On Friday, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, delivered an address on the New Evangelization to the pre-Consistory meeting of the Holy Father and the College of Cardinals during their day of prayer and reflection. Extracts of the message are included in the article plus a link to the entire presentation.
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - Editor's Note: Below is an edited text of extracts from a message given on Friday by Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan (Archbishop of New York) during the Day of Prayer and Reflection of the College of Cardinals the day before the Consistory creating 22 new Cardinals. This digest form of the talk does not do justice to the remarkable words shared with the Cardinals during this gathering; it is merely to give you a taste so that you will want to take in the entire feast. I would encourage you read the message in its entirety at Rocco Palmo's Whispers in the Loggia at the Vatican Radio website.
The Announcement of the Gospel Today, Between missio ad gentes and the New Evangelization
Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan
Holy Father, Cardinal Sodano, my brothers in Christ:
Sia lodato Gesu Cristo!
It is as old as the final mandate of Jesus, "Go, teach all nations!," yet as fresh as God's Holy Word proclaimed at our own Mass this morning.
I speak of the sacred duty of evangelization. It is "ever ancient, ever new." The how of it, the when of it, the where of it, may change, but the charge remains constant, as does the message and inspiration, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow."
We gather in the caput mundi (Ed. - "Capital of the World"), evangelized by Peter and Paul themselves, in the city from where the successors of St. Peter "sent out" evangelizers to present the saving Person, message, and invitation that is at the heart of evangelization: throughout Europe, to the "new world" in the "era of discovery," to Africa and Asia in recent centuries.
We gather near the basilica where the evangelical fervor of the Church was expanded during the Second Vatican Council, and near the tomb of the Blessed Pontiff who made the New Evangelization a household word.
We gather grateful for the fraternal company of a pastor who has made the challenge of the new evangelization almost a daily message.
Yes, we gather as missionaries, as evangelizers.
We hail the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, especially found in Lumen Gentium, Gaudium et Spes, and Ad Gentes, that refines the Church's understanding of her evangelical duty, defining the entire Church as missionary, that all Christians, by reason of baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist, are evangelizers.
Yes, the Council reaffirmed, especially in Ad Gentes, there are explicit missionaries, sent to lands and peoples who have never heard the very Name by which all are saved, but also that no Christian is exempt from the duty of witnessing to Jesus and offering His invitation to others in his own day-to-day life.
Blessed John Paul II developed this fresh understanding, speaking of evangelizing cultures, since the engagement between faith and culture supplanted the relationship between church and state dominant prior to the Council, and included in this task the re-evangelizing of cultures that had once been the very engine of gospel values. Thus, the missio is not only to New Guinea but to New York.
A towering challenge to both the missio ad gentes (Ed. - "mission to the people") and the New Evangelization today is what we call secularism. Listen to how our Pope describes it:
"Secularization, which presents itself in cultures by imposing a world and
humanity without reference to Transcendence, is invading every aspect of daily life and developing a mentality in which God is effectively absent, wholly or partially, from human life and awareness.
"This secularization is not only an external threat to believers, but has been manifest for some time in the heart of the Church herself. It profoundly distorts the Christian faith from within, and consequently, the lifestyle and daily behavior of believers.
"Furthermore, the prevalent hedonistic and consumeristic mindset fosters in the faithful and in Pastors a tendency to superficiality and selfishness that is harmful to ecclesial life." (Benedict XVI, Address to Pontifical Council for Culture, 8.III.2008)
This secularization calls for a creative strategy of evangelization, and I want to detail seven planks of this strategy.
1. . . This is my first point: we believe with the philosophers and poets of old, who never had the benefit of revelation, that even a person who brags about being secular and is dismissive of religion, has within an undeniable spark of interest in the beyond, and recognizes that humanity and creation is a dismal riddle without the concept of some kind of creator.
Yes, to borrow the report of the apostles to Jesus from last Sunday's gospel, "All the people are looking for you!"
They still are . . .
2. . . . and, my second point, this fact gives us immense confidence and courage in the sacred task of mission and New Evangelization.
"Be not afraid," we're told, is the most repeated exhortation in the Bible. After the Council, the good news was that triumphalism in the Church was dead. The bad news was that, so was confidence!
We are convinced, confident, and courageous in the New Evangelization because of the power of the Person sending us on mission -- who happens to be the second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity - because of the truth of the message, and the deep down openness in even the most secularized of people to the divine.
Confident, yes! Triumphant, never!
3. A third necessary ingredient in the recipe of effective mission is that God does not satisfy the thirst of the human heart with a proposition, but with a Person, whose name is Jesus.
