Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Months had passed when the Holy Father introduced the 'New Evangelization.' And many think that the 'new' here means new ways of Evangelizing. We are indeed encouraged to find new ways of Evangelizing but that had been the practice since time immemorial. The "New" is not the presentation of the content of the message. The 'new' is the Evangelizer, the priest. He must be different from most of those Evangelizing for the last 400 years.
Pope Benedict XVI gave the schema for the New Evangelization. He gave two general topics: first the structure or method, and secondly the contents. The first deals with the Evangelizer or the preacher or the priests. The second deals with the contents of his preaching. We have partially dealt with the second, the contents which are a.) conversion, which is the life of repentance or metanoia, b.) the kingdom of God, which is how to enter the Catholic Church, c.) union with Jesus Christ, the created soul of the Church, d.) union with the Holy Spirit, the uncreated soul of the Church and finally, e.) Eternal life. In the last article we had presented 'conversion' only. Before proceeding with the next 'content' of the New Evangelization let us go back to the structure, i.e. the preacher or the priest.
In the 'New Evangelization,' the priest, himself, must have finished his own conversion, his metanoia. How can he teach others how to repent when he, himself, have not repented? When the Holy Father stated during the year of the priests that priests should be contemplatives, he meant one who have completely finished his repentance and is already in the realm of supernatural Faith. Using the words of the Apostolic Commission Christ gave His disciples, the priest must have been baptized and knows all the commandments of Christ and how to obey them. This is only possible if he has the Theological virtue of Faith which in essence is the contemplative life. It is only when the priest knows all the commandments of Christ and how to obey them can he really preach. This can only occur if he has made an act of natural faith, like St. Thomas on Easter evening, he has made an act of supernatural faith, like St. Thomas when he saw the Resurrected Christ, and only after Christ has enlightened his mind by making him understand Scriptures as what Christ did to Thomas at the end of the same Gospel narrative. The problem is most priests have not finished their life of repentance and, therefore, do not have supernatural faith. Now, that is quite an accusation. Cardinal Ratzinger mentioned that in his 'Ratzinger Report.' That the Church is undergoing a crisis of Faith. What does that mean? That the Bishops and priest have no faith and as a consequence the lay people has no faith. They are all unable to enter the Catholic Church and save their souls.
But this is nothing new in the Church. There had been eras in the history of the Church that this had occurred. Montanus, a priest, messed up the early Church during his time by introducing the first Protestant version of the Charismatic movement long before the Pentecostals were born. And this is the version followed by most Charismatics in the Catholic Church today.
At the time of St. Jerome, he woke up one day and the world was Arian. And this included the monks, the priests and Bishops. St. Athanasius had to fight monks, priests and bishops who had no faith. And this state did not only last for a month. It lasted for years.
Around the 10th century, this happened again. The light of Faith was barely flickering in the Church because the monks, priests and bishops had no Faith. Of course, the Popes always led the reform and they were helped by a small group of chosen souls raised by God, Himself. During this time the small Benedictine monastery of Cluny aided the Pope.
Again this occurred around the 12th century. Fortunately St. Thomas of Aquinas was around. After the Council of Trent, this lost of Faith again occurred. But we had the communities of the Theatines whom God raised to aid the Church. After Trent, it was too difficult to restore the former resplendent light of the Church. It became darker in the 18th century. As usual, the Popes were at the forefront of the renewal. Pope Pius IX up to Pius XII. It was an uphill battle.
The problems the Church is now experiencing with the priests and even some Bishops are due to the absence of Faith and even the absence of repentance. When Mary called for Repentance three times in Fatima the Bishops and priest could not answer the call because they themselves did not know how to repent. Courses in Seminaries do not teach the detailed step on repentance.
So the problem in the New Evangelization is that the preachers, themselves cannot teach the first content of Evangelization - conversion or repentance. And yet the Popes had reminded us how it is done. From 'Veritatis Splendor,' to the 'Year of St. Paul,' to the 'Year of the Priests,' to 'Instrumentum Laboris' and now to 'Porta Fidei,' declaring the Year of Faith.
Faith is a gift of God to those who have repented. The emphasis must be on repentance, not on Faith. So in the New Evangelization, the Pope is describing the priest-preacher as one who is a contemplative who must preach in community......that is a priest who have finished his conversion and has entered into the life of supernatural Faith. He is practically describing those whom God raised during those eras of crisis in the Church...... if we study the Pope's description. Well, he was actually describing the first apostles, he was describing the Fathers of the Church and as we see in the history of Church during those critical times, he was describing the instruments God used to prop up His Church. The New Evangelization is the Pope's call for a 'Repeat Performance' from the lessons of history.
And this is what many are missing in the "New Evangelization." I have to still hear someone describe this effort of the Pope in the right way. 'Improve everything except ME,' is the cry we hear. No, it is the ME that needs complete renewal. As in the past crises in the history of the Church, the cause was the ME who was so imbued with the 'Spirit of the World.' Note that those who help the Church believed in "fuga mundo," a fleeing away from the spirit of the world. And the Holy Father mentioned this as the characteristic of the Evangelizer. 'He must have a pure love for Christ.' What else that does mean, except one who loves God above all things.... a perfect Catholic. And the Pope repeated that ' the priest must be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect.' In the next article let me describe the Evangelizer, the priest or bishop, as the Holy Father would want him to look like in the 'New Evangelization,' an image we drew from his many talks on the 'New Evangelization.'