All posts tagged: New Evangelization

“Repent and Believe”: Moral Preaching in the New Evangelization

The Archdiocese of Detroit, to which I belong, has recently taken as a motto for its New Evangelization initiative in the lead-up to a diocesan synod held in November 2016, “Unleash the Gospel.” Borrowing this motto, the idea of which is rooted in 2 Timothy 2:9—“the word of God is not chained”—my proposal is a simple one: that the whole Church is called to “unleash the Gospel” in its entirety. Put another way: what could it possibly mean to “unleash the Gospel” if we leave Our Lord’s moral teaching very much on the leash? To some readers, perhaps the idea of “leashing” the moral component of our Catholic faith sounds far-fetched. It has been my experience, however, that an increasing number of voices these days seem to downplay the role of moral preaching at this moment in the life of the Church. Some experts on the New Evangelization, which has generated its own particular rhetoric, emphasize that the Church is not “about rules” and that we must “lead with love”—i.e., offer an essentially positive message—before …

The Art and Science of Ministry

Ministry is an art and a science; it’s both at the same time. The minister may be called to shift from one to the other seamlessly, as a dancer moves from foot to foot. In a parish setting, which is where I carry out my role in the ministry of pastoral care, the movement between the two is so swift it’s dizzying. The particularities in the care of each person call on the minister to embrace the art and science of ministry and put the two into practice concurrently. Ministry is an Art. The art of ministry is like how we’ve come to think of an encounter with a painting or lovely hymns—ministry flows out of the heart and employs the gut. As we think about artists, ministers trust their instincts, hone inborn talents, and embrace uninhibited creativity. To accompany someone spiritually, what is needed is a minister who has a personal relationship with Christ, a compassionate heart, the patience to listen, and confidence in the power of prayer. The single requirement is, very simply, …

The Bread and Wine of Liturgical Evangelization

Not to put too much pressure on anyone, but after you read a few hundred pages of the Compendium on the New Evangelization and study Pope Francis’ encyclical letter The Joy of the Gospel, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the popes are expecting us to bring about, with God’s help, a total transformation of culture worldwide. This renewal of all reality is to organically grow out of the personal relationships with Christ of lay disciples who put their faith into action in our vocations of work, family, and community life. This isn’t to say that the clergy and religious don’t have a role to play. A world evangelization mission requires a laity that is formed in accordance with the Gospel and the Catechism. Thus we will be able to “Observe, Judge, and Act” our way through the myriad situations of our shared lives. That won’t happen without the experience of sacraments and especially the Mass as moments of grace, holiness, and formation. Consider two of the Americans Pope Francis recommended to us during …

The New Evangelization in Suburban Detroit: A Sociological Case Study

In response to Pope John Paul II’s call for Catholics to implement a New Evangelization (NE) in order to revitalize the Church, parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit have been attempting to implement the NE through the day-to-day efforts of parishioners, lay leaders, and pastors. In particular, beginning around 1992 and gaining momentum from around 2005 to at least 2012, evangelization committees increasingly have been formed in Detroit parishes as part of the broad push of the Catholic Church’s efforts at the NE. Among church leaders, professionals, and academics, it is often taken as common sense that if new ideas or policies need to be implemented, then they should set about the task of informing people through educational efforts. Yet field observations and the theorists I draw upon point in another direction. Rather than educational or implementation efforts guided primarily by rational communication and bureaucratic procedures, I observed affective/emotional communication and practices as more accessible, more widely shared, and as a more effective means of evangelization. In the case study that follows, participant observational methods …

Catholic Higher Education and the New Evangelization

Today courses in Catholic theology are supposed to be characterized by the New Evangelization. My contention is supported by two basic lines of evidence. First, magisterial teaching strongly testifies to the necessity of teaching theology with an evangelical orientation, including Vatican II’s Gravissimum Educationis, several documents issued by the Congregation for Catholic Education, and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s 2008 address to Catholic educators. These sources demonstrate that professors working in Catholic institutions of higher education are supposed to explain the rationale for Church teaching in the classroom. Second, I briefly outline and discuss the results from a questionnaire that I sent out to at least one theologian at every Catholic college and university in the Unites States. The results of this questionnaire indicate some hesitations about my proposal. I exposit these challenges under five broad headings and offer rebuttals to their concerns in the light of Catholic teaching. Magisterium, Universities, Evangelization One of the most important documents for understanding the role of Catholic education in the modern world is Vatican II’s Gravissimum Educationis. This Declaration …

