Category Archives: New Evangelization

Scripture & Tradition

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“Christ the Good Shepherd”, mosaic from the mausoleum of Galla Placidia, ~425 AD

In Catholicism, there are two fonts of revelation, in contrast to Protestantism, I generalize, which only has one, Scripture.  

Tradition is one of those, imho, words which doesn’t carry either the full or the correct meaning, imho, through translation to the 21st century American ear.

It is not “we have always done it this way”, rather it is the living and lived experience of living the faith of two millennia of the Church.   A living tradition.  Wisdom.  One informs the other.  A unity of living faith, with two doors by which to understand that faith.

What does Scripture say regarding this?  What does the experience of the lived and living faith say about this, in light of Scripture?  What is the truth we can distill from this contemplation, and from prayer for the grace to understand the Lord’s will for us, now, in this moment?  In this instance?  What is the Lord saying to his Church, now, in the living moment?

What has worked?  What hasn’t?  What did God mean by what he said?  Where can we recognize truth in our lived experience of the faith both in the initial ancient times up until now?  How does our lived experience of the faith now reflect and hold in relation to our ancestral understanding?

It is VERY important to organize, categorize, comprehend, and relate in one’s Catholic mind to the importance and seriousness of different Catholic teachings.  Not everything is doctrine or dogma, certainly not everything is personal opinion.  One must distinguish and understand between these ends of the spectrum if one even hopes to live a happy and contented Catholic life.  Otherwise, only fear, frustration, and confusion result from the ignorance.

Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation “Dei Verbum/Word of God”, Solemnly Promulgated by His Holiness Pope Paul VI, November 18, 1965

“9. Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence. -cf. Council of Trent, session IV”

https://thesowerreview.org/bishops-page-keeping-truth

-by Bishop Phillip Egan, Bishop of Portsmouth, UK

“When I was a student in Rome, Thursday was our day-off and we’d often go out of the city to explore different places nearby. I’ll never forget going into a magnificent, mediaeval church with an eye-catching mosaic high-up over the altar. It depicted  Christ the Good Shepherd, preaching to his disciples; all sat at his feet eagerly  listening. But when you got a bit closer, something about the mosaic seemed odd. Why was it that Christ’s rob were not white but dirty-brown? Why were his listeners laughing, some drinking, everyone clearly having a good time? One was fox dressed up as a bishop.

It was only when you stood underneath the mosaic that the dreadful truth slowly dawned on you. This was not Christ at all! It was the False Prophet, Lucifer, the so-called Light-Bearer, the one who looks like Christ, but is anything other. Beware of false prophets who come disguised as sheep but underneath are ravening wolves.

We inhabit a noisy, busy, celebrity culture with many experts competing for our attention. Yet in the Gospel Jesus urges us to be critical, discerning, to sift truth from falsehood, to be sensible people, building our homes not on sand but on the rock of truth.

Where can we find Truth?

We rightly ask: What is true? How can we be sure we have the Truth? Where can we go to find it? We believe Jesus Christ is the Truth. He is God the Son Incarnate, Humanity’s Teacher. He reveals the Truth about God and about life. But how can we be sure even that it is really Him, it really is his Word, it really is what He teaches?

St. Paul gives us two criteria. All Scripture is inspired by God, he says. To know Christ’s teaching, we can turn to the Word of God in the Bible. Yet, as we know, the Bible can mean different things to different people. So Paul adds another criterion: Keep to what you have been taught. In other words, we have to read the Bible but within the Tradition, or we will end up with a subjective opinion not the Truth Christ intended.

But then there’s more. The Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, adds a third element: “The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form [the Bible] or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone.” So to know the Truth, we must consult the Bible and Tradition as interpreted by the Church’s authority. This triad of Scripture-Tradition-Magisterium gives us the rock or theological ground on which as Catholics we can build our home.

The Year of Faith

The Church has asked us to keep a Year of Faith, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism. The Catholic Church is now 20 centuries old. But in her history, she has never before passed through a busy, affluent, secular culture like ours today. We now know what happens when she does: Mass attendance declines; families break up; parishes are clustered; faith for many becomes a hobby, something to dip in-and-out-of.

It’s not the brand that’s faulty here; after all, Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life! It’s the culture we live in, which needs baptising. Let’s not be naive about this. A key reason for attrition is a crude lack of awareness of the corrosive nature of contemporary culture, along with a sad neglect of our Catholic distinctiveness, of the beauty of our Christian faith, and of what the Church can offer. This is why the Year of faith is a grace-filled opportunity. It’s not easy to be a disciple today, to be a Catholic, let alone, to be a Catholic teacher or a Catholic priest. This is because we inhabit a challenging cultural context.

A Spiritual homing-device

Let me give you an image, one I’m sure you’ve heard before. A few years ago, I was on holiday in Scotland and saw an amazing sight: thousands of wild salmon in a river, swimming upstream, racing ahead, jumping in the air to get past the rocks and over the boulders. Salmon, I am told, lay their eggs upstream, and once hatched, the new salmon swim down to the sea on a huge journey to the feeding-grounds off Greenland. They then have two months to get back to the river they were born in, to lay their own eggs and after to die. How on earth they know where their home-river is a mystery, but that’s why you see the amazing sight of fish swimming upstream, jumping in the air, racing ahead against the current.

It made me think of two things. That we are a bit like salmon. Deep down in every human heart is a spiritual homing-device. We are made for God and made for heaven. Our home is in him, and our hearts are restless until we find him. But secondly, to find Him, to find Him in our busy, affluent, secular culture, we must swim upstream against the current. To find God, to develop a friendship with him, to live the life of Christ, to reach heaven our home, we have to be countercultural, to be different, to create space and time, to make the effort, even to suffer.

Keep to what you have been taught and know to be true. As Catholic educators in a secular culture, let us ask God for the grace to persevere and to remain faithful. We ask Him, too, to bless the adults and the children in the different places where we serve.

Like Christ our Master, the Church will not be popular. We are countercultural people. We are swimming against the current. But let’s remember: it is not the product that is defective but the ability of people in today’s culture to receive it. This is why we need enormous creativity if we are to find new ways of spreading the Faith, effectively engaging with the new generations of 21st century. Let us pray to the Holy Spirit that he will shower upon us his many gifts. Thus rooted in the Heart of Jesus, may we all be well equipped to face the exciting challenges ahead.”

AMEN!!!!!!!!

Love,
Matthew

1 Cor 9:16

-by Br Alan Piper, OP

“The days of acceptable Christianity are over. The days of comfortable Catholicism are past.”

So spoke Princeton Professor Robert P. George during his address at last week’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. The thesis is especially remarkable coming from George—one of America’s foremost defenders of marriage and the family, and a thinker noted for his hopefulness about the power of reason to prevail in the public square.

George is not talking about restrictions on worship. The cultural clime is not about to make it more difficult to get to Mass (at least, not directly). What he means is that the whole Gospel—in particular, the Christian teaching on marriage and the family—is no longer acceptable in public. “The Gospel of Life,” once considered tolerably retrograde, is now considered bigoted, even hateful.

The signs of a shift are numerous. Think of the lawsuits filed by Christian institutions, notably the Little Sisters of the Poor, in response to the mandates of the Affordable Care Act. Think of Mozilla’s former CEO or the two television hosts at HGTV—all three of whom apparently lost their jobs only because of previous opposition to same-sex marriage. It has recently been reported that the U.N.’s Committee Against Torture is currently trying to frame the Church’s teaching on abortion as a human rights abuse. The suggestion is that Christian sanctions against abortion are forms of torture. And one hears more and more about individuals being pressured to suppress their Christian opinions, under pain of financial and professional setback.

George is warning that Christians are increasingly liable to encounter dilemmas where previously there were none. Those who espouse the Gospel are thereby more likely to jeopardize their professional ambitions, risk familial discord, and lose friends. It is George’s suggestion that they ought to be ready to accept these losses. Otherwise, Christians are at risk of finding themselves ashamed of the Gospel.

Not that George reduces the Gospel to the Church’s teaching on sexuality. The doctrines of the Triune God, the Incarnation, the Resurrection, and the rest of the articles of the Creeds—these doctrines are absolutely central to the Gospel, but it does not therefore follow that the Church’s sexual doctrine is an unnecessary accretion. The claim of the Church is that “the Gospel of Life” is entailed in the revelation of God in Christ. It is this part of the “seamless garment” that has become intolerable to the mandarins of our society.

The solution that George proposes is for Christians to think of the present time as Good Friday: Will we stand with Jesus, or will we flee? The point is not that we should cultivate a martyrdom complex—no more than the Blessed Mother did at the foot of the cross. The point, I take it, is that Christians should recall why they got into Christianity in the first place. Are comfort and social acceptance all we really want from the absolute goodness of God in Christ? “Billy, what do you want to be when you grow up?” “I want to be comfortable!” “What do you want to be, Sally?” “Socially acceptable!”

It would also be a mistake to interpret George’s remarks as an invitation to bunker down and hole up. In the keynote address, Sean Cardinal O’Malley emphasized the centrifugal force of the Church. The Cardinal called for the Church to move from “maintenance” mode to “missionary” mode, propelled by the joy of the Resurrection. Ultimately, the focus of the Cardinal’s speech is the same as that of George’s more somber words. What’s the point of taking up one’s cross, anyway? It is Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life. This is the Gospel—woe to us if we do not preach the Gospel!

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“St Peter Preaching in the Presence of St Mark”, Fra Angelico, 1433, oil on panel, 39 x 56 cm, Museo di San Marco, Florence

Love,
Matthew

The Days of Socially Acceptable Christianity Are Over!

