Since the days of Pope St. Paul VI, there has been, in the Catholic Church, a growing awareness and development of the concept and plan for evangelization. In December of 1975, he published his encyclical entitled Evangelii Nuntiandi (EN). Having opened his encyclical with the affirmation that the proclamation of the gospel is a service rendered to the Christian community and the world, he goes on to say that his role as pope and successor to Peter is to encourage the faithful “in their mission as evangelizers, in order that, in this time of uncertainty and confusion, they may accomplish this task with ever increasing love, zeal and joy” (EN, no. 1).
“For the Church, evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new. […] The purpose of evangelization is therefore precisely this interior change, and if it had to be expressed in one sentence the best way of stating it would be to say that the Church evangelizes when she seeks to convert, solely through the divine power of the message she proclaims, both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities in which they engage, and the lives and concrete milieu which are theirs” (EN, no.18).
Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (EG, 2013), wrote
Spirit-filled evangelizers means evangelizers fearlessly open to the working of the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost, the Spirit made the apostles go forth from themselves and turned them into heralds of God’s wondrous deeds, capable of speaking to each person in his or her own language. The Holy Spirit also grants the courage to proclaim the newness of the Gospel with boldness (parrhesía) in every time and place, even when it meets with opposition. Let us call upon him today, firmly rooted in prayer, for without prayer all our activity risks being fruitless and our message empty. Jesus wants evangelizers who proclaim the good news not only with words, but above all by a life transfigured by God’s presence (EG, no. 259).
Pope Paul and Pope Francis both recognize the power of evangelization to make a difference in the life of the one who hears the proclamation as being a work of God, of the Holy Spirit. Our task as evangelizers is first and foremost to be people of faith and of prayer. Both Popes acknowledge that the world in which we live runs contrary to the gospel, today and throughout the Church’s history. But we are not to be dissuaded from our proclamation, our sharing the Good News of God’s love in Christ Jesus.
The New Evangelization, then begins with each of us in our own faith journey and our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The love we have received and the experience of communion we have with Christ through our prayer, in the scriptures, and in the sacraments are the source of our joy as Christian witnesses. Pope Francis opens his exhortation, saying, “I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come (EG, no. 1).
Evangelization is our calling as members of the Church who share in the life of Christ through our baptism and our election as the People of God and the Body of Christ. Evangelization, as something new, has been part of the Church’s teaching for more than 40 years. We are living this foundational element of our Catholic faith here at St. Patrick Parish through our work in Divine Renovation.
Divine Renovation, as a pastoral program or project of the parish as a whole, is the work of renewing the parish and parishioners “transfigured” in the experience of and encounter with Jesus Christ. This is happens principally through the “ordinary pastoral ministry, which is ‘animated by the fire of the Spirit, so as to inflame the hearts of the faithful who regularly take part in community worship and gather on the Lord’s day to be nourished by his word and by the bread of eternal life’” (EG, no. 14, quoting The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, 2012).
Divine Renovation and the New Evangelization are integral components of the pastoral life of our parish. Together we seek the Holy Spirit and divine wisdom to which we are open and receptive, so that all we do will bring renewal and (re)ignite the fire of the Spirit in each of us, transfiguring each of more and more into the likeness of Christ.