Brandon Vogt

Has the New Evangelization become a lazy lake?

Over the last few weeks I’ve been excitedly following the Synod on the New Evangelization, but I’ve been a little disappointed. Much of my concern surrounds the Synod’s latest focus, Islam, which was sparked by Cardinal Peter Turkson’s macabre YouTube video.

I agree that Islam is important and deserves attention. No doubt it presents many unique challenges for the Church’s missionary and pastoral work. But it does not deserve central concern at this Synod. At best, it’s a peripheral element of the New Evangelization as understood by Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI.

This is just one example of how the Synodal fathers have so far missed this movement’s core. As I read through the many speeches and interventions, I’m left asking, where is Paul VI’s emphasis on social communications? Where are the “new methods and new expressions” that John Paul called for? Where are the creative ways of re-proposing the perennial truth of Christ’s Gospel as promoted by Benedict XVI?

I’ve not seen a single mention of new media, and there have been few practical suggestions on how the Church, particularly laypeople, can re-engage those Catholics who were baptized, imperfectly catechized, but never evangelized.

The New Evangelization is a specific movement with a definite end. It’s not a trendy label we can slap on anything “modern” or “new” or “generally spiritually beneficial.” And from what I’ve seen and read, the Synod has stretched its boundaries too far. The wide-ranging interventions read like a litany of pet issues from each bishop, regardless of how little they tie into the New Evangelization.

The problem is that by removing its limits, the New Evangelization morphs from a forceful current into a lazy lake. By including everything, I fear the movement is losing its linear drive. After all, if it concerns everything, it’s really about nothing.

I do have faith its core purpose will be re-discovered, and that the movement will regain its energy. Cardinal Wuerl, the relator-general of the Synod, has a wonderful grasp of the New Evangelization and I’m sure his final report will properly reorient the discussion.

But let’s hope the New Evangelization does not become a lazy lake. It must tighten its focus, become once more a raging, pointed current, because only then can it flood the world with fresh expressions of the Gospel.
(HT: Fr. Robert Barron for the phrase “lazy lake.”)

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  • JenB

    Heh-we can’t even agree on what the most important thing to focus on is. New Media? Social work? Maybe it’s the lack of vocations or well formed priests or which saint is best or what bible study works best…

    Maybe we just have to have the principles and work hard to discern how it’s played out ourselves. After all, isn’t that the office the laity?

  • I think it’s a little soon to start fearing the Synod has become a “lazy lake.” It’s not up to the Synod Fathers to guve you the list of tools and strategies you’re looking for…if they were to try to do that for every diocese, religious community and parish, it would be a mess! Remember, it’s what happens AFTER the Synod that counts. As in every Church-wide movement of the Spirit, the leaders discern the great prophetic Word, and ask the Lord what subjects He wants to deal with. At the end, they will share this Word with us, and our local leadership (bishops, superiors, etc.) will use the Synod to discern for you the tools you need to be an effective evangelist for your specific mission field.

    This is why St. Paul wrote different letters to the Corinthians, Ephesians, Collosians, etc.

    Let’s be patient with our bishops, and pray hard for them! Let’s also pray for ourselves, to be ready to listen with open hearts to what they share with us in their proclamation following the Synod!

  • Boniface

    Sorry…shouldn’t have called social media “nonsense”, but I think it is overrated. There is a huge crisis in Catholic Missions – namely, missionaries turned into social workers and neglected to preach the faith at all for fear of offending other religious traditions. This is the biggest problem. Catholics will figure out how to use social media on their own. I’d much rather see the Synod talk about the bigger issues.

  • Justin

    …useful to reflect upon, as it seems, in my opinion, most people are very quick to praise ‘New Media’, when at the same time it causes just as much distraction and detachment from a truly lived community of real faces and real books. I am under the yoke of technology as anyone else who lives in America, and I find myself staring into screens more often than I should. This is a challenge more so to myself than to fellow readers here; I just wanted to pass this along for another viewpoint.

  • Boniface

    I beg to disagree…talking about the importance of converting Muslims is of paramount importance to evangelization, since in the past thirty years the topic of trying to convert Muslims has been somewhat taboo in the hierarchy. This is the most important thing they could be talking about; perhaps the only more important thing would be discussing the conversion of Jews, which is equally as taboo.

