Because the Church Says So

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Church

On each of the next few Tuesdays, I’ll be sharing a guest post by my good friend Michael Marchand. They’re excerpted from his book, The E Word, which is a clear, concise, practical guide to the New Evangelization. Michael is now hosting live events and retreats based on the book. Find out more through his website.
 
 
Did you ever ask your dad for permission to do something only to get shot down? Most of us respond to such defeat by changing our target: we ask Mom. It only took a “Yes” from one or the other for us to feel justified in doing whatever it was we were hoping to do. But when both parents came back with the same response and the same instructions even when they were asked separately, we knew there was no chance of appeal.

Jesus very clearly tells us we’re supposed to evangelize, and his bride, the Church, tells us the exact same thing. She even uses stronger words than Him:

“The task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church.⦆ It is a task and mission which the vast and profound changes of present-day society make all the more urgent. Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize.” (Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi)

Don’t miss that last sentence: the Church exists to evangelize.

It’s not just one the things that the Church should do, it is THE thing she MUST do. If she exists to evangelize, if that is her deepest identity, then if she’s not evangelizing, there is no reason for the Church to exist.

If we are the Church, the body of Christ, then the mission of the Church is our mission. If the Church exists in order to evangelize, then that should be the very reason for our existence as well.

No excuses.

“No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.” (Pope John Paul II, Repemtoris Missio)

Far too often we look at evangelization as optional. We tell ourselves: “Those people who are good at evangelization should do that, that’s not really my gift, so God can’t expect me to do something that I’m not good at. He can’t really want me to do something I don’t like doing. Right?”

Wrong:

“All the Christian faithful…are bound by the general obligation…to work so that the divine message of salvation is made known and accepted by all persons everywhere in the world.” (Code of Canon Law, 225)

Did you catch that? Canon Law says “All the Christian faithful…”, not “those who are good at sharing their faith” or “people who love to evangelize”. No, the same obligation to preach the Gospel that was imposed on Paul (1 Corinthians 9:16), has been imposed on all of us.

The Church doesn’t mince words. If we believe in Christ, evangelization is our duty, our obligation. It should be the reason for our existence.
 
 
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Michael Marchand is the author of The E Word a fantastic resource on Catholic evangelization. The response to the book has been so positive, that Michael now also runs evangelization retreats based on it’s content at parishes and schools around the country. (Portions of this article were taken from The E Word.)

Michael is one the co-creators of ProjectYM, a Catholic Youth Ministry resource and popular collaborative blog. He’s also the guy behind ParishDesigner.com, PopeTweets, and ReigniteUganda.
 
 
(Image credit: TM01001)

Because Jesus Said So

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Great Commission

On each of the next few Tuesdays, I’ll be sharing a guest post by my good friend Michael Marchand. They’re excerpted from his book, The E Word, which is a clear, concise, practical guide to the New Evangelization. Michael is now hosting live events and retreats based on the book. Find out more through his website.
 
 
God is not big on suggestions. When you’re the Creator of the Universe, you don’t give recommendations or advice. God gives commands — not for His sake, but for our good.

God did not command Adam and Eve to avoid that tree because of some divine love of rules, but because He was trying to protect them. When God commanded Abraham to pack up and move, it was for Abraham’s benefit. The Ten Commandments were not given because God desired restrictions. They were given because the people of God were lost and needed guidance.

EWordThe Apostles knew the stories of Adam and Eve, Abraham and Moses. They knew that when God spoke, it was in their best interest to follow His commands.

And so, the book of Acts opens on the Apostles waiting. Why? Because Jesus told them to.

After Jesus rises from the dead, He spends 40 days hanging out with His Apostles, His friends. He spends 40 days “speaking about the kingdom of God” and the “promise of the Father” (Acts 1:3,4), and on the last day He gives them this command:

“I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)

Jesus promises them “power from on high” (aka “the Holy Spirit”), but instructs them to stay and wait until they receive the Spirit.

So the Apostles wait.

To be fair, they did more than just wait around: they prayed. Gathered together in an upper room, the earliest leaders of the Church spent their time, day and night, in prayer. They were preparing for what God was going to do through them.

Then it happens.

“And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit…” (Acts 2:2-4)

The story doesn’t end there. The Spirit filled each one of them for a very specific purpose. It was more than just an extraordinary gift. This gift came with another command.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Power? Yeah, I’ll take that.

