The average Catholic has probably noticed that the term New Evangelization keeps being talked about — in the media, by bishops and very often in his or her own parish. And yet, many Catholics are still hard-pressed to describe exactly what it is.
In one of his daily Masses in the Domus Sanctae Marthae in the Vatican in the middle of April, Pope Francis gave us a very helpful clue as to what is meant by the New Evangelization. Speaking of the very early Christians in Jerusalem and the persecutions they faced after the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the Pope declared that those early Christians had nothing but “the power of baptism” that “gave them [their] apostolic courage, the strength of the Spirit.”
Add to that the proclamation of the bishops last year while they were gathered in Rome for the Synod of Bishops on the topic of the New Evangelization. Anticipating the words of the future pope, the bishops proclaimed: “It is not about starting again, but entering into the long path of proclaiming the Gospel with the apostolic courage of Paul who would go so far as to say, ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!’ [1 Cor 9:16].” Pope Benedict XVI had already recalled at the start of that synod that this 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.”
Three key features then point us to developing an authentic understanding of the New Evangelization: apostolic courage, continuity in preaching the Gospel and reigniting the Faith in places where it has declined.
To tie all of these elements together, Omar Gutiérrez, in this issue, offers a useful article on what the New Evangelization is (see Pages 10-13), how it was started and what each of us need to do to take part. As Gutiérrez makes clear, the proclamation of the Gospel — evangelization — is not an option for any of us. But we are called to be confident because we have the Cross.
Which brings me to another article in this issue that has a direct bearing on our task. Stephanie Mann, in “The Cross Triumphant” (Pages 6-8), explains why our confidence is so well-placed. Pope Benedict XVI taught, “By raising our eyes toward the Crucified One, we adore Him who came to take upon himself the sin of the world and to give us eternal life.” When we proclaim Christ Jesus, keeping our gaze upon the Cross gives us everything we could ever need. And that includes the New Evangelization. TCA
Matthew Bunson, D.Min., M.Div., is editor of The Catholic Answer and The Catholic Almanac and author of more than 40 books. He is a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and a professor at the Catholic Distance University. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.