    If they weren’t talking about this, I would be disappointed. I would be upset if all they talked about was social media and that sort of nonsense.

    • Boniface, your last dismissive sentence hardly deserves a response. But I encourage you to read any of Pope Benedict’s World Communications Day Messages to discern whether social media tools are “nonsense.” Contrary to you, he calls them ”

      Regarding Muslims, I never said evangelizing them is not important. It’s supremely important. But it’s a separate task from the New Evangelization. Over the last thirty years, Church leaders have carefully delineated between the New Evangelization, which is helping baptized-but-not-evangelized Catholics re-encounter Christ, and the mission ad gentes which includes outreach to Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, and more.

      The two are distinct and require very different methods and expressions. The whole point of my post is that when we lump both together–along with other efforts not even explicitly tied to evangelization–we dampen our ability to serve either one effectively. You end up with general platitudes, one-sized-fits-all approaches, and a lack of specific, contextualized strategies.

      • Tomas Diaz


        While I do believe Boniface’s last line is too dismissive, we must take care in overemphasizing the use of social media. Social Media, for it to be good, must be used well. This tends to be the emphasis on the World Communications Day Message.

        These tools offer a great ability for sharing information and even, as we are doing now, discussing various issues, but they also carry with them a natural changing of the message. Most communication theorists will discuss how words are only 10% of a message. Social Media, with its emphasis on words, tends to limit its message. Thus Fr. Barron’s great influence comes about from doing videos, adding more to the message, though even this can warp the message, not necessarily negatively but limiting it from its full potential. Check out Neil Postman’s Technopoly or Amusing Ourselves to Death for more on this (more users of social media need to be aware of, and make their audience aware of, the natural limitations of these tools, limitations which can often only be overcome by limiting the tool itself).

        Further, I would like some further discussion made on this split between the New Evangelization and the “mission ad gentes.” I don’t think their distinction is as strong as you make it out to be. They are powerfully intertwined. The “mission ad gentes” can only be effective if one has a lively Christian culture, the problem Archbishop Joseph Abni brought out in regard to the Muslim question. At the same time, a Christian culture will not sustain life unless it is found in spreading and pushing itself into the world, unless it feeds into the “mission ad gentes.”

        Among the greatest stumbling blocks with the New Evangelization is that it is presented without anything to oppose save some amorphous “non-Catechized, non-Evangelized Catholicism.” There is little sense of movement against the problems of the modern world outside certain politicized issued (abortion and homosexual unions). Protestant denominations and the other Abrahamic faiths are presented as almost coreligionists, with other religions fellow travelers towards truth. We do not have a sense of becoming “a light to the nations” and so it is hard for us realize that “the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his own possession.”

        We shouldn’t make terribly distinct the “mission ad gentes” from the New Evangelization. Fragmenting our missions will do nothing but tribalize the Church further and move each toward failure. I’d be interested in any magisterial documentation to the contrary.

        • Tomas, sorry for the late reply! Your great comment slipped through the cracks. I agree that we shouldn’t totally split these two missions–the “mission ad gentes” and the new evangelization–but they are distinct. And a Synod on the latter should not make the former its primary focus.

          For magisterial documentation noting the clear distinction, check out Pope John Paul’s “Redemptoris Missio”, particularly sections 3, 30, and 37. The Pope says:

          “[I]t is also true that missionary activity ad gentes, being different from the pastoral care of the faithful and the new evangelization of the non-practicing, is exercised within well-defined territories and groups of people.” (37)

  • The Idler
  • Tomas Diaz

    I think the matter of Islam should not be simply looked at as a pet project. As one comment said earlier, Islam and the inroads it is making into Europe are a big problem. There have been signs that those individuals and groups, fed up with western culture’s widespread problems (lacking culture, liberal societal structures, government denying transcendence in the public sphere) are turning to a faith which promotes a culture.