Holy Spirit? Sure!

Witnesses to the ends of the earth? Sounds like a job for someone else, right?

Wrong. The gift and command Jesus gave to the Apostles, He gives to us. We have each been given the power of the Holy Spirit (even if a “strong driving wind” has never filled your house), and we have each been called – no, commanded – to be Christ’s witness “to the ends of the earth”.

Why do we evangelize? Because Jesus says so. Not just in Acts, but throughout the Gospels (Mt 28:18-20, Mk 16:15-18, Lk 24:46-49, Jn 20:21-23).

And when God speaks, it’s in our best interest to listen.
 
 
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Michael Marchand is the author of The E Word a fantastic resource on Catholic evangelization. The response to the book has been so positive, that Michael now also runs evangelization retreats based on it’s content at parishes and schools around the country. (Portions of this article were taken from The E Word.)

Michael is one the co-creators of ProjectYM, a Catholic Youth Ministry resource and popular collaborative blog. He’s also the guy behind ParishDesigner.com, PopeTweets, and ReigniteUganda.
 
 
(Image credit: The Gospel Coalition)

“The Urgency of the New Evangelization” Book Giveaway!

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“Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.” – St. Augustine

Since I’ve built up a large collection of extra books and resources, every week I give some away absolutely free, no strings attached.

Each giveaway lasts seven days with a new one beginning every Friday. You can enter any time during the week. Check out my past giveaways here.


 
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Thanks to Our Sunday Visitor, today I’m giving away TEN copies of Ralph Martin’s new book, The Urgency of the New Evangelization: Answering the Call. (If you missed it, be sure to check out my interview with Ralph about this book.)
 

The Urgency of the New Evangelization: Answering the Call

by Ralph Martin

Our Sunday Visitor, 128 pages, paperback
Released on October 2, 2013

Urgency of the New Evangelization“No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.” — Blessed John Paul II

With the encouragement of Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, discover a renewed urgency and growing enthusiasm for sharing the Gospel with those in your life, both non-believers and those who are no longer practicing their faith.

In The Urgency of the New Evangelization: Answering the Call, Ralph Martin explains:

  • It’s not just a churchy buzzword
  • It’s not just for priests and missionaries to carry out
  • YOU and every individual Catholic play a role
  • It is literally a matter of life or death for everyone in your life
  • And…it’s not as hard as you think

 


 

I’m using Rafflecopter to help with the giveaway, which is great because it gives you multiple entries for commenting, posting on Facebook, sharing on Twitter, etc. Click below to enter:


(If you’re reading this through email or RSS and don’t see the giveaway widget, click here.)
 


 
The winner(s) will be randomly selected next Friday and the books will be sent out, free of charge, shortly thereafter.

In the future I’ll be giving away more books and resources, sometimes multiple items per giveaway! So subscribe via feed reader or email to ensure you never miss your chance to win.

(Since I’m covering the shipping costs, only residents within the continental United States are eligible to win.)

The Urgency of the New Evangelization: An Interview with Dr. Ralph Martin

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Today I have the pleasure of interviewing my good friend, Dr. Ralph Martin. Ralph has been a leader in Catholic renewal movements for many years. He’s the president of Renewal Ministries and host of “The Choices We Face”, the longest running television show on EWTN. He’s also an associate professor and Director of Graduate Programs in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

Urgency of the New EvangelizationRalph has authored several books including at least three on the New Evangelization. His important 2012 book, Will Many Be Saved?: What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization (Eerdmans) made waves upon its release and continues to generate discussion. His most recent book, titled The Urgency of the New Evangelization: Answering the Call, was just published by Our Sunday Visitor.

Ralph has a well-earned reputation as an expert in the New Evangelization. In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI made him a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization and also appointed him as a “peritus” (i.e. expert) to the Synod on the New Evangelization in October 2012.

In our interview today we explore the New Evangelization, its many barriers, and what Ralph saw and heard at the Synod.


 
BRANDON: We often hear about the urgency of the New Evangelization, but many people are left with a basic question: what is the New Evangelization?

Dr. RALPH MARTIN: The New Evangelization is a new emphasis on the Church’s ongoing mission of evangelization. The message isn’t different since Jesus Christ is indeed the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, but there are some new dimensions.

