What is the New Evangelization?
The New Evangelization is the Church’s call for us to go out and evangelize, that is, to share the Gospel, with baptized Catholics who may have heard the message of the Gospel before but need to hear it in new ways in order to be able to embrace it.
The message of the Gospel is also called the Good News of Jesus Christ, which is to say that God entered the world through Christ, who suffered and died for our sins and rose from the dead, to ensure for us the promise of eternal life. That is God’s saving promise, which is why we sometimes refer to the Gospel or Good News as the Story of Salvation. Sometimes we call it the kerygma, which is a Greek word for proclamation, because we think of this Good News as the most important of any and all possible proclamations.
The New Evangelization is about reaching out to those who have heard this Good News. It is bringing that message forward with new ardor, new methods, and new expressions, so that the people of this age are able to hear the gospel with fresh ears, and, we hope, commit or renew their commitment to being intentional disciples of Jesus Christ.
We would suggest that the Second Vatican Council was a missionary council, an evangelizing council, which started the movement of the Church towards a New Evangelization. Pope Paul VI continued encouraging us all in this direction when he wrote a document called Evangelization in the Modern World, Pope St. John Paul II explicitly called for a New Evangelization, Pope Benedict provided the framework for how we should engage in this New Evangelization, and Pope Francis is an example for all of us in how to live it out.
The New Evangelization calls each of us to deepen our faith, believe in the Gospel message, and go forth to proclaim the Gospel. In a special way, the New Evangelization is focused on offering again the Gospel to Baptized Catholics who have experienced a crisis of faith. The New Evangelization invites each Catholic to renew their relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church.
How and why do we evangelize?
We evangelize, first and foremost, through the example of personal prayer and witness in our lives. We do it because God asked us to do so when he said, at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
If we truly believe that Christ is with us, is present and active in our lives, then our lives should reflect that. When we care for each other, for our children, our neighbors, for those in need, and for strangers, we believe that we are demonstrating God’s love for us. We celebrate the power of Jesus alive among us through the sacraments of the Church, personal prayer, and through remembering and proclaiming his actions and recognizing their power at work in our lives.
We share this example and message because God’s promise of salvation is offered to everyone. Jesus Christ, as our Savior, freed us, or saved us, from sin and death. We evangelize because we want everyone to be free of sin and death and to feel the joy and happiness that is closeness to Christ, and to each other through Christ.
Please tell me more about evangelizing – it is important.
Our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, is the core of the New Evangelization, through which we teach “the art of living” (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI). The New Evangelization is an invitation to a life of discipleship with Jesus and a participation in the Kingdom of God. It seeks to call back our Catholic brothers and sisters who have fallen away from the faith in a effort to rebuild the Church with new ardor, new expressions, and new methods. “The New Evangelization calls each of us to deepen our faith, believe in the Gospel message and go forth to proclaim the Gospel.”
“Ultimately, the New Evangelization is not a set of strategies, not a set of bullet points which, if we can check them all off, we've "accomplished" the task. The New Evangelization is about one-on-one encounters, with people who are formed and trained in the art of witnessing to their faith, inviting their fellow Catholics back into a powerful and transforming love relationship with Jesus.”
Father Robert Barron, an author, speaker, and theologian, offers us ways in which we can share in this mission and become new evangelists. The following are some examples from his Word on Fire video commentary, which can be found at www.wordonfire.org:
1. Cultivate intimate friendship with the Lord through prayer and the Eucharist.
2. Be filled with ardor - be on fire - filled with enthusiasm for Christ.
3. Know the story of Israel and the role of Jesus Christ in fulfilling God’s promises.
4. Know the culture - a secular culture - and know the glory of God fully alive.
5. Know the great tradition - God’s revelation unfolding across space and time.
6. Have a missionary heart - a hunger and passion to save souls.
7. Get to know the new media - learn it and use it, get on the cutting edge.
What does an Evangelizing Parish look like?
Everything a parish does should be focused on the goal of evangelizing and making disciples. That is, sharing the message of the Gospel and bringing people closer to Christ. That is why parishes exist - they are meant to be active communities moving closer to Christ through all that they do, and most especially through the sacraments. An evangelizing parish is a parish that engages parishioners and non-parishioners, invests time and resources in them, and invites them into closer relationship with Christ.
To engage in this work effectively doesn’t mean you should present this program and not that program. It means that you should encourage active, engaged, and intentional discipleship in all that you do as a parish. This process must be grounded in Christ and must make explicit use of His name and the story of His life, death, and resurrection.
It should mean that personal prayer and witness leads to an increase in open and active discipleship, and in open and active processes of forming intentional disciples. That is, an environment that encourages and fosters disciple–making and growth in discipleship. What we are saying here is that an evangelizing parish looks like a place where people know and love Jesus, speak openly of their relationship with Him, and serve each other living in the light of that love.
This one goal, evangelization and discipleship, should pervade parish activities – hospitality and fellowship, faith formation, the promotion of vocations, liturgical and sacramental life, and service and charitable endeavors.
What is a witness talk?
A witness talk is a brief testimony of “a personal relationship with the living and true God” (CCC 2558). The talk is usually given in the form of a short story, by a disciple who has encountered the living Jesus, has been transformed in His love and grace, and is compelled to intentionally share in Jesus’s saving mission with others. Through prayer, participation in the sacraments, and study of scripture, a Christian disciple can deeply examine how Jesus has moved and is present in his life, thus preparing himself to give witness to “anyone who might ask him to explain or defend his faith and hope in Christ” (1Peter 3:15).
A witness can be shared in any number of forums- from an impromptu discussion in an elevator with a stranger, to a group of friends at an informal dinner party, or even at a Parish’s confirmation class. It is also important to remember that although Christians are called to share their witness verbally, our actions should also reflect our Christian character. Christians should commit and conform our lives to Christ daily, through the spiritual and corporeal act of mercy, for “by this, everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Jn. 13:35)
In a world where scientific proofs and technological advancements can bring matters of the faith into question, many Christians are resistant to share their witness with others because they cannot prove it. However, a witness talk is not about proving anything. It is about a personal encounter and relationship with Jesus- one that requires, shares, and fosters faith. No one can argue another person’s own personal experience.
Pope Saint John Paul II explains, “those who have come into contact with Christ cannot keep him for themselves, they must proclaim him” (Novo Millennio Ineunte) and in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus commissions his disciples to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” In order to engage, invest, and invite people to discipleship, the New Evangelization echoes Christ's call and commissions the Church to give witness to Jesus Christ and His work in the world with new ardor, methods, and expressions. As Saint Paul tells us, "We are Christ's ambassadors" (2 Cor. 5:20), and God is using us to evangelize His people and testify to His Love.
The New Evangelization: Building the Civilization of Love
This document, a talk given by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, provides a detailed description of what the new evangelization is and how to live it out.
What are the Seven Great Qualities of a New Evangelist?
This short video with Fr. Robert Barron describes the basic principles of participation in the New Evangelization.
What does the new evangelization mean for life in our parishes?
"Ultimately, the New Evangelization is not a set of strategies, not a set of bullet points which, if we can check them all off, we've 'accomplished' the task. The New Evangelization is about one-on-one encounters, with people who are formed and trained in the art of witnessing to their faith, inviting their fellow Catholics back into a powerful and transforming love relationship with Jesus."
What does Pope Francis say about the New Evangelization?
"A Synod of Bishops gathered in October 2012 to discuss The New Evangelization and the Transmission of the Christian Faith. Pope Francis wrote his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) in response to the work of that synod. In this document, Pope Francis speaks at length about the work of evangelization to which the Church is called at this time."