-by Robert P. George, delivered at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, 5/13/14, Wash DC

http://www.princeton.edu/admission/whatsdistinctive/facultyprofiles/george/

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Robert P. George, McCormick professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University and chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, delivers the “lay guest speaker” address at the 10th annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, Washington, D.C., May 13, 2014.

Ashamed of the Gospel?

“The days of socially acceptable Christianity are over. The days of comfortable Catholicism are past. It is no longer easy to be a faithful Christian, a good Catholic, an authentic witness to the truths of the Gospel. A price is demanded and must be paid. There are costs of discipleship-heavy costs, costs that are burdensome and painful to bear.

Of course, one can still safely identify oneself as a “Catholic,” and even be seen going to Mass. That is because the guardians of those norms of cultural orthodoxy that we have come to call “political correctness” do not assume that identifying as “Catholic” or going to Mass necessarily means that one actually believes what the Church teaches on issues such as marriage and sexual morality and the sanctity of human life.

And if one in fact does not believe what the Church teaches, or, for now at least, even if one does believe those teachings but is prepared to be completely silent about them, one is safe-one can still be a comfortable Catholic. In other words, a tame Catholic, a Catholic who is ashamed of the Gospel-or who is willing to act publicly as if he or she were ashamed-is still socially acceptable. But a Catholic who makes it clear that he or she is not ashamed is in for a rough go-he or she must be prepared to take risks and make sacrifices. “If,” Jesus said, “anyone wants to be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me.” We American Catholics, having become comfortable, had forgotten, or ignored, that timeless Gospel truth. There will be no ignoring it now.

The question we face

The question each of us today must face is this: Am I ashamed of the Gospel?  And that question opens others: Am I prepared to pay the price that will be demanded if I refuse to be ashamed, if, in other words, I am prepared to give public witness to the massive politically incorrect truths of the Gospel, truths that the mandarins of an elite culture shaped by the dogmas of expressive individualism and me-generation liberalism do not wish to hear spoken? Or, put more simply, am I willing, or am I, in the end, unwilling, to take up my cross and follow Christ?

Powerful forces and currents in our society press us to be ashamed of the Gospel-ashamed of the good, ashamed of our faith’s teachings on the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions, ashamed of our faith’s teachings on marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife. These forces insist that the Church’s teachings are out of date, retrograde, insensitive, uncompassionate, illiberal, bigoted-even hateful. These currents bring pressure on all of us-and on young Catholics in particular-to yield to this insistence. They threaten us with consequences if we refuse to call what is good evil, and what is evil good. They command us to conform our thinking to their orthodoxy, or else say nothing at all.

Do you believe, as I believe, that every member of the human family, irrespective of age or size or stage of development or condition of dependency, is the bearer of inherent dignity and an equal right to life? Do you hold that the precious child in the womb, as a creature made in the very image and likeness of God, deserves respect and protection? Then, powerful people and institutions say, you are a misogynist-a hater of women, someone who poses a threat to people’s privacy, an enemy of women’s “reproductive freedom.” You ought to be ashamed!

Do you believe, as I believe, that the core social function of marriage is to unite a man and woman as husband and wife to be mother and father to children born of their union? Do you hold, as I hold, that the norms that shape marriage as a truly conjugal partnership are grounded in its procreative nature-its singular aptness for the project of child-rearing? Do you understand marriage as the uniquely comprehensive type of bond-comprehensive in that it unites spouses in a bodily way and not merely at the level of hearts and minds-that is oriented to and would naturally be fulfilled by their conceiving and rearing children together? Then these same forces say you are a homophobe, a bigot, someone who doesn’t believe in equality. You even represent a threat to people’s safety. You ought to be ashamed!

But, of course, what you believe, if you believe these things, is a crucial part of the Gospel. You believe the truth-in its fullness-about the dignity of the human person and the nature of marriage and sexual morality as proclaimed by the Church-our only secure source of understanding the Gospel message. So when you are invited to distance yourself from these teachings or go silent about them, when you are threatened with opprobrium or the loss of professional opportunities or social standing if you do not, you are being pressured to be ashamed of the Gospel-which means to give up faith in the Lordship of Christ and hope in the triumph of goodness, righteousness, and love in and through Him.

Heavy costs

To be a witness to the Gospel today is to make oneself a marked man or woman. It is to expose oneself to scorn and reproach. To unashamedly proclaim the Gospel in its fullness is to place in jeopardy one’s security, one’s personal aspirations and ambitions, the peace and tranquility one enjoys, one’s standing in polite society. One may in consequence of one’s public witness be discriminated against and denied educational opportunities and the prestigious credentials they may offer; one may lose valuable opportunities for employment and professional advancement; one may be excluded from worldly recognition and honors of various sorts; one’s witness may even cost one treasured friendships. It may produce familial discord and even alienation from family members. Yes, there are costs of discipleship-heavy costs.

There was a time, not long ago, when things were quite different….Biblical and natural law beliefs about morality were culturally normative; they were not challenges to cultural norms. But those days are gone. What was once normative is now regarded as heretical-the moral and cultural equivalent of treason. And so, here we are.

You see, for us, as for our faithful Evangelical friends, it is now Good Friday. The memory of Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem has faded. Yes, he had been greeted-and not long ago-by throngs of people waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David.” He rode into the Jerusalem of Europe and the Jerusalem of the Americas and was proclaimed Lord and King. But all that is now in the past. Friday has come. The love affair with Jesus and his Gospel and his Church is over. Elite sectors of the cultures of Europe and North America no longer welcome his message. “Away with him,” they shout. “Give us Barabbas!”

The days of comfortable Catholicism are past

So for us there is no avoiding the question: Am I ashamed of the Gospel? Am I unwilling to stand with Christ by proclaiming His truths? Oh, things were easy on Palm Sunday. Standing with Jesus and His truths was the in thing to do. Everybody was shouting “Hosanna.” But now it’s Friday, and the days of acceptable Christianity are over. The days of comfortable Catholicism are past. Jesus is before Pilate. The crowds are shouting “crucify him.” The Lord is being led to Calvary. Jesus is being nailed to the cross.

And where are we? Where are you and I? Are we afraid to be known as his disciples? Are we ashamed of the Gospel?

Will we muster the strength, the courage, the faith to be like Mary the Mother of Jesus, and like John, the apostle whom Jesus loved, and stand faithfully at the foot of the cross? Or will we, like all the other disciples, flee in terror? Fearing to place in jeopardy the wealth we have piled up, the businesses we have built, the professional and social standing we have earned, the security and tranquility we enjoy, the opportunities for worldly advancement we cherish, the connections we have cultivated, the relationships we treasure, will we silently acquiesce to the destruction of innocent human lives or the demolition of marriage? Will we seek to “fit in,” to be accepted, to live comfortably in the new Babylon? If so, our silence will speak. Its words will be the words of Peter, warming himself by the fire: “Jesus the Nazorean? I tell you, I do not know the man.”

Perhaps I should make explicit what you have no doubt perceived as implicit in my remarks. The saving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ includes, integrally, the teachings of His church on the profound and inherent dignity of the human person and the nature of marriage as a conjugal bond-a one-flesh union. The question of faith and fidelity that is put to us today is not in the form it was put to Peter-“surely you are you this man’s disciple”-it is, rather, do you stand for the sanctity of human life and the dignity of marriage as the union of husband and wife? These teachings are not the whole Gospel-Christianity requires much more than their affirmation. But they are integral to the Gospel-they are not optional or dispensable. To be an authentic witness to the Gospel is to proclaim these truths among the rest. The Gospel is, as St. John Paul the Great said, a Gospel of Life. And it is a Gospel of family life, too. And it is these integral dimensions of the Gospel that powerful cultural forces and currents today demand that we deny or suppress.

History is not our judge

These forces tell us that our defeat in the causes of marriage and human life are inevitable. They warn us that we are on the “wrong side of history.” They insist that we will be judged by future generations the way we today judge those who championed racial injustice in the Jim Crow South. But history does not have sides. It is an impersonal and contingent sequence of events, events that are determined in decisive ways by human deliberation, judgment, choice, and action. The future of marriage and of countless human lives can and will be determined by our judgments and choices-our willingness or unwillingness to bear faithful witness, our acts of courage or cowardice. Nor is history, or future generations, a judge invested with god-like powers to decide, much less dictate, who was right and who was wrong. The idea of a “judgment of history” is secularism’s vain, meaningless, hopeless, and pathetic attempt to devise a substitute for what the great Abrahamic traditions of faith know is the final judgment of Almighty God. History is not God. God is God. History is not our judge. God is our judge.

One day we will give an account of all we have done and failed to do. Let no one suppose that we will make this accounting to some impersonal sequence of events possessing no more power to judge than a golden calf or a carved and painted totem pole. It is before God-the God of truth, the Lord of history-that we will stand. And as we tremble in His presence it will be no use for any of us to claim that we did everything in our power to put ourselves on “the right side of history.”

One thing alone will matter: Was I a faithful witness to the Gospel? Did I do everything in my power to place myself on the side of truth? The One whose only begotten Son tells us that He, and He alone, is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” will want to know from each of us whether we sought the truth with a pure and sincere heart, whether we sought to live by the truth authentically and with integrity, and-let me say this with maximum clarity-whether we stood up for the truth, speaking it out loud and in public, bearing the costs of discipleship that are inevitably imposed on faithful witnesses to truth by cultures that turn away from God and his law. Or were we ashamed of the Gospel?

The Gospel is true. The whole Gospel is true. Its teachings about life and marriage are true-even its hardest sayings, such as Christ’s clear teaching about the indissolubility of what God has united and about the adulterous nature of any sexual relation outside that bond.