The first thing that’s new about it is that it’s no longer just directed towards traditional mission territories where people have perhaps never heard the gospel before. It is now directed towards the growing numbers of baptized Catholics who aren’t living as disciples of Christ. While “non-practicing” and “fallen away” Catholics have always been a part of the landscape, their numbers have grown dramatically to the point where traditionally-Catholic and Christian parts of the world can now accurately be described as “post Christian.” The fact that evangelization now has to occur in a post-Christian culture is another aspect that is new.

Another thing that’s new about the New Evangelization is who is expected to do it: every Catholic who is living their faith. While traditional mission work was primarily carried out by priests and nuns, primarily from religious orders, Vatican II recovered the meaning of baptism and its implications for lay holiness and mission, and clearly teaches that all of us by virtue of baptism are called to participate in the ongoing mission of Christ “to seek and to save those who are lost.” All the post-conciliar documents on evangelization also emphasize the importance of each baptized Catholic embracing our mission. Pope Francis, of course, has dramatically underlined this for us today by asking “What are we waiting for?” and outlining all the simple opportunities we have to “preach the gospel” in the multiple encounters and environments of lay life.

Finally, John Paul II never tired of saying that the New Evangelization also needed to be new in “ardor, method, and expression,” emphasizing the key role of the Holy Spirit in inspiring both courage and creativity in sharing the good news.

 
BRANDON: What are the biggest barriers preventing Catholics from evangelizing and how can we overcome them?

Dr. RALPH MARTIN: Ignorance of the faith and the fear of sharing it are certainly common obstacles, but solutions to these obstacles are rather obvious and near at hand.

Will Many Be SavedI think, though, that there is an underlying doctrinal confusion that, unless directly addressed, will make the response to the New Evangelization lukewarm at best. Many of our fellow Catholics have drifted into an unexamined presumption that perhaps only a few very evil people will be lost and since God is so merciful, virtually everyone will be saved. This unexamined presumption therefore makes of the duty to evangelize not a matter of life or death, heaven or hell, but a matter of “enriching” someone’s life, something like an “optional” enrichment course. This presumption often springs from an alleged development of doctrine at Vatican II. I’ve devoted a considerable amount of time to showing the fallacy of this since I believe that a lukewarm response to the call to the New Evangelization will actually endanger the salvation of souls. While Vatican II clearly teaches that under certain conditions it is possible for those who haven’t heard the gospel, through no fault of their own, to be saved, it also clearly teaches that no one lives in a neutral environment and the powerful spiritual realities of the world, the flesh and the devil, make it likely that “very often” these conditions aren’t met. Therefore the gospel must urgently be preached for the sake of peoples’ salvation. (cf. Lumen Gentium 16 and my book Will Many Be Saved? What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization).

I was happy to see that Proposition #6 from the Synod on the New Evangelization didn’t omit these crucial last three sentences of Lumen Gentium 16 as most treatments of this question do. And concerning the salvation of baptized Catholics who aren’t living their faith the Council is even more startlingly direct, teaching in Lumen Gentium 14 that indifferent, baptized Catholics will not only not be saved but will be the more severely judged, listing in a footnote some of the numerous sayings of Jesus that underline this truth.

While God’s mercy is great, so is his holiness, his truthfulness, and his justice, and that great messenger of God’s mercy, St. Faustina, makes this very clear. In her Diary, where she recounts what Jesus and Mary have communicated to her, she faithfully transmits a message that is in total harmony with the scriptures, that while the mercy of God is great, that mercy doesn’t force its way into peoples’ lives, but “knocks on the door,” so to speak. St. Faustina makes very clear that there needs to be a response to mercy – repentance, confession of sin, faith – in order for mercy to be effective in reconciling sinners to God and gaining for them eternal life. In my new book, The Urgency of the New Evangelization: Answering the Call, I devote a whole chapter to the question of God’s mercy and quote rather fully the amazing revelations St. Faustina received from Jesus about the reality of hell and the urgent need for there to be a response to mercy – an urgent need to call unbelievers, fallen away Catholics, and those not practicing their faith to conversion, for the sake of their salvation.

