Sunday, 17 December 2006

New Evangelisation - what's it all about?

I thought I'd try a rose pink font especially for Gaudete Sunday! A few posts ago I said I'd give some ideas on what the New Evangelisation is. I was just going through some old bits I collected when I was in seminary and came across an article on the New Evangelisation written by the then Archbishop of Valladolid, Mons. José Delicado Baeza, so as an introduction to what I mean by New Evangelisation - which I suppose will take a few posts - I thought I'd put this up first, which is a translation into English of what Mons Delicado said then. He relies heavily on the Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici. So here goes...

'"The hour has come for a new Evangelisation" writes Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici: "Whole countries and nations where religion and the Christian life were formerly flourishing and capable of fostering a viable and working community of faith are now put to a hard test, and in some cases, are even undergoing a radical transformation as a result of a constant spreading of an indifference to religion, of secularism and atheism." All this is weakening the vigour of Christian life, reducing it to mere practices, empty traditions or cultural manifestations, even for many who call themselves believers, but who have not experienced personal relationship with Christ and are not able to feel admiration for the newness of the Gospel, and so are, as it were, vaccinated against conversion and entering the Kingdom. So the Pope insists: "Only a new Evangelisation can assure the growth of a clear and deep faith, and serve to make these traditions a force for authentic freedom."(ChL 34)

'This is what the Pope said to the young people at Santiago de Compostela: "The hour has come to begin a new Evangelisation; and you cannot fail to respond to this urgent call. In this place, dedicated to St James, the first of the apostles to give witness of faith in martyrdom, let us commit ourselves to welcoming the command of Christ: 'You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth' (Acts 1.8). What does it mean to give witness to Christ? It simply means living in accordance with the Gospel: 'Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind... Love your neighbour as yourself' (Mt 22.37-39). The Christian is called to serve his brothers and society, to promote and support the dignity of every human being, to respect, defend or favour the rights of the person, to be builders of a lasting and authentic peace, based on fraternity, in liberty, in justice and in truth."

'This has to be done from the conviction of being loved by God, in that this is the new and simple message of the Good News for all men. "God loves you, Christ came for you, Christ is for you 'the way, the truth and the life!' (Jn 14.6). This new Evangelisation is directed not only individual persons but also to entire portions of populations in the variety of their situations, surroundings and cultures. Its purpose is the formation of mature ecclesial communities, in which the faith might radiate and fulfill the basic meaning of adherence to the person of Christ and his Gospel, of an encounter and sacramental communion with him, and of an existence lived in charity and in service."(ChL 34)

'Afterwards the Pope refers to the necessity of a systematic catechesis for the new generations and for adults...'

What Mons Delicado (and Pope John Paul II) picks up on here that I like as a basis for thinking about the New Evangelisation is this:
  • The emptiness of the outward forms of religion where there is no real conversion to the person of Christ.
  • The aim of the new Evangelisation is 'personal relationship with Christ' ie friendship with Christ.
  • The call to young people to be at the front of this new Evangelisation.
  • Personal faith in Christ has to be backed up by action.
Next time I'll post on the New Evangelisation as seen from a historical perspective.


Unknown said...

This new emphasis on "personal relationship with Christ" sounds quite protestant to me. Obviously it is important to have a personal living faith, but this can only happen through an encounter with Christ in the sacraments. Otherwise, like with "ecclesial communities" (ie protestant sects according to Dominus Jesus) they are simply creating a characiture of Christ to which they project their own ideas and preferences. I would be interested in some further clarification on what "personal friendship with Christ" means in relation to the unchanging teaching tradition of the Church, distinct from all the protestant ideas thrust upon us.

Fr Julian Green said...

Have a look at the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola. Hardly Protestant and hardly new and trendy. In fact, he was at the forefront of the Counter Reformation. In some ways the Counter Reformation represented a reaction against Protestantism in a negative sense, such as the controversialist theologies which just opted for a different partial reading of the Mystery from the Protestants (eg Luther said the Church is a spiritual communion so the post-Bellarminian theologians emphasised the 'perfect visible society' of the Church - neither side represented the fulness of the Mystery of the Church). However, other - mostly spiritual and apostolic - movements, such as that represented by St Ignatius went back to the basics of what it is to be Christian. If you take the Spiritual Exercises, it is all about friendship with Christ. The exercises progressively move from the consideration of sin as the barrier to that friendship, to mercy as the form of the love of Christ which is the basis of that friendship, to the Passion and Death as the zenith of that merciful love, to the Resurrection as the source of our life in the Spirit. That roughly divides into four weeks of meditations in the Spiritual Exercises.

When we refer, therefore, to friendship with Christ it is not to put forward a pseudo-Protestant form of Christian life. On the contrary, friendship with Christ is well within the Catholic spiritual tradition. I'm sure the Servant of God Pope John Paul II and our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI would not so emphasise this in their teaching if it were not well founded within the Tradition.