“I do not know the man”

If we deny truths of the Gospel, we really are like Peter, avowing that “I do not know the man.” If we go silent about them, we really are like the other apostles, fleeing in fear. But when we proclaim the truths of the Gospel, we really do stand at the foot of the cross with Mary the Mother of Jesus and John the disciple whom Jesus loved. We show by our faithfulness that we are notashamed of the Gospel. We prove that we are truly Jesus’s disciples, willing to take up his cross and follow him-even to Calvary.

And we bear witness by our fidelity to the greatest truth of all, namely, that the story does not end at Golgotha. Evil and death do not triumph. Yes, it is Good Friday, but the One who became like us in all things but sin conquers death to redeem us from our transgressions and give us a full share in eternal life-the divine life of the most blessed Trinity. The cross cannot defeat Him. The sepulcher cannot hold Him. His heavenly Father will not abandon Him. The psalm that begins in despair, Eloi, Eloi lama sabachtani, ends in hope and joy. Easter is coming. The crucified Christ will be raised from the dead. The chains of sin will be broken. “Oh death, where is thy victory? Oh death, where is thy sting?”

I grew up as a Catholic in a Protestant culture. The Protestants of my boyhood were what we today call Evangelicals. In those days, the religious differences between us seemed vast, though today the personal and spiritual bonds we have formed in bearing common witness to marriage and the sanctity of human life have relativized, though, of course, not eliminated, those differences. We now know that Evangelical Protestants are truly our brothers and sisters in Christ-separated from us in certain ways, to be sure, but bound together with us nevertheless in spiritual fellowship. Growing up, I admired the strength of their faith, and their willingness openly to profess it. And I loved their hymns. One of the most familiar ones contains a vital message for us Catholics today. You will recognize the first verse:

On a hill faraway, stood an old rugged cross,

The emblem of suffering and shame;

I love that old cross, where the dearest and best,

For a world of lost sinners was slain.

And the chorus goes:

I will cherish the old rugged cross,

Till my trophies at last I lay down.

I will cling to the old rugged cross,

And exchange it someday for a crown.

Yes, there’s the story. Christ must endure the sufferings of Good Friday to fulfill His salvific mission. But Easter is coming. And we, who cherish His cross, and are willing to bear His suffering and shame, will share in His glorious resurrection. We who cling to that old rugged cross will exchange it someday for a crown.

And then comes the next verse, and how perfectly it captures the attitude we must adopt, the stance we must take, the witness we must give, in these times of trial if we are to be true disciples of Jesus:

To the old rugged cross, I will ever be true,

Its shame and reproach gladly bear,

Till he calls me someday, to my home far away,

Where forever his glory I’ll share.

Yes.

And I’ll cherish that old rugged cross,

Till my trophies at last I lay down.

I will cling to the old rugged cross,

And exchange it someday for a crown.

Yes, for us Catholics and all who seek to be faithful, it’s Good Friday. We are no longer acceptable. We can no longer be comfortable. It is for us a time of trial, a time of testing by adversity. But lest we fail the test, as perhaps many will do, let us remember that Easter is coming. Jesus will vanquish sin and death. We will experience fear, just as the apostles did-that is inevitable. Like Jesus himself in Gethsemane, we would prefer not to drink this cup. We would much rather be acceptable Christians, comfortable Catholics. But our trust in Him, our hope in His Resurrection, our faith in the sovereignty of His heavenly Father can conquer fear. By the grace of Almighty God, Easter is indeed coming. Do not be ashamed of the Gospel. Never be ashamed of the Gospel.”

Rom 12:1

Sinner, hypocrite, denier of my Lord that I am, pray for me.

I am always keen for new martyrs, starting w/myself.  “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” (Apologeticus, Chapter 50, 197 AD), Quintus Septimus Florens Tertullian.  Sometime after his conversion to the Christian faith, Tertullian left the Catholic Church in favor of Montanism.

Love,
Matthew

Witnesses to Christ in the World – Most Rev Anthony Fisher, OP, Bishop of Parrammatta, Australia, WYD 2011, Madrid

anthony_fisher

“There is nothing else in the world that could bring together young people from Africa, from the Americas, from Europe, from Asia and from the greatest continent of all, Australia, nothing else.  The Olympics brings them to the same place but at the Olympics, these Aussies and Americans in the sanctuary at the moment would be fighting each other for medals.  Here, we’re all on the same team.  We’re all on Jesus Christ’s team.  Hold on to that thought in the days ahead.  Nothing else can bring the world together like Jesus Christ can bring the world together.

As you just heard, I was coordinator of the last World Youth Day held in Sydney, Australia in 2008.  Thousands of young people say that they encountered God very personally there.  Faith and idealism was deepened.   That it was the best week of their lives so far.  And amidst the massive crowds that had to be gathered and transported and fed and accommodated and toileted and the rest –  and I had to learn about all those things – amidst the complexity of those huge events, there were so many individual personal stories about God and me.  Let me tell you just a few.

Philip, a young atheist from New Zealand was persuaded by his mother to come to World Youth Day.  He told a young nun, “You have this life, this flame about you.  You’re so full of joy and I want that for myself.”  It was the beginning of a profound conversion for him.  Two other sisters told me how they met some young people in the street from communist China.  They were in Sydney for university not for World Youth Day.  They knew practically nothing about Christianity.  But the sisters talked them into coming to the opening mass with them and they gave them a crash catechism course along the way.  By the time of the consecration at the mass, these Chinese young people were crying.  They had got it.

The visiting bishop from Canada – and we see those wonderful maple flags over there – wrote about the number of ordinary Australians that he met on the street, the railway or in pubs.  I don’t know how many pubs that bishop visited.  Canadians do have a name for it.  And he wrote, “For not people of faith, these people I met were filled with wonder and curiosity and joy at how well the young people behaved and their enthusiasm for Jesus Christ.  A few of them said it really raised deep questions for them for they knew they would have to reflect upon once World Youth Day was over.  This is a great working of the Holy Spirit” he said.  It raised deep questions for them.

From very early, young children ask questions.  What is it?  Is it me or not me?  What does it taste like?  How do I manipulate it?  Why Mommy, why Daddy?  Why universe?

At first, babies think they are the universe or that the whole purpose of the universe is to satisfy their wants.  In due course, they discover rivals for the attention of the universe like their brothers and sisters – if they’re lucky enough to have them – and the complexity of negotiating with these rivals.

As they become increasingly reflective, children discover not only that the universe is not them and not even for them, but that the universe doesn’t need them.  They don’t even have to exist.  They come to understand that there was a time when they didn’t exist, that they were brought into existence and constantly sustained by others.  And that their continued existence is rather tenuous.  Eventually, as I said, they learn that the universe too comes and goes, depends each part on other parts for its beginning and its existence.

This is natural science, the study of the what and how of things which we learn at school or by reading or by our own exploring.  But behind those explorations, there’s a deeper awe before the mystery of existence itself.  And those deep questions that even guys in pubs starting asking themselves when they see World Youth Day happening.

Why is there anything at all rather than nothing at all?  Does the universe have to exist?  How can that be given its comings and goings, its causes and effects, its wholes and its parts?  Is there something necessary that grounds our unnecessary world?  Is there something unchanging that sustains our changing world?  I know I don’t have to be.  I know you don’t have to be.

There was a time when I didn’t exist and a time will come when I’ll be dead.  In the meantime, why this me and this universe?  What am I for?  Is there more for me when this life is over?  Does that something, that someone behind the universe care about me, have a plan for me?  Our deep wonder and awe at the beauty, the complexity, the resilience, the vulnerability of the universe and of ourselves is the beginning of the adventure of science but also of the adventure of religion.

Science helps explain the what and the how of things but not the ultimate why.  Our inner child keeps asking, “But Daddy, why?”  We’re left wondering not just how the world is but that the world is.

As a physicist, Stephen Hawking, once remarked, “What is it that breathes fire into these equations and makes there a world for them to describe?  Wise men and women through the ages have concluded that there are only two possible answers.  Either there is not reason, it just is, the way it is but there’s no ultimate cause, no ultimate sense to make of it all.  Or there is some cause and sustainer of things, of all life and being and meaning.  Some necessary being that gives the world its existence and sustains it without which or whom the world would not exist.

Some things are mysteries.  I don’t mean theological Sudoku puzzles that are hard to solve.  I don’t mean gobblety-gook that no one can understand.  By mysteries I mean things that are so profound yet intelligible that we can explore them and learn about them and come to understand them more and more and more and still never exhaust them.

Take the mystery of evil especially of innocent suffering. Or the sometimes more stunning mystery of good, such as the hard loving that some people do in the face of exhaustion, in gratitude or persecution.  Or the mystery of human life that parents experience when awe struck at the baby that came from them and yet they’re sure can’t just have come from them; or the mystery of a spider’s web or the Milky Way or our own minds or hearts or so much else in the natural world.

It’s not just big or small or intricate or simple but truly wonderful, full of wonders.  All these things we can explore from different perspectives.  Natural science, social science, the arts, the trades but still there is more to know.  God is the first and greatest mystery and before Him we gape uncomprehending, God.

Our minds glimpse but never fully comprehend the mystery of God.  We see and know things God has made and can point to Him as the source of being – creativity, life, knowledge, love.  For this is very partial because for every similarity between the creature and the creator, there are big differences, too.  That’s why the postures of the ancients towards God was to bow or kneel, to cover their eyes.  God is transcendent and He is tremendous.  That is, God is something that makes us tremble with terror and delight.  To have faith in God is not to identify and comprehend yet one more object in the universe.  God is not a thing.  To know God is not to know something like our dad, writ large, or a kryptonite immune Superman or a kind of super computer with Wikipedia on it only more reliable.  No, God is not in or of our universe.

