The most important key to the New Evangelization

Yesterday morning, Cardinal Donald Wuerl opened the Synod on the New Evangelization with a 6,500-word introductory address. In it, he outlined the Synod’s four main goals:

1. Reaffirm the essential nature of evangelization
2. Note the theological foundations of the New Evangelization
3. Encourage the many current manifestations of the New Evangelization
4. Suggest practical ways in which the New Evangelization can be encouraged, structured and implemented.

However, I’d like to focus on Cardinal Wuerl’s clear definition of the movement:

“At its heart, the New Evangelization is the re-proposing of the encounter with the Risen Lord, his Gospel, and his Church to those who no longer find the Church’s message engaging.”

To me, this definition confirms a theory I’ve long held: the most important key to the New Evangelization is “re.” That prefix sums up the movement, and also shows how it differs from the past.

Older evangelistic periods centered on the initial proclamation of the Gospel to people that who never heard it before—the kerygma. But the New Evangelization is all about re-telling the Catholic story to a world that has largely forgotten it. It’s about re-minding, re-introducing, re-invigorating,  and ultimately re-viving some latent faith buried within.

That’s why Pope Benedict’s motu proprio for the Year of Faith, Porta Fidei, contained no less than six instances of that “re-” prefix. The Pope described the New Evangelization as the need to “re-propose the perennial truth of Christ’s Gospel.”

Throughout Cardinal Wuerl’s opening message, he came back to that prefix again and again:

“There are numerous people, particularly in the western world, who have already heard of Jesus. Our challenge is to stir up again and re-kindle in the midst of their daily life and concrete situation, a new awareness and familiarity with Jesus.”

“As has already been noted, New Evangelization is the re-introduction, the re-proposing, of Christ.”

What all this means is that modern evangelization is about recovery more than discovery. It’s built on an appeal to nostalgia, instinct, and intuitive knowledge as much as objective reason.

It centers on reminding fallen-away Catholics of what they know deep in their bones: that life has purpose, meaning, direction, and hope; that God loves you; that the Church is on your side; that Jesus wants to give you life, and life to the full. Once those truths are re-encountered for the second, third, or thousandth time, then the dead bones will rise back to life.

Then we’ll witness re-surrection.

(Credits: Rocco Palmo and Reuters)