    Archbishop Joseph Abni’s intervention is especially telling. Muslims, like most any traditional society such as pre-Conciliar Catholicism, see faith and culture as unified. Culture is animated by a civilization’s faith. Thus when one sees a culture, one sees it’s faith. Muslims find western culture despicable and so deny western faith, Christianity (or more specifically Roman Catholicism, though I have a feeling Eastern Christians are lumped in with us). The Pope’s visit to Lebanon was telling of this. chants against America, the great symbol of modern western culture, were tied directly with chants against the Pope.

    One could look at this and wonder what this has to do with the New Evangelization. If anything, does this not concern the Old Evangelization: bringing the faith to those cultures who have never heard of Christ? Is not the New Evangelization about reinvigorating the old Christian lands and peoples?

    But reinvigorating them to what? To certain ideals of sanctity? To the reasonability of the faith? To acknowledging that they need to know and love Christ for salvation? That’s all fine and good, but it isn’t enough. The last one may appear as the center of everything, but it’s nothing if it remains an idea. It needs to be incarnated in a culture that fosters Christians (T.S. Eliot pointed this out in Notes on the Definition of Culture: Individual culture is reliant on the culture of a group which is reliant upon the culture of a civilization – A Christian lacking this structure must be a Saint to survive, the kind of Saint God raises to remake a culture so as to save the rest).

    We have to realize what the Muslims already do. We lack a culture to bring Christians, more specifically Catholics, (back) into. We have greater luck bringing intellectuals back in because they can be influenced by the ideas and arguments and realize the culture that was and that could be. But for the regular man, without a way of life to turn to, their much happier with the way of life they currently have. And if there’s no other way that is challenging there own (not just ideas, but actual ways of life), then they won’t see a reason to challenge it themselves.

    In a real way, Catholics need to break from modern culture, that culture which has been built upon enlightenment, rationalist, and anti-transcendent thought. If we appear to just be run-of-the-mill Americans or Europeans that happen to be Catholic, that won’t be enough, and a lot of current spirituality (refusing the real bite of Therese of Lisieux, Jose Maria Escriva, and other apostles of the “every day” life) does just that: “Go out and just live like everyone else but remember you’re Catholic, God will do the rest.” Saints are made by becoming an actual tear in the veil of reality. They don’t appear as everyone else. They are Saints.

    My takeaway is to stop worrying so much about the “method” of the New Evangelization, the promotion of “techniques” (don’t fall into thinking of the New Evangelization as a kind of gnostic “how to”). Instead, worry about how you make yourself something spiritually violent to the world and its prince (and make no mistake, Love is as violent to this world as it is sweet to the next). The Muslims know that faith must breed a culture which is transformatively violent to the modern world. We should learn from them.

    • gsk

      Beautiful, Tomas. Amen.

    • Marcel LeJeune

      There certainly are places that have an authentic Catholic culture. If you doubt that, come visit the place I work – St. Mary’s Catholic Center at Texas A&M.

      • Tomas Diaz


        I don’t doubt it. I’m a Houston native and a graduate of University of St. Thomas. We felt like chumps next to the number of vocations y’all pumped out. A Newman center doing better than a Catholic University… made us downright depressed. We need more places like that.

        Also, we need to be careful in throwing around the term “authentic Catholic culture.” We need some sense of what that means. I know a number of LifeTeen parishes where they have a great program, get huge numbers, and even do well in forming tight knit friendships. They are touted as authentically Catholic. However, I’ve also seen a huge number of those who go through those programs fall apart in College. The environment wasn’t a true Catholic culture, seeking to perfect the qualities of a good Catholic in the person. They simply gave them an environment with Catholic trappings to hang out in.

        Locales of Catholic culture (and at this point there are only locales, oasis in the desert of the modern landscape) must truly be cultural, seeking to inculcate and perfect in the person those qualities and that relation with Christ which will, as I term it, make them lovingly violent to the wider modern culture around them. One sees this in the children of strong Catholic families, especially home schooled children. They are considered “socially inept” or “weird” because their internal sense of the world is radically different, which shows itself in their outer way of life. They are violent to the world by simply being who they are, an individuated incarnation of the culture they grew up in (sadly, it’s not always violent out of love…).