But to believe in God is to believe the whole universe has a source and direction and meaning.  It’s to ask the big questions and to be ready for some unexpected answers.

Now it’s risky saying God is not a creature but the source of creatures.  That God is not a thing, but the reason for things.  That God is the big “B” being behind all beings.  It’s risky saying that because it can make God sound rather remote and hypothetical like a math theorem or an alien got the universe going and then zipped away into hyper-space.

But to believe firmly in God is to believe there is a meaning to the universe, a meaning that includes not only the big bang and the laws of nature but each individual human being and every life, our lives, every day.  It’s to believe that there is a beauty, a wisdom, a guiding hand, a universal law, an ultimate Truth, a Purpose behind the story of everything.  To grasp and hold on to this big idea, to have it planted firmly in our hearts is called faith.

There are three more things about faith that I’d like to say and I’ll say them much more quickly, because it’s hot.  Hot because of the Holy Spirit whose Mass we’ll celebrate later.  Hot because the Holy Spirit is breathing into and out of every one of you, and you’re hot; not just temperature-wise but hot with God.  So, three more quick things about faith.

I’ve said that faith is the ability to grasp and hold on to.  That big idea to have that planted firmly in our hearts; the big idea that there is a Beauty, a Wisdom, a guiding hand, a universal law, an ultimate Truth, a Purpose behind everything including me.  But my three more thoughts are first that the awe at the heart of faith, at the beauty and truth and goodness of things, at the inexhaustible mystery of things, at the impossibility of ever grasping the awesomeness of things is something worth exploring all the way to the grave and beyond.

It’s not just little kids who ask, “Why Mommy, why Daddy?  What’s that?”  We are all at heart explorers.  And at your age, there’s a very special kind of exploring to be done, exploring the big questions of the universe of God and of me, exploring the big question about what I’m for, what I will do with my life.

Secondly, that beauty and truth and goodness that we grasp for all our limitations is something we can come to know something of and know with certainty.  Appreciate with wisdom and live with passion.

And thirdly, that sort of seeking and finding requires commitment.  Be awake to all dangers says Saint Paul.  Stay firm in your faith.  Be brave and strong to everything in love.  That’s brave faith, adult faith.  After saying this, “what can we add” says Paul.  “With God on our side, who can be against us?”  Sadly, some people never grow up spiritually.  They may be very knowledgeable and sophisticated in their particular profession or art or science.  Yet on the level of faith they remain five-year-olds.  They never go on pilgrimage beyond their own little world that they know.  They never read or study or reflect on the big questions as adults.  They leave their faith stunted at the level of Santa Claus, a vague memory or sentiment from their childhood.

And then as young adults, unable to reconcile this new adult knowledge and experience with the childish faith, they either live with a kind of split personality, religious children on Sundays and sophisticated adults every other day or else they throw away their childhood religion and think themselves very sophisticated and grown up because they don’t believe in Santa Claus anymore.  They call themselves, then, agnostic or atheist which sounds more adult.

But that, frankly, is intellectual and spiritual laziness.  “Brothers and sisters,” says Saint Paul, “Don’t be childish in your outlook.  Grow up in Christ.”  If people are going to abandon their Catholic faith as adults they should at least know what or who they are abandoning understood in an adult way.

Tomorrow’s catechesis is going to focus on that question, the Who question.  Faith is all very well but faith in what, in Whom?  Tomorrow we’ll consider what the encounter with Jesus Christ does for our outlook and identity.  To say my Lord and my God is to change everything, deepen everything, find a new joy in everything.

And so on Friday, we’ll consider what it means for who and what we are in the world and for the world.

But let me conclude today’s talk with one last thought.  The world needs you to ask the big questions and not be satisfied with the glib answers.  Secularism with is amnesia about God is pushing faith and mystery to the margins.  Sells you short by saying your questions are meaningless or too hard or to profitable and that you should be satisfied with just accumulating wealth and gadgets or with the physical and emotional roller coaster ride of endless experiences and partners but with no firm faith for commitments, no self sacrifice, no possibility of transcendence.

Secularism sells you short because by God’s grace you really are capable of so much more than this.  You have the power and passion within you to do great things.  That power and passion is faith and humanity in which God and humanity are revealed in all their possibilities.

Secularism sells you short because without reference to God, without relationship with Him, we quickly lose sense with our own dignity and purpose.  But if I can declare that I believe in God who creates and sustains this wonderful world visible and invisible, that I believe in his communication to me through the natural world and my own reason informed by faith and by the scriptures and by the sacraments. That I believe in Jesus Christ is the word for my mind and in the Holy Spirit, who is inspiration for my heart.  If I can say I believe, then my life is built on rock, firm and secure.

If I can say I believe these things, then I must say also we believe.  We, that church that is big enough for all the world.  The only thing big enough for all the world drawn together by Jesus Christ, I believe.  In my diocese, we have a movement called Theology On Tap.  It’s only one of about 80 active youth groups and movements that we have.

A group of us go to a local pub each month to discuss a theological topic, so it’s not just Canadian bishops that can be found in pubs.  We get a good speaker and a good topic and have plenty of discussion.  Five, six, sometimes seven hundred young people join us there at the pub.  They’re ordinary, exuberant, diverse young people.  They come from every cultural background like a mini World Youth Day.

They’re not religious fanatics, just young people with hearts and heads big enough to wonder, believe and commit.  It’s great fun and great support for young people to be surrounded by other young people asking the same big questions as them who believe the things they do, who can encourage and strengthen them.  And with whom they can have a good time.

The church and the world right now needs young people with those sorts of questions and answers.  Firm in faith, firm in the faith not lazy about it or angry about it, not against things so much as for things, not against anyone but for someone in particular, for Jesus Christ.  And because of that, for every other human person from Africa and Asia and the Americas and Europe and Australia.

I believe, we believe, the Church needs you.  Thank you.”

Love,
Matthew

Conversion of the Baptized – the New Evangelization, Dr. Carol Brown, PhD

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Having been a Dominican novice, I still keep my ear tuned to Dominican thought.  The Order that brought you the Inquisition.  Tomas Torquemada, OP, pray for us!  My Jesuit friends will never forgive me/understand. Thank God (& DARPA) for the Internet, no?

Dr. Carole Brown, PhD, is an expert on the thinking of JPII and the New Evangelization.  Dr. Brown, is the eldest of five children and grew up on a cattle ranch in western South Dakota.  Carole has been involved in youth and young adult ministry all her adult life.  She acquired bachelors degrees in communications and education from Black Hills State University in 1994 and earned her Masters Degree in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 1997.  She went on to work at Steubenville for eight years as the Director of Evangelistic Outreach.  In 2004, Carole spent a year on mission with Kerygma Teams in Vienna, Austria.  Kerygma Teams is a branch of Youth with a Mission, an interdenominational missionary outreach team of lay missionaries. Kerygma Teams operate in primarily Catholic areas.  Subsequently, she moved to Ireland, where she completed a PhD in Systematic Theology in 2010.  Her dissertation is entitled “Crossing the Threshold of Faith: Pope John Paul II’s Approach to the Problem of the Conversion of the Baptized.”  She currently lives in Dublin, where she works as the speech content editor for Ireland’s first national Christian radio station, Spirit Radio.

As a catechist for adults, I cannot resist the New Evangelization.  What is the New Evangelization?  It is believed that Blessed John Paul II first used the term in 1983 in an address to Latin American Bishops. He would later bring this term to the attention of the entire Church. Perhaps, the most clear definition of the New Evangelization is in his encyclical, Redemptoris Missio. In section 33 of this encyclical, Blessed John Paul II describes three different situations for evangelization: mission ad gentes, Christian communities, and the new evangelization.

Mission ad gentes: Latin for “to the nations.” This is a situation where “Christ and his Gospel are not known.”

Christian communities: “In these communities the Church carries out her activity and pastoral care.” This is the ongoing evangelization of those “fervent in the faith.”

New Evangelization: So, what is the new evangelization? Blessed John Paul II describes a situation between the first two options “where entire groups of the baptized have lost a living sense of the faith, or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church, and live a life far removed from Christ and his Gospel. In this case what is needed is a ‘new evangelization’ or a ‘re-evangelization.’”

The new evangelization pertains to a very specific group of people: fallen-away Christians. For most Catholics in the western world, we see the need for this type of evangelization all around us. Everyone knows someone who was once baptized but who no longer practices the faith. Blessed John Paul II wanted the faithful to clearly recognize this problem and then try to solve it.

Pope Benedict has continued the mission of the new evangelization in his pontificate. In 2010, Pope Benedict established The Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization. In 2012, he declared a Bishops’ Synod to discuss the New Evangelization.

http://www.ewtn.com/new_evangelization/index.htm

carole brown resized
-by Dr. Carole Brown, PhD

“U.S. Marines have a code of honor: no one gets left behind—not even the fallen on the battlefield. They are bound together in brotherhood. Their commitment to this code enables Marines to act with courage and valor. Similarly, as baptized Catholics we form a bond as God’s family and pledge to accompany any child of God through conversion. In a culture hostile to the faith, we must exercise Marine-strength courage to remain vigilant for those who fall away.