Furthermore, if you go back to the Scholastics, St Thomas Aquinas spoke of the fides quae and the fides qua. The teaching of the Church - objective Faith or fides quae - is sterile alone without the personal acceptance of the mystery in faith - subjective faith or fides qua. That does not mean that the fides quae and the fides qua are on the same level. In terms of hierarchy of truth, the fides quae - the objective Faith of the Church - has absolute priority. But that Faith only has the power to transform the life of the individual if it is accepted in faith, which requires both justifying and sanctifying grace. This grace is conveyed to the individual in various forms. The first grace to believe can come before one is baptised. The person who of their own free will chooses to ask for baptism does so because of a desire awakened in them by the Holy Spirit (who is uncreated grace). The fulness of justifying grace is given in the sacramental form of baptism. This sacramental grace may be accompanied by a great irruption of grace filled faith within the individual. This may be immediate. But, as with infants baptised before the age of reason, and indeed in some degree with all newly baptised Christians, that grace - although perfectly given - needs to take shape or form in life. Baptism is a sanctifying force throughout life, as is the sacramental life of the Church in its totality. For many baptised Christians, however, it is a grace which lies dormant within them, opposed as it is in their lives either by sin or at least by apathy. In this way they become 'dead members' of the Body of Christ. This is why the grace of the Holy Spirit needs to be awakened within them, so that they might fan into a flame the grace they first received in baptism. This is the aim - at least in part - of the New Evangelisation and of the call to friendship with Christ.

In summary, friendship with Christ is not about a mere subjective experience of Christ (as it may be within Protestantism), but nor is it about an external practice of faith (prayers said, sacraments received) for there are already many who are nonchalent about personal adherence to Christ who are attending Mass and receiving sacraments but not taking part in the mission of the Church, and even more who have fallen away from receiving the sacraments who will not return without that personal encounter with Christ of which I spoke.

So, it is not either/or but both/and...which is always a good pointer to what is truly Catholic. It is not either personal adherence to Christ or the sacramental life, but both are required for a true friendship with Christ. In other words, nobody can have Christ as friend without having the Church as Mother.

Unknown said...

Thanks a lot father. That is very helpful. But I still think a lot of what you have said just there is straight out of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal! But you know far more than I!

Fr Richard Aladics said...

Matt, you are very determined to get to the bottom of this. It was the Second Vatican Council and John Paul II who introduced Personalism into our Theology, not the Charismatic Renewal. Speaking about the human being as a person in his or her dignity and especially in terms of relationships. (Gaudium et Spes 22 - 24, Redemptor Hominis 9 - 10, Mulieris Digitate and many others.)A person reveals him or herself in relationship. Our first relationship - the one we have with God is founded upon our personal experience of need and openness to grace (except that sin is in the way). JPII and then, even more so, Benedict XVI has taken up the expression "Friendship with Christ" and its underlying content in order to express Grace and how it operates in humanity. Namely, through a relationship with Christ we are drawn out of ourselves and become the person who we were created to be. This is because Christ the Redeemer is a person full of grace and truth. Not only is he not wounded by sin, but he is fully alive in God; he is God. Entering into a relationship with him will not in any way distort us, but actually complete us. God has so arranged our salvation that Christ comes to us not as a heavy-handed marshall, but as a friend. So, our relationship with him, from our part, is caused by attraction and then love. His part in the relationship is one of unswerving friendship and communicating all the while truth and grace. This is what we are being taught by the present Pope. We'll put some of his stuff on this Blog in due course, but in the meantime read "Gaudium et Spes" 22 - 24. Here, man is spoken about as a prototype and Christ as the complete version. We have to come out of ourselves to him, and not to anyone else for only he is full of grace and truth.
The Charismatic Renewal have hopefully grasped this, but this understanding of grace goes far deeper than Charismatic Renewal and places a fundamental call on everyone's life. Our difficulty today is that we, persons, have been made vulnerable and timid by the force of the culture of death, and are only weakly responding with our lives, coming out of them, and living them in Him. The way we do this is not necessarily identified with Charismatic expression but is ceratinly governed by the Life of the Spirit. However, the fundamental expression of our living in Christ is a moral one and, I think, ultimately is percieved in this life as obedience of faith. In other words, when the going gets tough we still act in faith.
More later.

Unknown said...

Thank you both fathers for explaining it. As I say, I know very little, and appreciate your explanations a great deal. I'm sure that this kind of thing isn't an 'innovation' brought about in the last 40 years in that the great Saints (as Fr. Julian says) spoke about it. Vatican II was likely asserting Catholic teaching which has always been sympathetic to this, rather than inspiring the Faith with new subject matter. This I feel is truly the Church's role.