St. Patrick: Saint for the New Evangelization and Missionary Model for Today
contemporary Christian circles that anyone could follow Jesus and not "need" the Church.
Saint Cyprian (A.D. 258) wrote, "He who has turned his back on the Church of Christ shall not come to the rewards of Christ; he is an alien, a worldling, an enemy. You cannot have God for your Father if you have not the Church for your mother. Our Lord warns us when He says: `he that is not with Me is against Me, and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth.' Whosoever breaks the peace and harmony of Christ acts against Christ; whoever gathers elsewhere than in the Church scatters the Church of Christ." (On The Unity of the Catholic Church)
We are called to love the Church with the affection of sons and daughters; she is our "mother." We were reborn in the fount of Baptism as through a second womb. We live our Christian life now always as a part of the Church. To belong to the Head means to be a member of His Body. The Church is not some-thing, but Some-One, in whom we now live and breathe and have our being. As members of the Church we are passing through a time of purification and preparation. Hopefully, it is bringing us to our knees. It is only there we will find what we need. The Church has undergone similar purifications and reform many times over two thousand years. Her hull may be battered but she is still the Ark of Salvation.
Church history demonstrates that such seasons of purification are followed by times of great restoration and revival for the Church. So it will be in our day. This Church called Catholic is not a mere human institution. If it were, it would have shipwrecked long ago. The contemporary culture has lost its way, throwing off almost every remnant of Christian influence. It has embraced a new paganism. What Pope Benedict calls the "Dictatorship of Relativism" is the bad fruit of a rejection of truth.
The West has embraced a practical atheism. It is Eden's error written large in an age which has rejected God and His plan. Like Cain, western culture wanders aimlessly in a land of Nod, East of Eden. America consistently polls as one of the most "religious" of the Nations of the West but has little evidence of the influence of religious faith in its daily life. Alasdair MacIntyre once exclaimed, "The creed of the English is that there is no God but it is wise to pray to him from time to time." This is the "creed" of the West. Religion is acceptable in America as long as it is kept "private."
However Christianity can never be kept "private." It must be given away in love. The Church exists to evangelize. The Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ is profoundly public. Only a holy, faith filled Catholic Church can bring the current culture of death, use and darkness to a conversion and transformation. This is the task of the "New Evangelization." Given the current state of moral decline we need to view the entirety of the American continent as missionary territory, ripe for the New Evangelization. We also need to view the once Christian Nations of the European continent as mission territory. Most importantly, we need to view ourselves as missionaries in a new missionary age.
The Lord of the harvest is calling workers to the New Evangelization of His Church. Then, as loyal sons and daughters of that Church, He is calling us into the fields of contemporary culture which are ripe and ready for harvest. St. Patrick stands as a model of just how we must pursue this mission. Like so many, I paid my tribute to him this year with my article entitled A New Springtime for the Church of Ireland: Who is this Saint Named Patrick and Why Does it Matter?
We need to learn from the Apostle to Ireland. When Patrick landed in Ireland in 432, tasked by the Holy Spirit with evangelizing a pagan people, he drew from a deep, living, dynamic faith. He understood well the challenge he faced. He had been held captive as a prisoner in that land. He knew the culture, the Druids who ruled it, and the realities he faced in a hostile culture. But, more importantly, he knew the Lord whom he served and he was unafraid. History records that Patrick had a missionary strategy, and it bore extraordinary fruit. We need to follow his example as we set about the missionary task entrusted to us in this hour.
When he entered into a district, he would first preach the Gospel to the Chieftains and, following their custom, offer them a gift to honor them. Only a few were converted, but Patrick knew exactly what he was doing. He would ask for two favors, for a plot of land upon which to build a church and permission to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ - as fully revealed in the Catholic Church - to the people. Both would be granted.
Historic accounts revealed that he would then go to the sons and daughter of the rulers. He wrote in his Confession " Wherefore, then in Ireland, they who never had the knowledge of God, but until now only worshipped idols and abominations - now there has lately been prepared a people of the Lord, and they are called children of God. The sons and daughters of the Irish chieftains are seen to become monks and virgins of Christ."
We have a similar task in the West. We need to learn a lesson from this great missionary. He saw what was good in the culture and "baptized" what could be redeemed. He respected the civil order, but never compromised the faith. Then, he won the next generation by preaching the Gospel without compromise and letting the Holy Spirit work.
As a result, all of Ireland became Christian! From its beautiful shores western civilization, rooted in the Christian faith and the Catholic Church, advanced to change the whole world. The Gospel took root in the Celtic culture, transforming it from within as leaven in a loaf. Ireland came to be known as the "island of saints and scholars". Even now, in the midst of its travail and the purification underway in the Church in Patrick's homeland, it can - and it will - rise once again in Christ!
We need the Saint Patrick's of our age to rise to the hour in this new missionary age. After all, the same God whom Patrick served is still at work, pouring out His Spirit and calling men and women to be fishers of men in this Third Christian Millennium.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: St. Patrick, St Patricks Day, Ireland, erin go bragh, Irish, New Evangelization, missionary, preaching, lay faithful, Pope Benedict XVI, Year of Faith, Deacon Keith Fournier
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