        Places like St. Mary’s are few and far between. Sadly, the qualities that make it so great are usually anathema in the normal parish, the desire being to form a “religiously tinted and informed” sort of typical modern culture, though with as little refinement of modern culture as possible. We need more people and cultural locales which, by their witness, demand people to ask “Is there something wrong with my way of life? Is this a better way?” instead of witnesses which say “Continue as you are, but add this as well.” The faith demands a critical scrutiny of all culture, and I believe this critical scrutiny does not end overly positively for the modern American culture. It is similar to a comment recently made by Benedict concerning Nostra Aetate:

        “In the process of active reception, a weakness of this otherwise extraordinary text has gradually emerged: it speaks of religion solely in a positive way and it disregards the sick and distorted forms of religion which, from the historical and theological viewpoints, are of far-reaching importance; for this reason the Christian faith, from the outset, adopted a critical stance towards religion, both internally and externally.” (see

        Culture as a form of incarnation of a religion (I’m following Eliot here) must be critiqued similarly, with the sick and distorted forms pointed out and ultimately denied. Reactionary isn’t always bad.

        This is the real problem today. The information is out there and present and new forms of media or techniques or methods are simply icing on the cake. Without that culture the average man will not be able to form themselves in the faith.

        Make sure those at St. Mary’s Catholics are stirring up trouble when they get back to their homes, that your culture is spreading like a good infection. Make sure the Catholic you form aren’t simply being modern Americans with some Catholic practices and mores. Our parishes do enough of that.

  • Trzski Tz

    I was baptized but never taken to church. A product of a mixed marriage Protestant & Catholic, baptized Catholic only because it was done behind my mom’s back. Only made my 1st communion ’cause a friend was upset that she had to go to CCD classes & I wasn’t. When the parish discovered I had no faith teaching they setup an one on one setting for me with a high school senior who was entering religious life after graduation. Made my 1st confession and communion in 8th grade. That was it. The late 60’s where here. Public high schools were awash with drugs. The girls from the cries only Catholic high school were known to be the easiest. Our parents for what ever reason dropped the ball. We raised our children with even more permissiveness. I send mine to Catholic schools hoping against hope to turn the tide but it was too late. I could not give them what I did not have.
    It wasn’t until I was knocked down by disease that I came to faith, but my children because of the same reason moved further away.
    My fellow pagan friends thought I was nuts. They still do. They are so immersed in the lies of satan they will not change. It would cost them everything. I’m very lucky that God took everything. All I had to do is say yes I believe you have a more perfect way to live and I’ll follow you. I pray for my family and friends but if I should voice my beliefs they run away for months, in some cases for good. They have bought the lies and they don’t want the truth.

    • JenB

      Your conversion is beautiful, Trzski, though I’m sure painful. Keep up the prayers, love and witness for your family and friends! Your love of God may help them be more open. Thanks for your witness.

  • Sherry Weddell

    Marcel – I just finished another long conversation with a evangelizing leader who is dismayed by the complex array of personal, interpersonal, cultural, experiential,psychological, historical, and spiritual barriers that make it so hard for Catholics in the west to grasp this most fundamental challenge. I feel badly when I’m done sometimes because I know they want me to hand them a couple silver bullets and I can’t. Because the most fundamental issue is that something like 95% of our people are not yet disciples and our de facto pastoral/parish practice and lived culture has accepted that and all its consequences as “normal”.

    Here’s what we have learned are the first basic steps at the parish level (I cover them in great detail in Forming Intentional Disciples.)

    1) Break the Silence! (Over and over Catholics at all levels have told us “I didn’t know relationship with God was possible. 30% of Catholics don’t believe in a personal God anyway.)

    A. Talk about the possibility of personal relationship with Jesus Christ
    B. Drop the Name: Jesus! If he isn’t the explicit center of our individual and communal lives, we are already lost!
    C. Do Ask: Ask people to tell you the story of their lived relationship with God to this point in their life and really listen to understand (from their perspective).
    D. Do Tell: Tell the “Great Story” of Jesus, the kerygma, the gospel that has the power to awaken initial Christian faith. Most Catholics don’t even know there is a kerygma, much less what it is, and why it is important for them, those they love and the world.