The invitation implicit in the Missio ad gentes and the New Evangelization is not to a doctrine but to know, love, and serve -- not a something, but a Someone.
When you began your ministry as successor of St. Peter, Holy Father, you invited us to friendship with Jesus, which is the way you defined sanctity.
There it is . . . love of a Person, a relationship at the root of out faith.
4. Yes, and here's my fourth point, but this Person, Jesus, tells us He is the truth.
So, our mission has a substance, a content, and this twentieth anniversary of the Catechism, the approaching fiftieth anniversary of the Council, and the upcoming Year of Faith charge us to combat catechetical illiteracy.
True enough, the New Evangalization is urgent because secularism has often choked the seed of faith; but that choking was sadly made easy because so many believers really had no adequate knowledge or grasp of the wisdom, beauty, and coherence of the Truth.
And, just as Jesus tells us "I am the Truth," He also describes Himself as "the Way, and the Life."
The Way of Jesus is in and through His Church, a holy mother who imparts to us His Life.
"For what would I ever know of Him without her?" asks De Lubac, referring to the intimate identification of Jesus and His Church.
Thus, our mission, the New Evangelization, has essential catechetical and ecclesial dimensions.
This impels us to think about Church in a fresh way: to think of the Church as a mission. and each of us who names Jesus as Lord and Savior should measure ourselves by our mission-effectiveness.
...In once-catechized lands, it has meant a re-evangelization that sets out from the shallow waters of institutional maintenance, and as John Paul II instructed us in Novo Millennio Ineunte, puts out "into the deep" for a catch..
...in all circumstances, the Second Vatican Council and the two great popes who have given it an authoritative interpretation are urging us to call our people to think of themselves as missionaries and evangelists.
5. When I was a new seminarian at the North American College here in Rome, all the first-year men from all the Roman theological universities were invited to a Mass at St. Peter's with the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal John Wright, as celebrant and homilist.
We thought he would give us a cerebral homily. But he began by asking, "Seminarians: do me and the Church a big favor. When you walk the streets of Rome, smile!"
So, point five: the missionary, the evangelist, must be a person of joy.
The New Evangelization is accomplished with a smile, not a frown.
The missio ad gentes is all about a yes to everything decent, good, true, beautiful and noble in the human person.
The Church is about a yes!, not a no!
6. And, next-to-last point, the New Evangelization is about love.
In New York, the heart of the most hardened secularist softens when visiting one of our inner-city Catholic schools. When one of our benefactors, who described himself as an agnostic, asked Sister Michelle why, at her age, with painful arthritic knees, she continued to serve at one of these struggling but excellent poor schools, she answered, "Because God loves me, and I love Him, and I want these children to discover this love."
7. Joy, love . . . and, last point . . . sorry to bring it up, . . . but blood.
Tomorrow, twenty-two of us will hear what most of you have heard before:
"To the praise of God, and the honor of the Apostolic See
receive the red biretta, the sign of the cardinal's dignity;
and know that you must be willing to conduct yourselves with fortitude
even to the shedding of your blood:
for the growth of the Christian faith,
the peace and tranquility of the People of God,
and the freedom and spread of the Holy Roman Church."
Holy Father, can you omit "to the shedding of your blood" when you present me with the biretta?
Of course not! We are but "scarlet audio-visual aids" for all of our brothers and sisters also called to be ready to suffer and die for Jesus.
It was Pope Paul VI who noted wisely that people today learn more from "witness than from words," and the supreme witness is martyrdom.
Sadly, today we have martyrs in abundance.
While we cry for today's martyrs; while we love them, pray with and for them; while we vigorously advocate on their behalf; we are also very proud of them, brag about them, and trumpet their supreme witness to the world.
They spark the missio ad gentes and New Evangelization.
A young man in New York tells me he returned to the Catholic faith of his childhood, which he had jettisoned as a teenager, because he read The Monks of Tibhirine, about Trappists martyred in Algeria fifteen years ago, and after viewing the drama about them, the French film, Of Gods and Men.
Tertullian would not be surprised.
As a newly-ordained parish priest, my first pastor said to me as I went over to school to teach the six-year old children their catechism, "Now we'll see if all your theology sunk in, and if you can speak of the faith like a child."
And maybe that's a fitting place to conclude: we need to speak again as a child the eternal truth, beauty, and simplicity of Jesus and His Church.
Sia lodato Gesu Cristo!
Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online and the CEO/Associate Publisher for the Northern Virginia Local Edition of Catholic Online (http://virginia.catholic.org). He is a former Archbishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church who laid aside that ministry to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church.
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