Mary and the New Evangelization
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By Deacon Keith Fournier
In his 1999 Apostolic Exhortation the "Church in America" Blessed John Paul II wrote, "With the passage of time, pastors and faithful alike have grown increasingly conscious of the role of the Virgin Mary in the evangelization of America. In the prayer composed for the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, Holy Mary of Guadalupe is invoked as 'Patroness of all America and Star of the first and new evangelization'."
"In view of this, I welcome with joy the proposal of the Synod Fathers that the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother and Evangelizer of America, be celebrated throughout the continent on December 12. It is my heartfelt hope that she, whose intercession was responsible for strengthening the faith of the first disciples (cf. Jn 2:11), will by her maternal intercession guide the Church in America, obtaining the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as she once did for the early Church (cf. Acts 1:14), so that the new evangelization may yield a splendid flowering of Christian life."
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Throughout his pontificate, Blessed John Paul II called for this "New Evangelization." Pope Benedict XVI made this a central pillar of his pontificate. He erected a Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization tasked with evangelizing countries where the Gospel was announced centuries ago, but where its presence in peoples' daily life seems to be all but lost. The New Evangelization invites each of us to live our baptismal vocation, no matter what our state in life, completely given over to the work of the Lord.
We do so when we live at the heart of the Church for the sake of the world. That requires a personal encounter and ongoing intimate relationship of communion with the Lord Jesus, the Savior born of Mary. One of the great disciples of our Lady in contemporary Western Church history was St. Louis de Montfort. His practice of Marian consecration, called True Devotion to Mary, had a great influence on Blessed John Paul II. He is credited with authoring this simple but profound prayer, "O Jesus, Living in Mary."
"O Jesus, living in Mary, Come and live in Your servants, in the spirit of your holiness, in the fullness of your might, in the truth of Your virtues, in the perfection of Your ways, in the communion of Your mysteries. Subdue every hostile power in your spirit, for the glory of the Father. Amen."
Over the years I have shortened this prayer and made it one of my most frequent short ejaculatory prayers throughout every day, "Oh Jesus living in Mary, come and live in me." This is the heart of the New Evangelization - that all men and women come to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and be baptized into His Body, the Church, where they can continue to grow in grace and participate in his Divine life and mission.
In the words written by the late Pope Paul VI in his Apostolic Exhortation On Evangelization in the Modern World, "There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed."
Since the Second Vatican Council in the Catholic Church we have been constantly reminded that the Church is by nature missionary and that every baptized Christian participates in her missionary activity. The New Evangelization means taking this truth to heart and living differently. Mary was the first evangelizer when she visited her cousin Elizabeth. The Child Jesus living within her evoked a response of conversion from John the Baptizer in the womb of his own mother (Luke 1:41).
The New Evangelization requires an authentic renewal of the Church so that she can undertake such a new missionary outreach to the world. Only a Church fully alive in the Lord and filled with His Spirit can carry out such an evangelical mission. Just when her opponents are ready to count the Catholic Church out, the sleeping giant is rising. The Church is Christ's plan for the entire world. Mary is the Mother of the Church, the Mother of the first evangelization and the Mother of the New Evangelization.
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This Catholic Church 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.
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 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. Going before us in prayer and example is the Virgin Mary, the Mother of the New Evangelization.
In the summer of 2011 from Castel Gandolfo, Pope Benedict XVI addressed these words to the faithful, "Today we live in an epoch of new evangelization. Vast horizons open up to the Gospel, while regions of ancient Christian tradition are called to rediscover the beauty of the faith. The protagonists of this mission are the men and women who, like St. Paul, can say: 'For me to live is Christ' -- persons, families, communities, who decide to work in the vineyard of the Lord, according to the image of this Sunday's Gospel" (cf. Matthew 20:1-16).
"Humble and generous workers, who do not ask any other recompense than participating in the mission of Jesus and the Church. If living in the body," St. Paul continues, "means working and bearing fruit, I do not know which to choose" (Philippians 1:22): full union with Christ beyond death or service to his mystical body on earth.
"Dear friends, the Gospel has transformed the world, and it is still transforming it, like a river that waters a great field. Let us turn in prayer to the Virgin Mary that in the whole Church priestly, religious and lay vocations ripen in service to the new evangelization."
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