By Matthew Bunson - OSV Newsweekly, 10/14/2012
Institutions marking their 100th anniversaries customarily have a party. Wise institutions reaching their centenary observe the milestone with reflection and rededication. Our Sunday Visitor took the second path in its commemoration of 100 years on Sept. 28.
With its Mass of “Thanksgiving and Rededication” and its “Continuing the Legacy” symposium, OSV chose not to congratulate itself on a century of work for the Church, but to reflect on the legacy of the apostolate and to recommit itself institutionally to the threefold call of its founder, Father (later Archbishop) John F. Noll, to apologetics, defense of the Church and evangelization.
As virtually all of the day’s speakers made clear, there are as many challenges facing the company and the wider Church today as when Father Noll founded Our Sunday Visitor newspaper in 1912. The symposium was intended to confront that reality, but also to provide unambiguous Catholic solutions. Three distinguished lecturers were invited: Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago; Helen Alvaré, professor of law at George Mason University; and Scott Hahn, professor of theology and Scripture at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
Talking about the twin challenges of scientism and fundamentalism, Cardinal George noted that while they seem on opposite ends of the spectrum, in truth they have two striking similarities — a belief in the absolute primacy of the literal and a tendency to be closed systems of thought. The latter represents what Cardinal George sees as an inability to look beyond the narrow confines of self-imposed realities and a tendency toward dogmatic intolerance of other perspectives. Cardinal George challenged Catholics to a new apologetics that includes understanding fully the positions of opponents, using a proper vocabulary in dialogue and giving responses that are positive, loving and point to the larger meaning of things within a joy-filled community open to the world but also focused on Christ.
Alvaré detailed the dangers facing society in the area of religious freedom. Her analysis reveals that the “war on women” supposedly being waged by the Church is a myth that hides an effort to reduce religious liberty and to marginalize and isolate the churches. As she warns, where there is a reduction of religious freedom there is a decline in the freedom of women as well. Tying both together, she urged Catholics not to assume that they will prevail legally but to promote a clearer understanding of authentic religious freedom, to be bold and more talented in the articulation of the Catholic position, and to remind contemporary culture that the theory of sexual expression has cheapened sex and reduced happiness for the women it was supposed to liberate.
Looking at the course of the new evangelization, Hahn called attention to the central Eucharistic reality of Catholic evangelization. To make his point, he quoted the then Bishop Francis George of Yakima, Wash., that “all evangelization proclaims who Christ is. Catholic evangelization proclaims a Eucharistic Christ.” From this, Hahn developed a poignant argument for covenantal communion that will permit Catholics to make the mystery of the Eucharist the key to a distinctly Catholic form of evangelization in the modern world.
The three lectures each reflected one of the pillars of Archbishop Noll’s call, and as the day progressed his genius and legacy were brought even further into view.
Archbishop Noll’s presence was palpable at the Mass of Thanksgiving in Fort Wayne’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception as Bishop Kevin Rhoades, bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend and chairman of the board for Our Sunday Visitor, used Noll’s chalice and crosier. The bishop also applied Archbishop Noll’s legacy to the New Evangelization and the new century dawning for Our Sunday Visitor. As he observed in his homily, “the New Evangelization has been embraced by Our Sunday Visitor as it moves into the future, seeking new ways for making the Gospel heard, seeking, as our Holy Father reminds us, to make the face of Christ seen and his voice heard in the world of the Internet and among other new forms of mass communication.”
New Evangelization role
The theme of the new evangelization was at the heart of Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli’s address at the 100th anniversary dinner. The president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications proposed that Archbishop Noll would have understood the vast cultural transformation taking place through the nexus of progress in communication and technology.
Archbishop Celli described the danger that “if the Good News is not proclaimed digitally, then we risk abandoning the many people for whom this is where they ‘live.’” There is also, he added, the need for a style of evangelization that engages people individually, is attuned to how our message is being heard and understood by different audiences, that uses a proper vocabulary, and that perceives that in the free and open digital world authority and hierarchical structures are no longer presupposed but must be earned.
Finally, Archbishop Celli held up Archbishop Noll as a model for the New Evangelization, citing his key insight that every Catholic should be an apostle and adding that OSV’s founder was convinced that people would respond well if they were approached with charity and kindness, even in the context of rigorous intellectual debate. This is the roadmap for OSV in its second century, and a sure and proven one.
Matthew Bunson is the editor of OSV’s The Catholic Answer magazine and The Catholic Almanac.
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