    2) Foster as many overlapping ways for people to encounter Jesus Christ in a personal way in our parishes. (This is no silver bullet. Eucharistic Adoration will be the entry point for some, the Catholicism series for another, a retreat for someone else.)

    3) Expect conversion. Plan for conversion. (Most Catholics do not expect people to have a real, life-changing encounter with Christ and are actually uncomfortable when it happens. We have to realize that there is real cultural pressure against discipleship within our parishes as without.)

    4) Lay the foundation of organized, sustained, corporate intercessory prayer.

    There is a terrific need for serious work at the parish level because all the great campus ministries, returning Catholic programs, movements, media outreaches etc. all run into the same fundamental obstacle. The 800 pound gorrilla is the fact that our parishes, where 98% of all Catholic will spend most of their spiritual lives, are marked by deeply embedded cultures and practices that suppress or openly reject discipleship. So when the enthusiastic graduate of FUS or former FOCUS missionary or revert or new Catholic hits the parish, many of them drown – and some of them leave. The New Evangelization cannot and will not happen with the transformation of parish life. If the parish changes, the life of the whole Church will change.

  • Marcel LeJeune

    Sherry – As you know, The Church is very specific (in most instances) about defining evangelization as the spreading of the Good News through words and witness. But, they also speak of the entire work of the Church having an evangelical dimension to it, so in that sense, all the Church’s work is the same as evangelization. But, if we don’t make the proper distinctions, then the spread of the Gospel is left behind and forgotten.

    I love your intentionality in forming disciples. It is the reason why the Church exists. In the last few weeks I have given more than 12 talks and all of them come back to the basic fact that we, as Catholics, exist in this world to help form other disciples of Christ. But, we have several hurdles to overcome, as I see it:

    1 – Only recently are some Bishops finally realizing that every problem The Church has (money, vocations, scandal, divisiveness, etc) can be solved if we truly evangelize. So, it will take a huge shift in their thinking, budgets, programs, diocesan structures, etc. to get it moving in that direction. I think it will take another generation to wait on them to get things really going – at least!

    2 – The laity can more effectively do the work and in a more efficient and timely manner. But, the problem is the lack of Catholics who are engaged, formed and primed to do it. We have very good, well-intentioned Catholics who are afraid to take the risks involved in doing the work of evangelization. This is where the rubber meets the road – forming disciples who form other disciples.

    3 – There are good things happening in the field of evangelization, but there is no coordinated effort to bring them together and work on a “master plan”.

    I am praying the Holy Spirit will inspire us all to find that plan and act on it in a dynamic and powerful way.

  • gsk

    Brandon: I was drawn to your post because of your expressed disappointment (which in general I share) but mine is a little different. When the question/challenge arose about responding to Islam, it seems as though the bishops at the synod wanted to punt. The excellent intervention by Archbishop Absi (Greek-Melkite auxiliary in Damascus) reminds us of an enormous obstacle to evangelising Muslims: the decline of morals in the [so-called Christian] West. In that regard, it should provide an added impetus to spread the message of our Catechesis on Human Love in such a way that it has a greater, more practical impact on the wider culture — starting with ourselves, of course.

    Your readers are right that these initiatives should rest with the laity, and the reality of the growth of Islam should inspire us, rather than distract us. Only Christianity truly honours women and teaches about the dignity of the human person — that’s the Good News. Let’s get to work!

  • JenB

    Brandon, I would agree with Sherry. Mostly because it is not at that level that practical suggestions need to come. THAT is OUR JOB!

    If, indeed there is much going on behind the scenes, that is fantastic. That may help others to see the need, to see what others are doing to answer the need and generate some excellent discussion amongst Bishops.

    But to insist that they come up with some sort of concrete plan is not the goal of a synod. It is to present the ideas to the Holy Father, advise him of what is happening around the world and answers to those problems. Pet problems or real problems that need answering? Deesis could be making a point-this is a global initiative, not strictly an American one, and our needs will be different than Europe. ALL of this needs to be brought to the Synod so that the Holy Father, in his unique role as St. Peter, can lay out the continuing movement of the New Evangelization.

    Could you clarify this statement “The New Evangelization is a specific movement with a definite end.” By end to you mean that it will end one day-which I would argue is not true because each generation will need to be evangelized or that it HAS a definite end, that is the salvation of all?

