces the Word in frenetic movement around the world.  Today, the New Evangelization must show a similar boldness born of confidence in Christ.  We cannot be lukewarm, but must be on fire with the Spirit. 

The new evangelizers also need a connectedness with the one Church, her one Gospel and her pastoral presence.  The authentication of our message of everlasting life depends on our communion with the Church and solidarity with her pastors.  In this, you – the members of the Ordinariate – can provide, and have already provided, an especially credible witness from your steadfast efforts at unity in the Body of Christ.

Another needed quality is a sense of urgency, as we see in Mary’s Visitation to Elizabeth.  The Gospel recounts how Mary set off in haste on a long and difficult journey.  There is no time to be lost because the mission is so important.

Finally, when we look around and see the vast field waiting for us to sow seeds of new life, we must do so with joy.  Our message should be one that inspires others to follow us along the path to the kingdom of God.  Ours is a message to Rejoice! Christ is risen, Christ is with us!

Evangelii gaudium begins with the announcement, “The Joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus…In this exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy…” (1). 

Pope Francis keeps lifting up this theme over and over again.  He tells us how Jesus’ “message brings us joy: ‘I have said these things to you, so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.’ (Jn 15:11)”   The Pope quotes Jesus saying “‘But I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you’ (Jn 16:22)” (5).  That joy must be our joy. 


This is a new moment in the life of the Church, a new Pentecost. It is our turn now, to reinvigorate our faith, not only today, but every day and every year, and to share it with others.

Always be open to the gift of the Spirit.  It is the movement of the Spirit that has led you along this path, it is the nudging of the Spirit that brings you to this moment and it is in the outpouring of the Spirit that you will walk united with Christ at the service of his Bride the Church.

It is our turn in the long history of the Church simply to believe and proclaim: Christ has died, Christ is risen,             Christ will come again.

Thank you.