How well are we keeping that pledge? Admittedly, too many baptized and confirmed Catholics fall away from the faith without taking hold of the treasure of our faith and its promise of eternal life. They are dying on the battlefield, spiritually speaking. Statistics in this regard are nothing short of alarming, with Catholics experiencing the greatest net loss due to changes in affiliation.[1] An estimated 70% of young Catholics no longer practice their faith by the time they reach adulthood.[2] Do we strategically think about the way in which our “baptismal training” equips people to survive spiritually in a toxic secular culture? Are we praying vigilantly for their return and going in search of them?

One of the reasons that many of our baptized people do not survive with their faith intact is that “basic training” for becoming a disciple—personal conversion to Jesus Christ, personal relationship with him—is a neglected dimension of Catholic formation. Children baptized in infancy come to the parish for catechesis, and we work hard to communicate the content of the faith; but we often fail to put them in touch with—in intimacy with—the person of Jesus Christ, which Pope St John Paul II said is the “definitive aim of catechesis.”[3] In our concern to communicate Christian doctrine effectively, we sometimes overlook the fact that baptized people may not yet know Jesus Christ enough to care about what he taught.

In this article, I will set forth a small offering of some principles and practices by which we can create conditions that favor personal conversion amidst the secular culture. This is less about developing new programs (though this can be helpful) than about applying these principles and practices in ministries that already exist. First, I will set forth a number of principles drawn from the teaching of recent popes, who are the architects of the New Evangelization. These will be followed by four kinds of practice.

Principles of Initial Evangelization
1. The Holy Spirit is the principle agent of evangelization. Foster devotion to him, and promote those means that help people not only to know about him but also to experience his power.

2. The Church exists to help people to find Jesus Christ. Pope St. John Paul II wrote, “The Church wishes to serve this single end: that each person may be able to find Christ, in order that Christ may walk with each person the path of life…”[4] That may seem obvious at first glance, and yet statistics have shown that only 60% of Catholics believe in a personal God.[5] In what ways is the energy of our parish directed to bringing people into contact with God in a personal way? Just because people come to Church does not mean that they have found Christ. Pope Francis has cautioned us about being a self-referential church. The goal is not just to get people in the Church but also to help them to encounter Jesus Christ.

3. Faith in Jesus is both personal AND communal. We have perhaps relied too much on the communal dimension of faith, which becomes increasingly more anemic as the personal aspect is neglected. Personal faith in Jesus Christ does not replace communal faith, but rather enlivens it. By the same token, a community comprised of people who are living in a continual personal relationship with Jesus Christ will be most enriching to the persons who associate themselves with that community. On the other hand, a community comprised primarily of people who do not experience their faith in Jesus Christ in a personal way will tend to be impersonal, lonely, superficial, anonymous—and boring.

4. Converting the culture begins by converting persons. Every movement begins with a slow groundswell. People whose lives have been touched by Jesus Christ tend to recognize that other people need to have this experience too, and look for ways and means to bring people into this experience.[6] This can happen in programs but also, perhaps even more importantly, in the context of interpersonal relationships.

5. Faith needs the support of reason. Many young people today are preparing themselves for careers in engineering, medicine, journalism, and law, requiring strong reasoning skills. Yet many capable young people have never been exposed to such treasures as St Thomas’ Five Proofs of the Existence of God, or CS Lewis’ argument for the divinity of Christ. Leaving them without solid reasons for belief is like sending a Marine into battle without weapons.

6. The power of the sacraments is not automatic but released by the assent of the person. Once they reach the age of reason, people baptized in infancy must be evangelized and brought to a place of personal assent, in order for the sacraments to bear their intended fruit.[7] John Paul II said it well when he wrote, “Conversion means accepting by a personal decision, the saving sovereignty of Christ, and becoming his disciple.”[8] Coming under the saving sovereignty of Christ is a lot like falling in love—and this love releases the energy for the moral life[9] and enables us to accept the cross.

Bearing these principles in mind, now let us examine some methods that foster personal conversion.

Ways to Create Conditions that Favor Conversion

1. Conversion begins as a response to the Word of God. In what ways is the Word delivered to people?

Kerygma: The initial proclamation of the Gospel is “the permanent priority of mission” and has a “central and irreplaceable role, since it introduces man ‘into the mystery of the love of God, who invites him to enter into a personal relationship with himself in Christ and opens the way to conversion.’”[10] But many times, the centrality of the initial proclamation is lost on those who are already Catholics by baptism or culture. We must recover it! Do people in our parishes know the content of the core message of the Gospel, the kerygma? Do they know how to build relationships of trust with people, thus earning the right to proclaim it? Can they deliver it effectively in their personal relationships with family, friends, acquaintances, and co-workers?

Pope Francis recently summarized the content of the kerygma as follows: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.”[11] Do you believe that personally, on more than an intellectual level? Do you know anyone for whom that would be good news? Could you memorize it, and be prepared to proclaim it to the next person who starts complaining to you?

Personal Witness: St. Paul tells us that faith comes through hearing. “The witness of a Christian life is the first and irreplaceable form of mission.”[12] Often enough, it isn’t so much the words that are said, as the tone with which they are said. If we ask our kids every night whether they’ve said their prayers, and ask it in the same tone of voice that we ask whether they’ve brushed their teeth, finished their homework, or made their beds, then what they hear is: prayer is a task on the to-do list, perhaps even a chore.

My life changed as a teenager, when a friend listened to me complaining about my problems and asked me, “Have you ever prayed about this?” Her tone of voice conveyed a certain eagerness and excitement, and suggested to me that there was a potential source of help that I had not yet discovered. That conversation got the wheels of my mind turning, provoked my curiosity, and sparked my own faith. These kinds of conversations need to take place in every possible context: faith formation settings of course, but also with altar servers in the sacristy, with fellow parishioners at the coffee hour, with our kids’ friends and their parents.

Homily: Does homily preparation have pride of place in the priest’s weekly time commitments? Does he know how to pray with the Word of God, using Lectio Divina, or Ignatian meditation to draw out the personalistic substance of God’s self-revealing word?[13] Do parishioners have the opportunity to learn these methods for prayer?

Fostering Personal Meditation on the Word: Pope Benedict XVI said, “…it is decisive, from the pastoral standpoint, to present the Word of God in its capacity to enter into dialogue with the everyday problems which people face. Jesus himself says that he came that we might have life in abundance (cf. Jn. 10:10). Consequently, we need to make every effort to share the Word of God as an openness to our problems, a response to our questions, a broadening of our values and the fulfilment of our aspirations.”[14] Unfortunately, the Bible seems like a “protestant book” to many Catholics. Fostering a personal love for God’s Word is essential to personal conversion. What concrete resources do children, teens, and adults have for accessing the Word of God for prayer and establishing a personal dialogue with him? What daily scriptural meditation materials are available, and what still needs to be done?

2. Conversion involves an experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. In what ways can we foster the expectation for this encounter?

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said it well when he wrote, “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon.”[15] What are the practices that prepare the heart for such an encounter?

Witness Testimony: Regular exposure to personal, Christ-centered witness testimony is a profoundly valuable practice in this regard. To encounter someone who has encountered Jesus arouses wonder and curiosity. Good preparation is essential. Besides the value of live testimony, what possibilities exist in various forms of media (video, radio, social networking) to expose people to real people, Catholics whose lives have been changed by Jesus Christ? For the New Evangelization, giving explicit personal witness to Jesus Christ must come to be understood as something Catholics can do.

Meditation: Regular meditation on the Word of God (above) prepares the ground for such an encounter. The Word of God is alive and active and has a way of hitting us between the eyes, if only we pray with it frequently (and not just at Sunday Mass).

Sacramental Encounters: In what ways do our children experience sacramental moments as a personal encounter with Jesus? Particularly in the Sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation, in what ways can we intentionally foster this sense of a personal encounter with the Lord? Pope John Paul II encouraged us to foster the experience of “Eucharistic ‘amazement.’”[16] My friend asked her young charges which of them had seen the movie Spiderman. She then referred to the fact that Spiderman was really Peter Parker in disguise. Jesus, she explained, also has a disguise—he disguises himself as bread, but it’s actually Jesus. These children were delighted with this discovery and soon began to visit Jesus at church after school. Parents can foster this amazement by attending adoration with their children, or when stopping by the tabernacle together after Mass to leave their prayers with him.

Likewise, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a tremendous encounter “with Christ saying, through the minister of the sacrament of Reconciliation: ‘Your sins are forgiven’; ‘Go, and do not sin again.’…this is also a right on Christ’s part with regard to every human being redeemed by him: his right to meet each one of us in that key moment in the soul’s life constituted by the moment of conversion and forgiveness.”[17]

These two sacraments enable a person to remain in right relationship with God in order to be in communion with him.

Non-Sacramental Encounters: In what non-sacramental ways can we develop the consciousness of living out a personal relationship with the Lord during the rest of the week? For example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us: “To pray ‘Jesus’ is to invoke him and to call him within us. His name is the only one that contains the presence it signifies. Jesus is the Risen One, and whoever invokes the name of Jesus is welcoming the Son of God who loved him and who gave himself up for him.”[18] Placing ourselves in the presence of Jesus at home, in the car, and at work, is a tremendous antidote to anxiety and loneliness, and profoundly enriches the culmination of our relationship with Jesus in our reception of Holy Communion.

3. Conversion requires an act of explicit, personal self-entrustment to Jesus Christ by faith.

Another word for this is “the act of faith”—not just in terms of reciting the creed but also in terms of entrusting one’s whole life to God. This act of self-entrustment is the engine for catechesis and sacramental practice, the engine for the moral life, the engine for vocations and stewardship. When Catholic catechesis is undesired, when moral teaching is rejected, when Mass is boring, when the experience of the faith community is anonymous, lonely, and superficial; all these are flags that little has been invested in bringing people to a personal act of self-entrustment to the Lord. Witness testimony (above) is valuable because it creates the opportunity for people to share how they did it (or how Christ did it to them), what the circumstances were that occasioned it, and what benefit there would be for others to do likewise.[19] For maturing disciples, witness testimony is especially powerful when it exemplifies the profound intimacy with Jesus that grows out of the shadow of a cross we carry with him.