    And I still contend that the New Media is only a part of it while ” discipleship grounded on an encounter with Christ” is at the heart of it all.

    • JenB, saying “THAT is OUR JOB!” presents a false dichotomy. Evangelization is the work of the whole Church. Read through “Evangelii Nuntiandi” and see how Pope Paul VI outlines the role of every demographic–bishops, priests, laypeople, catechists, parents, and more.

      I agree that laypeople need to *carry out* the main work of the evangelization, but the hierarchy does have a role in shepherding and guiding the mission. What I would have liked to see at the Synod is more bishops saying “let me highlight three or four examples in my own diocese of the New Evangelization in action.” That would have left the global Church with scores of concrete ways the New Evangelization can be carried out.

      Also, when I said “The New Evangelization [has]…a definite end”, I’m using “end” in the philosophical sense to mean “purpose.” It has a goal, a specific orientation. It’s main thrust is to lead fallen-away Catholics into an encounter with Christ, and the secondary thrust is to inject the Gospel into all spheres of secular society–to bring Christ to the culture.

      Finally, I totally agree with your last statement. I should have been more clear. Bringing people into relationship with Christ is *not* a piece of the puzzle; it is the puzzle. But new media is a primary way to do that in today’s world. One could say it’s one of the largest puzzle pieces in the New Evangelization.

      My problem is the Synod has neglected this vital piece *and* has almost missed the purpose of the puzzle, namely Sherry’s emphasis on intentional discipleship.

      • JenB

        Brandon, I say it is OUR job because for too long, in the history of the Church, holiness and bringing people to Christ has long been the “job” of the religious or clergy. I didn’t mean that the clergy don’t have their role. For goodness sake, I’ve taught others about EN. I know there is a difference in office. My point is, I don’t know why you want them to spell it out for us. That’s our job, I believe. That is where the new ardor, etc will be played out. We are the ones living in and among those who don’t believe, we should be able to figure out what we are going to do about it. They can give us the parameters, but we can do the specifics.

        Thanks for the clarification. I assumed as much, but it could be read either way.

  • Sherry Weddell

    I’ve been wrestling with this for 9 years now and nearly every generic gathering of Catholic leaders at any level has been 1) sweet platitudes devoid of any concrete suggestions; 2) The wide-ranging interventions read like a litany of pet issues regardless of how little they tie into the New Evangelization.

    That’s because, in the larger Catholic culture, the term “evangelization” has been used to mean almost anything the Church does – so in the eyes of most Catholics, any pet issue will do. In our Making Disciples seminars, leaders routinely imploded, melted down, waxed hostile and hysterical, etc. We always knew there would be an explosion but we were never certain when it would happen since the “land mines” varied widely with the people. There were at least 20 major paradigm shifts that we had to take the average parochial leader through and every shift involved not just positive “ahas” but the possibility of confronting issues that they literally didn’t even know existed. Which can make people angry, sad, feeling betrayed, etc.

    We are the rushing stream, Brandon. I’ve dreamed for several years of an informal, invitation only gathering of practitioners who actually prayed and wrestled together about some of these most fundamental issues. A generation of saints transformed the French church in the wake of the crisis of the Reformation and 2 generations after the Council of Trent in the early 17th century and led to a revival whose impact was felt for 150 years. And they did it through a living network of friendship and collaboration, not a synod.

    • Your whole comment resonates with me, especially the “evangelization=everything” myth that haunts the Church. I think there are many saints-on-the-ground (including you) who are excitedly and properly living out the New Evangelization. I only wish the Synod would have highlighted those efforts and individuals instead of dwelling in the clouds.

    • JenB

      We could still do that, Sherry.

  • Sherry Weddell

    Hi Brandon and thanks for the shout-out for Forming Intentional Disciples. Alas, Amazon is sold out (again!) at the moment so buy your copy from the Catherine of Siena Institute and support our little band of plucky rebels rather than the Empire. Go to and click on the picture of the book! We ship the same day and have great bulk discounts!

