October 30, 2012 Martin Mallon (Ireland) Martin's previous articles
The closing message of the Synod of Bishops for the New
Evangelisation was issued on Friday 26 Oct. In section 3, on The
personal encounter with Jesus Christ in the Church, is stated:
We must form welcoming communities in which all outcasts find a home, concrete experiences of communion which attract the disenchanted glance of contemporary humanity with the ardent force of love – “See how they love one another!” (Tertullian, Apology, 39, 7).
It is unlikely that anyone could object to this sentence,
however, the remainder of this paragraph raises some debateable issues:
beauty of faith must particularly shine in the actions of the sacred Liturgy,
above all in the Sunday Eucharist. It is precisely in liturgical celebrations
that the Church reveals herself as God's work and renders the meaning of the
Gospel visible in word and gesture.
Is the liturgy one of the main means of evangelisation? Section 2. A new evangelization states that:
XVI recalled that it is an evangelization that is directed “principally at
those who, though baptized, have drifted away from the Church and live without
reference to the Christian life... to help these people encounter the Lord, who
alone fills our existence with deep meaning and peace; and to favor the
rediscovery of the faith, that source of grace which brings joy and hope to
personal, family and social life” (Benedict XVI, Homily for the Eucharistic
celebration for the solemn inauguration of the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of
the Synod of Bishops, Rome, 7 October 2012).
So we are in a situation where the New Evangelisation is directed at “those who, though baptized, have drifted away from the Church” and yet we are expected to believe that liturgy will bring these lapsed Catholics back to the Church, even though many will have experienced the liturgy before they left the Church and in some cases liturgy was a reason for leaving. How can they experience the liturgy if they are not physically in the Church?
course liturgy is important, but hardly for the New Evangelisation where lapsed
Catholics are the target. Apparently many of these join other Christian
denominations, especially the Pentecostals who have a much livelier liturgy than
traditional Catholics. Charismatic Catholic communities may help to stem this
particular drain, but they appear to be too small and too fundamental to have
made a huge difference to date. However, they are still growing and they are at
least an alternative to Pentecostals.
example of the Samaritan woman (cf.
4:5-42), quoted in Section 1 Like
the Samaritan woman at the well,
reveals to us that it is personal witness that evangelises: ““He
told me everything I have done”, the woman confesses to
her fellow citizens”, then
her whole village came to believe in Jesus.
first sentence quoted is correct and “We
must form welcoming communities”
Catholics and others must feel it necessary to say “See how they love one another!” But the liturgy is not going to evangelise lapsed
Catholics. Yes, once they are converted back it would help if the liturgy was
attractive and “the Church reveals herself as God's
work and renders the meaning of the Gospel visible in word and gesture.” How
to get the lapsed Catholic to partake again in the liturgy is the big question
for the New Evangelisation and unless that is acknowledged the New
Evangelisation will fail.
the Synod did point out, in Section 5.
Evangelizing ourselves and
opening ourselves to conversion,
these days voices among the Bishops were raised to recall that the Church must
first of all heed the Word before she could evangelize the world. The invitation
to evangelize becomes a call to conversion.
is little validity in attempting to convert anyone when we ourselves are not on
friendly terms with Jesus and not seeking to deepen our relationship with Him.
In addition, Section 6.
Seizing new opportunities for
evangelization in the world
notes that “It is not we who are to
conduct the work of evangelization, but God.”
Section 8. The
ecclesial community and the many agents of evangelization
we are informed that:
exhort our parishes to join the new forms of mission required by the new
evangelization to the traditional pastoral care of God's people. These must also
permeate the various important expressions of popular piety.
the same Section it is encouraging to read:
to the Gospel is not the privilege of one or of a few. We recognize with joy the
presence of many men and women who with their lives become a sign of the Gospel
in the midst of the world. We recognize them even in many of our Christian
brothers and sisters with whom unity unfortunately is not yet full, but are
nevertheless marked by the Lord's Baptism and proclaim it.
proclamation of the importance of Baptism for Christian unity as envisioned by
the Vatican II document, Lumen
Contemplating the mystery and being at the side of the poor,
the input of Cardinal-designate Chito
Tagle from Manila, states:
We must recognize the privileged place of the poor in our communities, a place that does not exclude anyone, but wants to reflect how Jesus bound himself to them. The presence of the poor in our communities is mysteriously powerful: it changes persons more than a discourse does, it teaches fidelity, it makes us understand the fragility of life, it asks for prayer: in short, it brings us to Christ.
the place of the poor in our communities and Church is highlighted and if we all
recognised the poor as Christians should, does anyone doubt the evangelical
witness this would present to the world. This must happen in every parish and
community, not just catholic hospitals and institutions.
closing message is well worth reading although there appears to be very little
new in it. The New Evangelisation reads very much like Evangelisation
and if we and our parishes were, shall we say, more Christian perhaps there would be fewer lapsed Catholics in need of the New Evangelisation.
on liturgy is going to evangelise few lapsed Catholics. Concentration on our
daily lives, ecumenism and the poor appears to be the way forward and constantly
deepening our relationship with Jesus is the engine of growth.
The closing message of the Synod of Bishops for the New Evangelization can be found here
is the final list of the propositions of the Synod of Bishops on the New
Evangelisation for the Transmission of the Christian Faith released by the Holy
See Press Office and received after the above article was written
Here is an excellent article from NCR re the Synod