4. To enable the conversion of children and teens, we must help their parents come to know Jesus Christ, too.

What creative possibilities exist to expose parents to personal witness testimony that is both Christ-centered and Catholic, and put meditation materials in hand that will help them to engage in dialogue with God through his Word? For parents whose children are preparing to receive a sacrament, consider conducting a daylong retreat to help parents come to know Jesus better, to spark their own conversion, and to supply them with concrete resources for growing in discipleship.

Conclusion
This brief survey is directed to the development of conditions that favor the conversion of the baptized, but it only addresses the first stage of discipleship. It is by no means a comprehensive plan. Maturing disciples need a complete catechetical, moral, and liturgical formation. When we attend to the initial stages of personal conversion, we enable people to entrust themselves to Jesus; and the one who entrusts himself to Christ by faith “endeavors to know better this Jesus to whom he has entrusted himself.”[20] Catechetical, moral, and liturgical formation have little hope of being effective if self-entrustment to Jesus Christ has not yet taken place, still less the missionary discipleship that is called for in the New Evangelization.

A personal relationship with Jesus Christ, nurtured by the Word of God and sacramental practice, keeps the baptized well armed and fortified to “support and defend” our faith with those on the battlefield of secular culture. Let us also exercise courage and valor in our commitment to leave no one behind, just like the Marines. Semper fi!”

Love,
Matthew

Notes
[1] US Religious Landscapes Survey, 2008. http://religions.pewforum.org/pdf/report-religious-landscape-study-full.pdf, 6.

[2] Sherry A. Weddell, Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Followng Jesus (Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 2012), 24.

[3] John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae (Washington DC: United States Catholic Conference, 1979), art. 5.

[4] John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis, Vatican Translation (Boston: Daughters of St. Paul, 1979), art. 13.

[5] See US Religious Landscapes Survey, 2008, 164.

[6] Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi (Boston: Daughters of St. Paul, 1975), art. 20. Pope John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis, art. 10.

[7] John Paul II, Ecclesia in Europa (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2004), art. 47. Ecclesia in America (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1999), art. 7.

[8] John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, Vatican Translation (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 1990), art. 46.

[9] John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1993), art. 18.

[10] John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, art. 44.

[11] Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2014), art. 164.

[12] John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, art. 42.

[13] Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, arts. 135-144.

[14] Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2010), arts. 23-36.

[15] Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, art. 1.

[16] John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, art. 6.

[17] John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis, art. 20.

[18] CCC, par. 2666.

[19] CF. John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae, arts. 19, 25; Veritatis Splendor, art. 18; Christifideles Laici (Libreria Editrice,1988), art. 27.

[20] John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae, art. 20.

The Dictatorship of Absolute Relativism: “The Almighty has done great things for me…” Lk 1:49 (l’un des trois)

The battle for the cura animarum (care of souls) is joined.

by His Excellency, Archbishop Augustine DiNoia, O.P.. Secretary in the Vatican Curia of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and Titular Archbishop of Oregon City http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Augustine_Di_Noia, to the Capitulars of the Provincial Chapter, Province of St Joseph, Order of Preachers, on the feast of Bl. John Dominic, O.P., commenting on the abundance of vocations to the priesthood in the Province of St Joseph, 10 June 2010, Providence College, Rhode Island, USA.

“…the post-modern culture of [relativism] leads to moral chaos, personally and socially, and they want no part of it. They see-probably by a pure grace of the Holy Spirit, for their family backgrounds and catechetical training surely cannot explain it!-that human authenticity is possible only by living in conformity to Christ, and, in this particular case, to Christ as the Dominicans know and preach him.

It is not only the practical moral relativism of our time that the 20- to 30-somethings reject. They are also acutely sensitive to the eclectic religiosity, with its doctrinal and theological relativism, that they perceive as a dominant feature of popular culture. It represents, in the eyes of some observers, the triumph of Protestant liberalism, whose core values of “individualism, pluralism, emancipation, tolerance, free critical inquiry, and the authority of human experience” have come to permeate American culture (Smith and Snell 2009, 288). The young men who are drawn to the Dominican Order reject the liberal faith which many of their peers have come accept in some form and which was described by Yale theologian H. Richard Niebuhr in 1937 as being about ‘a God without wrath [who] brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross’” (ibid.). Many of the young men who are drawn to the Order today have a far more direct and intimate acquaintance than most of us with the moral relativism and eclectic religiosity that permeate popular culture. As I stated earlier, for them, with this culture no compromise is possible.

These young men are attracted by the clarity-if not always by the sophistication and subtlety-of the Dominican theological tradition, and by the Order’s recognition of the harmfulness of doctrinal error and its apostolic commitment to doctrinal preaching and theological education. They are repelled as much by the theological muddles that obscure the distinctiveness of the Catholic faith as they are by the moral relativism that thwarts many of their peers “from ever being able to decide what they must believe is really true, right and good” (ibid., 291).

But it is not just the clarity of the Dominican way of thinking, reasoning, teaching and preaching that attracts them. It is something much deeper: not just clarity, but the love that drives it. In the end, it seems to me that these young people are drawn to what Benedict XVI has called “the intellectual charity” and “pastoral yearning” that inspire Dominican apostolic zeal- “a ‘charity of and in the truth’…that must be exercised to enlighten minds and to combine faith with culture…”, the desire “to make ourselves present in the places where knowledge is tempered so as to focus the light of the Gospel, with respect and conviction, on the fundamental questions that concern Man, his dignity and his eternal destiny” (Benedict XVI 2010a, 11).

So, why is God calling all these outstanding young men to the Order, to our province, at this moment? In place of an answer, I have offered some perspectives within which to consider the question. God is drawing these unprecedented numbers of young men to us at this moment for reasons known only to him, even as we strive to be attuned to the signs and hints towards which this bounteous grace moves us.

To be honest with you, I am not certain that we-who did not so much leave modern culture behind when we entered religious life as discover and embrace it-are entirely ready for the kind of radical rejection of the ambient culture, on the one hand, and, on the other, a radical commitment to the Dominican-Catholic alternative way of life that we recognize in the young men being drawn to the Order.

Viewed in this perspective, these new vocations pose a great challenge to us and to our province: Will these young men find with us the fervent Dominican life that they are seeking, or will they find just a modified version of the popular culture that they have left behind? Will they find the apostolic zeal, the warm intellectual charity, the strong communal and liturgical life, the fidelity to the Church, and the radical commitment to Christ that they associate with the historic identity of the Dominican Order?

This is a moment of joy, surely, but it is also a moment of uncertainty. It may be that the vision of a crowded novitiate and studium prompts some concern and even anxiety: What will this cost us, and not just in economic terms, but personally and communally? How can we-I-relate to these young men whose way of thinking seems so different? Are these young friars going to try to change the province? Is God really doing this?

I have tried to address some of these concerns today. We need to acknowledge them-and the fear of the unknown, so to speak, that underlies them-even as we welcome the grace and faith to trust in the goodness and providence of God. But we must be confident that we will surely receive the grace to do great things for God who is already doing great things for us.

For this is the critical point. Certainly, we weren’t prepared for the astonishing grace of the novitiate and studium both bursting at the seams-even simply in logistical terms-but then, with our great devotion to the mystery of the Annunciation, who should know better than we that no one can ever be prepared for the arrival of a pure grace? And, for sure, that grace will bring with it whatever we need to rise to the occasion it affords and the challenges it poses. For this reason, the provincial chapter of 2010 should be full of hope for the future. Despite the particular problems that you will be facing in this chapter-decisions about provincial commitments, unease about the financial condition of the province, concern about the rising cost of health care, and so on-the divine “vote of confidence,” so to speak, has already been cast. If God is for us, who can be against us?  [Romans 8:31]

We need the new way of thinking and the spirit of courage that, according to St. Cyril of Alexandria, come from the Holy Spirit. Allow me to conclude with words from his commentary on the passage of St. John’s Gospel read at Holy Mass this morning: “You can see, then, that the Spirit re-creates…in a new pattern those among whom He is seen to dwell. He readily replaces their desire to think earthly thoughts with the desire to fix their gaze only on the things of heaven; He changes their unmanly cowardice into the spirit of courage. We can certainly see that the disciples experienced this: the Spirit became their armor, so that they did not yield to the attacks of their persecutors but held fast to the love of Christ.” (LH, Office of Readings, Thursday, week 7 of Eastertide).”

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-yPVTY6uvEHw/Tpr7eRdlPAI/AAAAAAAAJLk/7-k0w80FXuY/s928/Picture%2B4.png

Anima Christi, sanctifica me.
Corpus Christi, salva me.
Sanguis Christi, inebria me.
Aqua lateris Christi, lava me.
Passio Christi, conforta me.
O bone Jesu, exaudi me.
Intra tua vulnera absconde me.
Ne permittas me separari a te.
Ab hoste maligno defende me.
In hora mortis meae voca me.
Et iube me venire ad te,
Ut cum Sanctis tuis laudem te.
In saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.
Separated from Thee let me never be.
From the malicious enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me.
And bid me come unto Thee.
That I may praise Thee with Thy saints.
Forever and ever.   Amen.