    I understand your disappointment, Brandon, but large, bishop-dominated events like this mean that you seldom hear from practitioners and the formal conversation remains at the 30,000 foot theological level. Much of the real learning happens behind the scenes in smaller, informal presentations, private get togethers, distribution of materials, etc. Almost all of the practitioners are lay, setting in the back, and are called “auditors”. Ralph Martin is an exception. He is a long time practitioner who earned his STD last year and so is sitting in the back in the “expert” section. But even his real impact (and Ralph knows everyone) will happen behind the scenes.

    But my experience and that of collaborators around the country is that within the last year, there has been a real change in the spiritual climate around this issue. The institutional situation is so dire that for the first, time, many Catholic leaders are actually open to new methodology. Which is why bishops are reading (!) and distributing copies of Forming Intentional Disciples to all their priests and deacons and other dioceses are giving copies to every significant leader, clergy, religious, and lay, at any level. And it isn’t just CSI whose work is being received with that kind of new openness.

    Finally, the de facto ecclesial culture of maintenance is cracking and a new wind is blowing. The Holy Spirit is moving! The conversation is starting on a global scale and you and I get to be part of it!

    • Thanks, Sherry! I was hoping you would comment 🙂

      Here’s my problem: even granting that the Synod is by nature more abstract than practical, it’s still missing crucial areas of the New Evangelization. In particular, our two pieces of the puzzle–new media (me) and discipleship grounded on an encounter with Christ (you)–have received little to no attention. Most attention given to the latter is wrapped in sweet platitudes devoid of any concrete suggestions on fresh ways to introduce modern man to Christ.

      The fact that you’ve heard from several bishops excited about “Forming Intentional Disciples”, just as I’ve heard from many excited about “The Church and New Media”, makes the whole thing doubly frustrating. It seems the lower-level hierarchy, meaning newer bishops and younger priests, understands the New Evangelization and its requirements better than those at the helm of the Church’s wheel.

      And at least so far, that wheel has hundreds of hands on it turning the ship in all sorts of directions. It’s unproductive, and quite frankly disappointing.

      From Vatican II, to Paul VI, to JPII, to Benedict XVI, I felt the New Evangelization was surging toward a climax at this Synod, when its explosive boom would release its energy around the world. But so far I think the energy has fizzled as the Synod has watered the fuse instead of light it.

      • I do agree with what you are both saying… to a point. I fully agree that what we’ve been seeing out of some (possibly the majority) of official interventions thus far has been lacking in the specifics of communicating the core, kerygmatic message of each person’s relationship with Jesus Christ – a message which you’ve both so eloquently written about.

        However, I have also seen other interventions in the synod, especially those coming from lay movements, which do stress this very strongly and should be a source of real hope, whether their interventions make it into the final document or not. They are already doing the work and are being heard by the bishops in the synod. Example: I was speaking last week to members of a university ministry (Catholic Christian Outreach) which has been very active in the synod, and this kerygmatic proclamation has been their entire focus.

        Also, Pope Benedict’s new series of Wednesday catechesis is very strong on this. Yesterday’s was particularly inspiring.

        Ultimately, a couple of points come to my mind:

        – The real fruit of this synod I believe is begun precisely in discussions like what you have graciously been hosting here, and the actions that come forth from them. The final document will be good to have but my feeling is that the document will be secondary to the more important task of getting people like ourselves to discuss & collaborate & get to work. In this regard, there has already been a lot of success; and

        – the Holy Spirit knows what he’s doing so I’m not worried. 🙂

  • Deesis

    Written like an American. Immigration into Europe by Non Europeans is major destabalisation of Europe which exists upon the fragile divisons if language ethnicity etc united by Christian or post Christian values. Immigration into the Old World is cultural religious suicide. It is good that video was shown as it shook the lazy complacent bishops up. The next thing is who would want the post Vatican II Faith or to be evangelised into the wishy washy, shallow pond it represents. I would though a Catholic oppose it. Many times I meet people interested in Catholicism and I caution them to consider what they are getting into. If they take it seriously they are in for heartbreak. If not they will be assimilated into the facile brave new world of Vatican II in which nothing is very deep. Better to be a Traditionalist…only they will save the Church from the times!

  • I think we need to start a grass roots movement. If we wait for the clergy to get the NE river flowing , we might be waiting a long time. Anyone interested in discussing some ideas ?

