Q. Before we get into the “Old Evangelization,” could you give us a definition of the New Evangelization?
A. Pope St. John Paul II called for a “New Evangelization” because he recognized that we are in a new era in the Church’s history: we have millions of baptized Catholics who have not been evangelized. Instead of traveling to a foreign country to evangelize, now we need only look next to us in the pews. This new reality presents new challenges for spreading the gospel.
Q. So what is your definition of the “Old Evangelization”?
A. The Old Evangelization is a return to the basic principles of evangelization that originated with Jesus himself. Too many things labeled “New Evangelization” today are neither new nor evangelization. The term has been co-opted. Popular techniques and programs are often just reruns of corporate marketing tricks or Protestant megachurch methods. The Old Evangelization focuses on the bold proclamation of the gospel, based on the model of Jesus Christ, and primarily through one-on-one relationships.
Q. What was your motivation behind writing this book?
A. I’ve been involved in Catholic evangelization for twenty-five years. In that time I’ve seen “evangelization” go from being practically taboo in Catholic circles to a buzzword attached to every parish program and outreach. Yet we still see a massive number of people leaving the Church. So I asked myself, “What if we don’t really understand what evangelization is?”
The most common misunderstandings I’ve seen are a result of two traps. First, many Catholics see evangelization primarily as a job for other people—those who are professionals, or maybe the people who run the programs at their parish. [Ed. too, too tragically, those professionals or even volunteers given responsibility are possessive, obsessive, territorial, and NO ONE but the officially sanctioned may proclaim. The preaching office belongs to ALL the faithful. (Canon 766) Clericalism has NOTHING to do with males, celibate, clergy. It is ALL too common a Catholic universal malady. Tragic. Jesus weeps.] Or, second, they misunderstand what evangelization entails, figuring it can be summed up as being nice to others. Yet true Catholic evangelization—as Jesus and his first followers practiced it—means every Catholic boldly proclaiming the truths of our Faith to those around us. I wrote The Old Evangelization to remind Catholics of that fact and to show them how to do it.
Q. You call this “a practical guide.” How so?
A. Laced throughout the book are practical examples of evangelization. First and foremost are examples from the life of Jesus himself, unpacking his encounters with people like the Samaritan woman at the well and the rich young man. The book also includes examples from the lives of the saints over the past two millennia. Finally, I include many examples of evangelization—both successes and failures—I’ve encountered myself over the past quarter century of evangelization work. The book draws lessons from each of these examples that equip and encourage the reader to evangelize.
Q. I notice the book has study aids at the end of each chapter: examination, exercise, and exploration. Was the book designed for group as well as individual study?
A. I’m a firm believer that evangelization is best done one on one. But learning about evangelization can be a group affair. The Old Evangelization can be read as an individually or as part of a group, with the purpose of encouraging each Catholic to go out and proclaim his or her Faith without fear.
Q. Give us an example of how you would use The Old Evangelization in practice.
A. Let’s say you have a close relative who has fallen away from the Church. This book will give you practical advice—as well as encouragement—to talk to that person and help him or her back to the practice of the Faith.
Q. What is the greatest lesson you hope people learn from reading your book?
A. That they should not be scared to evangelize. Some are intimidated because they don’t think they know enough theology or doctrine. Others are intimidated because they fear social rejection if they talk about some of the Church’s more controversial teachings. In both cases, it is the devil who is working to keep Catholics quiet, but our Lord wants us spreading the Faith as he did!