O sacrum convivium!
in quo Christus sumitur:
recolitur memoria passionis eius:
mens impletur gratia:
et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur.
Alleluia, Alleluia

O sacred banquet!
in which Christ becomes our food,
the memory of his Passion is celebrated,
the souls is filled with grace,
and a pledge of future glory is given to us.
Alleluia, Alleluia
-St Thomas Aquinas, O.P.


Love,
Matthew

The Dictatorship of Absolute Relativism: Its Cost (deux des trois)

1.  Relativism robs us of meaning.  It inflicts a crisis of meaning, a poverty of purpose.  According to Relativism, there is no point to it all.  None.  Nothing.  No point, whatsoever.  Pointless.  Sheer pointlessness.

        “A spiritual desert is spreading:  an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair.” -BXVI, WYD, 2008.  Science can help us answer questions about the matter and energy of the Universe, but not its meaning.  The relativist has to admit he has not discovered the meaning of life, but invented his own.  Lack of a firm sense of purpose leads to either despair or the desperate attempt to avoid life’s most pressing questions through endless distraction or self-deception or self-medication.  It is torturous to be silent and reflective if it means facing the reality that underneath it all is nothing, a vacuum, a pure and absolute void.  Nothing at all.  Forever.  Some define Hell as such.  No Faith, no Hope, no Love, no Trust.  Nothing.  Forever.  Nihilism.

    “False teachers, many belonging to an intellectual elite in the worlds of science, culture, and the media, present an anti-gospel…When you ask them:  What must I do?, their only certainty is that there is no definitive truth, no sure path…Consciously or not, they advocate an approach to life that has led millions of young people into a sad loneliness in which they are deprived of reasons for hope and incapable of real love.” -JPII

2.  Relativism leaves it all up to us.  You are completely on your own.  All alone.  Forever.  Good luck.  (Yeah, right.)  In Relativism, there is no criterion for moral decision making save personal taste.

I love asking people the following question:  “In Genesis, what was the sin of Adam & Eve?”  Many will respond promptly, “They ate the apple!”  An apple is never mentioned, only the “fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil”.  But, Adam and Eve’s sin was they desired, wrongly, to be “like God”(Gen 3:5).  Now, isn’t that always the case?  The root of every and all sin?  We prefer to be gods unto ourselves, so much easier, instead of realizing God.  That is the very definition of sin:  the perversion of our relationship as creatures to the Creator.  We pervert our relationship to our Creator by not loving Him nor our neighbor who is a reflection of Him.

When asked what sin is, then-President-elect Barack Obama gave a perfect relativist answer saying, ”Being out of alignment with my values.” http://cathleenfalsani.com/obama-on-faith-the-exclusive-interview/.  Many felons, at the time they committed their crime were acting in perfect alignment with their then values.  Many tragedies among youth and misguided adults occur through their own choices while being in perfect harmony with their then values.  So, clearly, this is a false, wrong, incorrect and misleading answer as to what sin is.

3.  Relativism deprives children of moral formation.

One of the heresies of relativism is the proposition to allow children to discover themselves; to be free.  Rather than freeing our children, we morally abandon them, with the abdication of parental responsibilities, leaving those responsibilities foisted on the child to fend for themselves.  Easier, much easier on the parent, even if they don’t freely, readily, or openly admit this themselves.  Relativist parents say they are acting in the child’s interest, when clearly, even if unconsciously, they are only acting in their own and to the detriment of their children.  If emotionally healthy and mature adults struggle with moral decision making on a daily basis, children cannot possibly sift the complex and confusing moral questions.  It is the abandonment of parental responsibility.  Nothing less.  Those are lazy parents.  God help their children.  Love without truth and truth without love are both forms of unique cruelty; child abuse.  “Only in truth does love shine forth, only in truth can love be authentically lived…Without truth, love degenerates into sentimentality.  Love becomes an empty shell, a false pretense, to be filled in an arbitrary way.  In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love.” –Caritas in Veritate, 3.

4.  Relativism separates us from one another.

Relativism removes the notion that we need to conform to a reality that is bigger than our own opinions, values, and preferences.  It erodes the mortar that builds a society.  “…under the semblance of freedom [relativism] becomes a prison for each one, for it separates people from one another, locking each person into his or her own ego.  Relativism retranslates “E pluribus unum = out of many, one” into “E pluribus pluribus = out of many, many”.

5.  Relativism denies the right to life/the dignity of the human person.

Thinking is important, just ask the Nazis, or their victims.  Bad thinking leads to bad action, and tragic results.  When human rights are based on subjective principles – such as relativism offers – life is reduced to an efficiency equation, a utilitarian economy of human life, a dehumanizing of the human person, like calculating the commercial value of the human person, its convenience or inconvenience.  And decided by whom?  Under what criteria?  If you consume more than you produce, you are a liability.  If you’re a fetus, a disabled person, dumb, lacking talent, unattractive, socially awkward, old, uneducated, the wrong whatever, etc.  The Nazis had an expression for it, “Unworthy of life.”  Based on that, at some point, all of us become “unworthy of life”.  Carried to a logical conclusion, a relativist would have to conclude and say, “nothing is ‘wrong’.”  Hey, but we would never imitate the Nazis, would we?  “There is no such thing as truth, either in the moral or in the scientific sense.”- Adolf Hitler.

6.  Relativism makes it easy for those in authority to manipulate others.

“To educate without a value system based on truth is to abandon young people to moral confusion, personal insecurity, and easy manipulation.”  JPII, WYD, 8/12/93.

7.  Relativism threatens freedom of speech.

We see more and more opinions expressed contrary to relativism labeled as “hate speech”, with serious consequences.  We have been here before.  There will be glorious martyrs and saints in our future, I fear and dare to say.  To be so privileged.

8.  Relativism destroys faith.

The main difference between God and us is God never thinks he IS us.

“Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism, by intuition.  From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology, and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy  of which he is capable.” – Benito Mussolini, Il Duce

Love,
Matthew

The Dictatorship of Absolute Relativism: Its Intellectual & Moral Bankruptcy (trois sur trois)

Is there objective truth?  Is there a proper way to live?  Is there right and wrong?  Beginning with Socrates who answered “yes”, and witnessed to his philosophical convictions and what he taught with his life.  We might call what Socrates witnessed to “ethics”, but what if the requirement were/is stronger?  The antithesis of a belief in objective truth is relativism.

There are no facts, only interpretations.

—Friedrich Nietzsche,
The Will to Power

If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and [for] men who claim to be bearers of an external objective truth, then there is nothing more relativistic than fascist attitudes.
Benito Mussolini, Il Duce

As a rule, only very learned and clever men deny what is obviously true. Common men have less brains, but more sense.
—William T. Stace

————————————————————————

“What is truth?”, Pilate asked.  -Jn 18:38

Whether you know it or not, you have a philosophy.  No, really.  Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, you do. I do.  Everyone does.  As the maxim goes, “Actions do speak louder than words.”  Our every action, our every choice, our every thought, our anxieties, our fears, our dilemmas, what we rejoice in, what we cry over, what we love, what we despise, all reveal our most intimate philosophy each of us has internalized and adopted, consciously or unconsciously.  Really.  Honestly.  Pardon, or don’t, the expression, “God’s honest truth!” or, popular too, “And that’s the Gospel truth!”, when we really want someone to believe us.  Funny, no?

Relativism is deemed necessary to preserve peace and equality in our diverse world.  It’s widely accepted because it is rarely scrutinized.  It is simply assumed to be true, since it’s cheap, and it’s easy; certainly easier than thinking, seeking the more profound, the truth.  I have a thing about cheap…and easy.  You truly do reap no more than what you sow in this life, at least.  Truly.  Cheap love, cheap faith, cheap grace, cheap hope, cheap relationships, etc.  I have a thing about cheap.  Relativism sounds good – like free money.  Just one teensy-weensy problem.  You knew that was coming, didn’t you.  Didn’t you?  It doesn’t work.  Relativism is intellectual alcoholism or drug abuse.  It is easier, at least it seems initially, to anesthetize than to live life soberly, or in the case of relativism to look the Truth dead in the eye…and deal.  As you may know, I have a problem with the Truth.  I like it too much.

The one dogma of Relativism is that it is absolutely true for everyone.  And, there we go.  It contradicts itself from the beginning.  Ooops.  Problem.  Think.  Think.  Think.  Quick, think.  Think fast!  But what about science?  Relativism says, “ONLY scientifically verifiable statements are true!”  (Whew!  Almost got caught there!)  Except, the previous statement is scientifically unverifiable.  Think about it.  Science never claims ONLY what can be proven through repetitive experiment is true.  Where would that leave new, yet undiscovered knowledge?  False?  Never.  That would be a fantastic and ludicrous scientific statement, take it from a professional applied scientist.  Science says what can be proven through repeatable experiment MUST be true.  Science DOES NOT claim the contrary.  Anyone telling you differently is lying to you.  Trust me.  I studied this stuff and practice it every single day.  Trust me.  In fact, science leaves completely to mystery the more important questions in life, much more important.

People say, “Show me God!”  I say in return, “Show me love.  Give me a pound of love.  Show me hope.  What is its volume?  Show me trust.  What is its mass?”  Why is an ineffable God such a stretch?  People live in and through, literally, Hell (on earth).  Why is a metaphysical Hell so far fetched?  What’s the great leap of faith on that one, seeing constantly around us physical Hells through pain, suffering, disease, discrimination, violence, injustice, etc.?  