  • CatholicEvangelizer

    I don’t think the missing component is the new media. As someone engaged in the new media, the real poverty I see is certainly not a lack of avenues for communication… it is the abscence of a will to communicate the Truth against error. This is true from the bishops on down. There are signs that this will get better, but my hope is not resting on the pronouncements of this Synod when it is being led by someone who refused to communicate the Truth in Washington DC.

  • Eric Neubauer

    The question is – what are WE (the faithful) going to do with the New Evangelization? It does not surprise that the Synod begins to wander…isn’t that what we have a tendency to do when challenged to DO the BIG things. We wander, get distracted and delay action. It is time for the faithful to internalize what Pope Paul VI, JPII and BXVI have said (b/c its so simple and scriptural), embrace the New Evangelization for what it is and actually do the work. I have been afraid for some time that this Year of Faith + the New Evangelization would become a missed opportunity. BV – you have warned us. Together – let US do the work that is ahead.

  • Rosary Maker

    naturgesetz – Agreed – we need more evangelizing the Catholics in the Catholic Church. My observation has been that the Cradle Catholics want the clergy and religious to do all the teaching and training. The first question usually asked is “when is the priest/religious coming”? Frequently, I have found this to be an excuse for many to not participate at all.

  • Mark

    Excellent analysis. I can’t add much more to that or the pertinent comments above. This is such an important matter.

  • Marcel LeJeune

    The problem is that evangelization is NOT effective when the leaders are the clergy. It is effective when the laity take the lead. If laity don’t step it up, we will never bring the Gospel to the world. The Bishops/Cardinals are not experts in the New Evangelization, They are experts in running Dioceses, theology, etc. They don’t know what it is like to work and live in the secular world on a day-to-day basis. Also, there are very few who have any understanding of new media, effective uses of technology, etc.

    We can’t wait for them to come around and “get it”. We need to do it ourselves.

  • naturgesetz

    The last chapter in Catholics and Evangelicals: Do They Share a Common Future? ed. Thomas P. Rausch, is by David E. Bjork, a member of the Missionary Church. He went to France to evangelize and plant churches, and came to realize that what he needed to do is evangelize Catholics within the Catholic Church, not to draw them out of the Church.

    Can we here in the U.S., and perhaps in other countries, benefit from the work of Evangelicals as part of the New Evangelization? Should we invite them to help us? I think they could be a tremendous resource to help Catholics to stir into flame the grace they have been given, if they can realize what David Bjork did.

    • Totally agree. If you haven’t already, check out Sherry Weddell’s tremendously important book, Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus.” She’s a former Evangelical who uses her past experiences to teach Catholics how to build evangelizing communities.

  • dmw

    What is missing from the Synod and all the talks on the New Evangelization is the role of the parish priest in actually creating initiative in their parishes, trying to reignite fervor among the faithful, among families, among young people. More documents from the Holy See don’t the New Evangelization make! The two-pronged approach of Pope Benedict (see Porta Fidei and his homily for the opening of the Synod) is a focus on marriage and confession. People aren’t converted by blogs, Facebook, Twitter, or witty internet memes. “Faith,” as St. Paul says, “comes by hearing, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ” (Rom 10:17). Preaching penance and fidelity to the “primordial sacrament,” i.e. marriage and family life, is key to the Year of Faith and our efforts at any “new” evangelization.

    • JenB

      I agree, except it is not the office of the priest to create those initiatives. It is in the office of the laity to do so. It is our responsibility to make these things happen and not wait for Father to do it.

  • I made a similar observation on your FB within a few days of the beginning of the Synod. Pet issues seemed to be coming up all too often. It seemed like the question at hand was fairly clear, but some of the interventions were not even tangentially related. The positive is that this was always going to be a long road, so all the eggs are not in this one basket.

  • Frmattgerlach

    Excellent analysis! I, too, was excited to think the Synod would yield practical suggestions for the church at every level to engage the Gospel with friends, family and neighbors. However, having heard Cardinal Wuerl speak recently of the ‘tsunami of secularism’, I am hopeful he will redirect their attention to bearing much fruit.

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