Implementing The New Evangelization, Now and Then

Implementing The New Evangelization, Now and Then

What’s new about the new evangelization?  What’s old about the… old evangelization?

These are among some of the many questions that people and groups are asking as they hear the call for a renewed commitment to the new evangelization. Many are now becoming interested in this “not-so-new” concept and mission. It is and it is not new…

It isn’t entirely new as if it had been barely launched with the establishment of the new Pontifical Council for Promoting The New Evangelization. The term has been used and the mission has been underway for over 25 years now – and even longer than that if one takes into account the thrust for a renewed evangelistic outreach to believers grown cold in their faith as well as to the unchurched in our midst issued in several documents of the Second Vatican Council (1960-1965), especially in Gaudium et spes, Apostolicam actuositatem, and Ad gentes.

A decade later, Pope Paul VI convened a synod of bishops on evangelization (1974) and in his post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi (1975), he spoke of the need for a new Pentecost that would usher in a “new period of evangelization” which would take into account the “new order of things”, the “new atheism”, and the “new characteristics” of the new world we are living in, giving us already a glimpse into what the new evangelization was charged with doing, when he stated: “At every new phase of human history, the Church, constantly gripped by the desire to evangelize, has but one preoccupation: whom to send to proclaim the mystery of Jesus? In what way is this mystery to be proclaimed? How can one ensure that it will resound and reach all those who should hear it?”

Pope John Paul I, in his very short papacy, also issued a call for a “full evangelization of all those who have been baptized”  (To a group of Philippian Bishops on their «ad limina» visit – September 28, 1978), stating that “Evangelization of a largely unchurched segment of our fellow citizens must be the preoccupation and goal of the Church…” (To a group of American Bishops on their «ad limina» visit – September 21, 1978)

It was, of course, Blessed John Paul II who coined the term “new evangelization” and developed it greatly throughout his long and fruitful papacy, defining the new evangelization as one that is “new in fervor, new in methods, and new in expression.” (Address to the Latin American Bishops at Port au-Prince, Haiti –  March, 1983) He went on to develop its reach by word and example, as he traveled the world over and engaged politicians and public figures, academicians and entertainers, the faithful and the unchurched,  Christians and non-Christians, whether young or old through his speeches, writings, apostolic visits, meetings, audiences, and prayers. (Read my blog entries for April 30 and May 1, 2011 for additional reflections and details.)

So, the new evangelization is not entirely new. But it is still quite new if we take into account…

…the 2011 year-old history of the Church…

…the fact that this new evangelization, in its far-reaching splendor, has yet to take root in many people’s minds and hearts…

…the fact that it is always fresh and improving and continues to expand its reach in order to respond to the growing challenges posed by new realities that threaten or disrupt the transmission of and people’s adherence to the Faith, threats and difficulties which continue to arise – and rapidly so!

I intend to write regularly about the Church’s renewed call for an expanded promotion and updated implementation of the new evangelization, one which the Church has been calling for and has actually been implementing in a number of ways over the past 25-35 years. I will look at some of the many ways in which, back then (in the late 70s, 80s, and 90s) it was promoted and implemented, as we look at newer means and methods developed over the past decade, and explore even newer avenues we are being called to pursue now to bring the message of salvation to every strata of humanity and society.

One thing is certain: the new evangelization cannot simply be implemented every now and then. No, now like then –like in the early Church and in the lives of the saints throughout the centuries we must make evangelization a way of life and evangelize at all times, in a myriad of ways. We must embrace the Lord’s call to have His own missionary spirit and go to the very ends of the earth and into every area of life and society, and there make disciples of all peoples and nations, and baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all Jesus Christ has commanded us! (cf. Mt. 28: 19-20; Acts 1:8ff)

The new evangelization is like the missionary mandate ad gentes insofar as it too requires that we commit to being full-time disciples who are also full-time missionaries. But it differs from the mission “to the nations” in this respect: we will likely not step foot out of our county or country, but will evangelize and transform society with Gospel values right here where God has placed us – at home, at work, in our neighborhood, in our places of recreation, and in whatever spheres of influence God has given us.

We will evangelize in new ways that allow us to “Gospelize” the baptized who have yet to embrace the Gospel and give their lives to Christ. We will evangelize in ways that allow us to counter the dictatorship of relativism and secularism and materialism and atheism rampant in our schools and universities, media and entertainment, government and courts, families and society in general.

For that we need to ensure we ourselves are evangelized and growing into conformity to Christ day by day.

I will write more about this, but f0r now, here is a news piece from the Vatican’s website,

From October 7 to 28, 2012, in Rome, the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will take place. Convoked by the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, on the theme of The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops published the Lineamenta, at the beginning of this year; a true vademecum on the new evangelization and a very useful and in-depth elaboration. As is known, the idea is not new: the entire pontificate of Blessed John Paul II was characterized by the leit-motiv of the new evangelization. Pope John Paul II did not fail to explain to us what he intended when he placed the adjective “new” in front of the traditional term, “evangelization”: new in ardor, new in methods, new in expressions. For an appropriate and faithful understanding of the contents of the Lineamenta, one needs to have an adequate key for reading the text. The expression, “new evangelization,” in fact, has become so common – even abused – that we run the risk of distorting its sense, or worse, reducing it to an insignificant slogan. The heart of the question of the new evangelization, writes the Cardinal, is the centrality of God in our lives. Even ecclesial movements and new communities are called to reconsider their vocation and mission in this perspective, which means serious reflection on their own identities. Undoubtedly, new ecclesial realities have demonstrated a unique capacity to liberate an unsuspected missionary interest in many, especially lay men and women, which even they did not know they possessed. Understanding this premise is absolutely necessary for the theme of the new evangelization, in order to not exploit the charismatic elements that the Holy Spirit brings out in today’s Church. Too often, we expect from them, nice “recipes” that are ready for the new evangelization, methodologies…instead, we should ask them to be ever-more collaborators of the Holy Spirit to generate true Christians. The call for a new evangelization, in fact, asks for a new way of being Christian, a new way of being Church, where the “new” is the Gospel model which is seen in the Acts of the Apostles, the strength of the Spirit which renews the entire Christian community. (Stanislaw Cardinal Rylko –

4 Responses to “Implementing The New Evangelization, Now and Then”
  1. John P. Denzer says:

    Hi Miss Martha, Pat here. I was reading the Post and it seems like you are supposed to start the new “e” starting with the Chancery. Evangelize the Chancery and from there moving on to each Parish Council. “Even ecclesial movements and new communities are called to reconsider their vocation and mission in this perspective, which means serious reflection on their own identities.” Then to Religious Communities like the Marianists at St. Marys U. and the Oblates at the Oblate School of Theology. Then laity like the Society of Mary, Acts Teams, Knights of Columbus, etc. Am I close? I like the new site. Sounds great to me.

  2. jiggourat says:

    Thanks a lot for your work. I intend to keep reading along and deepening in this issue as well!

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