The Word Made Beautiful: The Saint John’s Bible

Tomorrow evening, the McGrath Institute for Church Life will welcome Donald Jackson, the visionary calligrapher commissioned by St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota to create a hand-written illuminated Bible using techniques that date back centuries. Jackson will speak on the process of planning, writing, and illuminating The Saint John’s Bible, a project which took twenty-one scribes and artists sixteen years to complete. To put this into perspective, it took Michelangelo four years to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The Saint John’s Bible is a massive undertaking, miraculous even, considering the daunting physical and artistic task of writing and illuminating the entire Bible, to say nothing of the financial cost. This begs the question: why write the Bible now? Why spend millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of hours writing and illuminating texts that can be pulled up on a smartphone in seconds? What’s the point of The Saint John’s Bible? The point is this: The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul …

Henri de Lubac and the Mystical Body of Christ

The Church on earth is the visible manifestation of Christ’s love that is enfleshed between each of her members. St. Jerome described this incarnation of love in his famous phrase Corpus Christi ecclesia est, quae vinculo stringitur Caritatis—the Body of Christ is the Church, held together by the bond of charity.[1] Henri de Lubac, the twentieth century French Jesuit theologian, had a profound grasp of this concept. In my last article I wrote about making deliberate connections between the liturgical action and social action. I argued that true Catholic social teaching cannot begin unless the members of the Mystical Body are divinized or transformed in the love of Christ at the celebration of the Mass. Once this happens, the members of the Church bring Christ’s love into the world and transfigure it into the image of Christ. While the neo-scholastic Dom Virgil Michel, O.S.B. used the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas to make his argument, de Lubac engrossed himself in the Ressourcement, the movement that returned the Church to her Patristic sources. De Lubac was …

Speaking to the Heart

“I want a mess. I want to see the Church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools, or structures. We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel. It is not enough simply to open the door in welcome, but we must go out through that door to seek and meet the people! Let us courageously look to pastoral needs, beginning on the outskirts, with those who are farthest away. Go and look for them in the nooks and crannies of the streets.” —Pope Francis, World Youth Day Address (2013) Pope Francis wants a mess. He urges us to get out of our parishes and take the Gospel to the streets. While this call to evangelization has rung out from the Church throughout the centuries, it cuts especially to the heart now. This is because “more Americans today than in the past are not remaining in the …

Catholic Apologetics and the New Evangelization

Today apologetics has a questionable reputation among many Christian scholars, laypersons, and clergymen. Because Christianity is a matter of faith, the critics say, apologetics must be taken as a curious example of modern-day fundamentalism.[1] Despite the decline of apologetics after the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), the discipline seems to be making a steady comeback in certain quarters of the Church. As Avery Dulles espies, the Church is witnessing the “rebirth of apologetics.”[2] He says that a newer approach should be shaped under the theology of Vatican II. This vision of apologetics still needs to be nurtured by theologians and other intellectually engaged laypersons in the light of other prevailing activities and attitudes in the Church, including the following: “dialogue instead of apologetics,” “practical relevance instead of apologetics,” “love instead of apologetics,” “holiness instead of apologetics,” “ecumenism instead of apologetics,” “justice instead of apologetics,” etc. None of these aforementioned attitudes should negate or weaken the perennial enterprise of apologetics which can help foster the Church’s mission to evangelize the world. On the Need for Apologetics Before …

Pornography, Marriage, and the New Evangelization

This semester, I’m teaching a course in the Department of Theology on the sacrament of marriage (in addition to being in the midst of writing a book on the same topic). In pre-course preparation, I read Gail Dines’ Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality. This text has affirmed for me a thesis that is at the heart of the book that I’m writing (together with the class I’m teaching): the most difficult work in Catholic marriage formation today is counteracting a pornographic culture. This may seem like too great a claim. After all, there are plenty of things that make marriage difficult in late modern society including fear of commitment, the need to secure success in one’s life before making said commitment, and a cultural understanding of love that no human being can fulfill (“I’m looking for my soulmate”). But, pornography trumps all these. It trumps these, because it is the root of each of these cultural obstacles to the flourishing of Catholic marriage in the United States. In Dines’ Pornland, she describes how pornography can …