In the post-conciliar church we have tended to want to just present the positive message of God’s love and mercy and leave out some very important additional information! I believe we need to not only tell people about God’s love and mercy but also tell them what Jesus and the apostles said about the kind of response which is necessary for this mercy and love to be effective in a person’s life, namely faith and repentance. In addition we need to tell them about the consequences of responding or failing to respond to the offer of mercy, namely, heaven or hell. We need to follow the example of Jesus and the apostles and not think we can be more effective by leaving out essential elements of the message. All of the message, the offer of mercy, the need to make a personal response to that mercy, and the consequences of responding or failing to respond to mercy, are revealed to us by the mercy of God.

 
BRANDON: In your new book, The Urgency of the New Evangelization, you claim the New Evangelization requires a new Pentecost. What does this mean?

Dr. RALPH MARTIN: I do have a chapter on the need for a new Pentecost in order for the New Evangelization to be launched but as people will see there is an absolutely consistent and passionate call for a new Pentecost from Blessed John XXII through every subsequent Pope including now Pope Francis’ impassioned teaching on the need for the Holy Spirit in his recent Apostolic Exhortation. The clarity and consistency of this call has not really been noted and I think people who read the chapter will be quite amazed and inspired.

In the chapter, I also analyze the factors that prepared the way for the first Pentecost, which launched the first evangelization. I explain how these factors are actually reproducible and relevant for today. The condition of the disciples before the first Pentecost is not unlike many very dedicated Catholics today. Those first disciples had the best teaching anyone ever had, had the best bible study, had the best personal spiritual direction, the best supervision in evangelization. But something was missing, an encounter with the Holy Spirit that enabled all these elements to come together, in a passionate knowledge, experience, and love of Jesus and his message. That gave them the courage and zeal to go to the ends of the earth with the message and suffer martyrdom. We certainly need that same encounter today – martyrdom is coming, martyrdom is here – in order to give us that “power from on high” without which bold evangelization and witness is not possible. In the chapter I explain how we can dispose ourselves for such an encounter and identify resources that can help us.

 
BRANDON: Before he retired, Pope Benedict XVI appointed you as a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization. You also participated in the Vatican’s Synod on the New Evangelization (October 2012). What did you see and hear at the Synod, and what do you think its impact will be?

Dr. RALPH MARTIN: I think the main impact of the Synod was that Bishops and Cardinals from all over the world – even in the so called “young churches” where the faith seems to be growing – agreed without argument that the New Evangelization was urgently needed everywhere there were Catholics. In the developed countries the statistics are absolutely shocking at what can only be described as a great apostasy; in the growing churches of Africa, bishop after bishop testified that the faith has grown a lot. But there is still a great need for true and deep conversion that affects every dimension of a Catholic’s life. Pressure from Islam was also noted as a significant problem.

At the same time I can’t say that by the end of the Synod that a very clear understanding of the New Evangelization had emerged, so various were the final propositions. I hope my new book can be a contribution, among many others, to that. At the Synod, I had a chance to assist various bishops and Cardinals in drafting propositions. I also had the privilege of working closely with Cardinal Wuerl, who was overall responsible for leading the Synod to its final conclusions. Two things in particular that Cardinal Wuerl said at the Synod continue to stay with me. First of all, he identified the problem in vivid language: “A tsunami of secularism is sweeping over the world.” Secondly, he identified the most important element of the solution: “We need to recover our confidence in the truth of our faith.” I agree!

 
BRANDON: If you had thirty seconds to share the Gospel with an unbeliever, what would you say?

Dr. RALPH MARTIN: When people die two very different kinds of things happen. For some, death is truly an entryway into a higher form of life where we share in immortality and experience resurrection and infinite love and joy. For others death confirms an alienation and separation from God rooted in unbelief and unconfessed sin. The doorway to the glory of heaven passes through God’s gift to suffering humanity – Jesus. The doorway to eternal isolation is clinging to the illusion of an autonomy that proudly refuses to surrender to the offer of love. Time is short and only one decision is significant. The decision to humble ourselves and accept the love with which we are loved in Jesus, or the decision to reject that love. Let’s talk.
 


 
For more, check out Dr. Ralph Martin’s new book titled The Urgency of the New Evangelization (Our Sunday Visitor). And be sure to follow Ralph through his website, RenewalMinistries.net.

If you liked this discussion you’ll find several more on my Interviews page. Subscribe free via feed reader or email and ensure sure you don’t miss future interviews.

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  • "There is only one tragedy in the end, not to have been a saint." - Léon Bloy