Living the New Evangelization
4/1/2010by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson
During the season of Lent, many dioceses, parishes and Catholic organizations run programs to bring lapsed Catholics back to the Church. Such programs are to be applauded.
But as good — and even necessary — as these programs are, they often do not address the root of the problem: No one leaves the Catholic Church if Jesus Christ has changed his or her life and continues to be at its center.
Of course, we each bear responsibility for our lives and our choices. As in the parable of the seeds in Chapter 8 of Luke’s Gospel, for many reasons, faith sometimes grows cold or is lost altogether.
Reaching lapsed Catholics is important, and it requires a commitment to what Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have called a new evangelization.
In an address to catechists and teachers Dec. 12, 2000, Cardinal Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — said this:
“We can see a progressive process of de-Christianization and a loss of the essential human values, which is worrisome. A large part of today’s humanity does not find the Gospel in the permanent evangelization of the Church: That is to say, the convincing response to the question: How to live?
“This is why we are searching for, along with permanent and uninterrupted and never-to-be-interrupted evangelization, a new evangelization, capable of being heard by that world that does not find access to ‘classic’ evangelization. Everyone needs the Gospel; the Gospel is destined to all and not only to a specific circle, and this is why we are obliged to look for new ways of bringing the Gospel to all.”
Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI have understood the need for a new discourse — an increased focus on the Eucharist, the sacraments and the liturgy — communicated by those who have a true relationship with Christ.
As Cardinal Ratzinger said a decade ago: “This is why we are in need of a new evangelization — if the art of living remains an unknown, nothing else works. But this art is not the object of a science — this art can only be communicated by [one] who has life — he who is the Gospel personified.”
How should this evangelization be “new”? For one thing, it must include the laity. Every member of the Knights of Columbus has a role in demonstrating what Pope Benedict refers to as the joy that comes from saying “yes” to Jesus Christ. And our role as witnesses of the Catholic faith to the next generation has never been more important.
A new Knights of Columbus/Marist poll revealed a combination of hopeful news and areas of concern for the Catholic Church among young Catholics. Encouragingly, the survey found that among young Catholics — not just practicing Catholics — 85 percent believe in God. Their top two priorities are marriage and closeness to God. Eighty-two percent think marriage is undervalued, and more than 60 percent think abortion and euthanasia are morally wrong.
That’s the good news. But what’s worrisome is that 61 percent believe Catholics can practice more than one religion; about two-thirds identify themselves as more “spiritual” than religious; and 82 percent see morals as relative.
For them, and all who have lost the faith, we must be “the Gospel personified.” As Catholic laymen, Knights of Columbus have a key part to play.
Pope Benedict laid out a plan for this new evangelization in a speech to the Scottish bishops this past February. He said: “The Church offers the world a positive and inspiring vision of human life, the beauty of marriage and the joy of parenthood. … Be sure to present this teaching in such a way that it is recognized for the message of hope that it is. All too often the Church’s doctrine is perceived as a series of prohibitions and retrograde positions, whereas the reality, as we know, is that it is creative and life-giving, and it is directed towards the fullest possible realization of the great potential for good and for happiness that God has implanted within every one of us.”
Working in solidarity with our bishops and priests, we must lead by example and show the world the joy that comes from love and hope inspired by our faith.