I have a theory, and some of my saint friends would seem to support me.  I think Heaven or Hell begins in this life.  Just whiffs, but through the mystery of free will (I am fascinated by the theological implications of man’s free will and God’s gift of it, the questions seem to ALWAYS come back to it) we do start to choose here in this life Heaven or Hell.  God does not sentence us.  No, if truth be told, as Matt defines truth, God help us all, in this life we choose our own eternal disposition, or at least we begin to.  Beginning here and now, in this life.  Not sure if that is theologically sound, or if that would merit a Nihil Obstat or Imprimatur, but as a Catholic expressing a personal opinion, neither do I require either.  Trust me, I checked.

So, if Relativism, albeit intellectually and certainly morally is easy and cheap and untrue, then, logic goes, there MUST be something true?  I love Pilate’s question.  I have spent quite a bit of time meditating on that one over the last couple of years.  Quite a bit of time.  That passage of scripture calls to me.  It calls to me.  

Pilate would fit perfectly in the 21st century, no?  A realist?  A cynic?  A secularist?  A man “with a future?”  One of “our kind of people!”  A company man?  You can see why he was hired, no?  But then again, you can see why the most notorious Nazis and Communists were hired, too, no?  I meet Pontius Pilates constantly, constantly.  Disinterested in anything but self-interest.  Too many of them.  Too few Christians.  Oh, they have the t-shirt, but love is more than a t-shirt you don’t know what it says or means.  You just wear it, cuz you’re “supposed to”.  Habit.  Constantly, constantly.

Since Relativism doesn’t work and is incapable of being consistent, I then find “selective relativists”.  Strongly pro or opposed to certain topics, but indifferent to other, morally related grave issues.  They like what they like, whether they know why or not, and damn it, that’s it!  Brilliant.  Just ‘effen brilliant.  Constantly, constantly.  There’s a joke I heard once about opinions.  They’re like (posterior orifice of the body, I cleaned it up), everybody’s got one and they all stink.  So, my thing is informed opinion.  My opinion is you are entitled to your opinion if it is rationally, not polemically, informed.  And, you better be able to back that up, at least around me.  Call me unreasonable.

My deeply Relativist friends stamp their feet in tantrum saying, “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts!”  I say OK and show them the facts, which makes them furious.  Somehow, I’m the bad guy.  Somehow.  How such conclusions are reached in a mind with an intellectual darkness and confusion I, gratefully, do not believe I am burdened with?  Amazing.  Mystery. Mystery.  I know how.  Remove the facts which do not fit your predetermined conclusion, and “it’s all good!”  Stupid.  Insane.  But, that warm self-satisfied, hearing-what-you-want-to-hear feeling is a narcotic.  I like it, too.  Except, I believe I can sense the difference between cheap-and-easy and truth.  You can tell it’s the truth, because it’s harder.  The truth is always hard, no?  Usually, it’s the hardest answer to accept.  That’s how you know it’s the truth.  Because of what it asks of you.  We DO NOT WANT to hear that answer, trust me, but we MUST.  If we can accept the Truth, I hear, the rewards are not bad.  Even in this life…and, inevitably, in this life, the Cross, too.  Always.  Ultimately.  Inevitably.  If you are a disciple of the Truth.

“What is truth?”, Pilate asked.  -Jn 18:38

Jn 14:6

Love,
Matthew

“Intellectual Tasks of the New Evangelization”, 9/15-17/11, Wash, DC

by JOAN FRAWLEY DESMOND, Sr Editor, National Catholic Register, 09/21/2011
WASHINGTON — Seeking to reverse a generational breakdown in the transmission of faith, the U.S. bishops have targeted a potential ally — young theologians who have just begun to teach undergraduates at Catholic universities… 
…“The Intellectual Tasks of the New Evangelization,” a symposium held here at the Washington Court Hotel, provided a forum for 54 untenured theologians from across the country to engage with Church leaders and prominent theologians, including Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; John Cavadini, a top theologian at the University of Notre Dame; and Janet Smith, a moral theologian at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.
In a homily that introduced a note of urgency, Cardinal Wuerl suggested that theology departments and religious-studies departments address both the needs of cradle Catholics who never learned “the essentials of the faith” and the disaffection of mainstream society, for whom “the Gospel has lost its taste, its freshness, its luster.”
Sounding a theme echoed in other presentations over the weekend, Cardinal Wuerl asked the young academics — most of whom had completed their doctorates within the past five years — to embrace their professional responsibilities as a spiritual calling, embodying the teachings they transmitted.
The symposium marked a renewed focus on the New Evangelization by Church leaders throughout the world.
“Vast horizons are opening to the announcement of the Gospel, while regions of ancient Christian tradition are called to rediscover the beauty of the faith,” stated Pope Benedict XVI in a Sunday Angelus address delivered Sept. 18.
At the symposium, Archbishop DiNoia explored related themes in an often passionate address. The work of a Catholic theologian “is not simply an academic vocation. It is an ecclesial vocation,” he stated. The task at hand required an affirmation of the “doctrinal core of the Catholic faith” and a concerted effort to address the “internal and external factors” that impede the New Evangelization.
He counseled his audience not to allow academic specialization and speculative work to lead them to ignore the fullness of the Church’s teaching.
Archbishop DiNoia, a member of the Order of Preachers, observed that St. Thomas Aquinas mastered every aspect of Catholic theology and would never have divided it up into patristics, systematic theology, bioethics and other areas of specialization.
The fragmentation of theological work has resulted in the weakening of the holistic vision and power of Revelation, he said. “You have to keep asking yourself: What does this have to do with … the central doctrines of the faith?” he said. “The part you specialize in relates to the whole.”
Archbishop DiNoia touched on the sensitive topic of episcopal oversight of theology departments at Catholic universities and colleges. While acknowledging that scholars “have an instinctive allergy with regard to any censorship of thought,” he insisted that the Church had an obligation to confront theological dissent.
Internal Secularization
He noted that the need for intervention by Church authorities has increased over time: “The more theologians are no longer reliably able to affirm what the doctrine means, the more the magisterium intervenes.”
A central obstacle to the New Evangelization, he asserted, was the “internal secularization of the Church. The enemy occupies our territory.” The steady advance of secularism has fueled doubts about the intelligibility of the faith, resulting in an “apologetic apologetics.”
In contrast, Blessed Pope John Paul II “muted nothing,” the archbishop said. And Pope Benedict XVI’s public witness reflects the conviction that Catholic teaching presented in its “entirety can’t fail to attract.” 
Janet Smith, a leading moral theologian and author who has emerged as a prominent exponent of Blessed John Paul II’s theology of the body, examined how his emphasis on personalism contributed to the contemporary appeal of moral-law theology. The late Holy Father focused not only on general truths, but on challenging each person to realize that they need to live in accord with the truth.
She asked her audience to take a closer look at the late Pope’s emphasis on “lived experience.” In a world that expresses a “need for community but also an internal need for intimacy,” his message resonates with young people, leading them to reassess their relationships and learn self-mastery for the good of another person. 
Examination of Conscience
She likened her students’ encounter with Blessed John Paul II’s seminal work Love and Responsibility to an “examination of conscience.” The theology of the body “establishes that man can learn from the makeup of his own body and … that man is meant to be in a loving relationship of persons” imaging the communion of the Trinity.
Smith encouraged her audience to present the countercultural truths contained in Humanae Vitae (The Regulation of Birth) in an engaging manner that would lead students to ask themselves: “Am I speaking the truth of the body with my acts?”
While Smith mined the theological legacy of a 20th-century Pope, John Cavadini, a leading American theologian who stepped down last year as the chairman of the University of Notre Dame’s theology department, focused on the enduring insights contained in ancient texts of Catholic apologetics.
Cavadini began his presentation with a quote from Contra Celsum by Origen, the leading theologian of the early Eastern Church: “Our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ was silent when false witnesses spoke against him and answered nothing when he was accused; he was convinced that all his life and actions … were better than any speech in refutation of the false witness and superior to any words that he might say in reply to the accusations.”
Painting of an Icon
Origen’s insight provides worthy guidance for advancing the New Evangelization because it “lifts apologetics far beyond mere defensive tactics and into an offensive strategy that lays out a new vista for the theological imagination,” Cavadini suggested.
“Origen’s argumentation serves not to substitute for the peculiar power of the Gospel, but to make distinctions so that the way can be cleared for the weak Christian or the non-Christian to encounter and contemplate that power” on their own. He continued. “Origen’s apology is very aptly compared to the painting of an icon which is intended, in later Greek Christianity, to mediate an encounter with the Person of Christ.”
Cavadini asked his audience to “reread and study the great classical and medieval apologetic treatises, specifically with a mind towards discerning their apologetic strategy as a useful resource for today.” The recommended texts included: “Justin Martyr’s two Apologies, the Contra Celsum of Origen, the City of God of St. Augustine [and] the Summa Contra Gentiles of Thomas Aquinas.”
In an interview during a break in the proceedings, Cardinal Wuerl described the symposium as an opportunity for “building relationships among bishops and the theological community in an atmosphere of th
eological discussion. The New Evangelization is calling for us to take a look at how we re-propose the Gospel message to people who may feel they have already heard that message and it has nothing to say to them.”
Chad Pecknold, an assistant professor of systematic theology at The Catholic University of America and the author of Christianity and Politics: A Brief Guide to the History, published in 2010, was among the invited participants who represent a new generation of theologians who are prepared to take the New Evangelization to heart.
In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, he said, during an interview, theologians sought to dislodge the doctrinal certainties that anchored the faith of their students and “open” them up to new insights.
But today, there is no longer a “sense that the Second Vatican Council constituted a break with the past. The intellectual task of the New Evangelization is to think through the continuity of evangelization.”
Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/young-theologians-encouraged-to-confront-the-intellectual-tasks-of-the-new-/#ixzz1Z1KEBP5L