No, it’s not really a new post…but here’s something I wrote for the Camp Gray blog this past week, talking about Easter and Lent. Enjoy!
Category Archives: Spirituality
Hey folks! We’re finally at the end of journey through Cardinal Dolan’s speech last week about the New Evangelization. The full speech is here, and don’t forget to read Part 1 & Part 2! Let’s get right into the last part of the Cardinal’s speech.
“Joy, love . . . and, last point . . . sorry to bring it up, . . . but blood.”
Blood. What we’re talking about here is, of course, martyrdom. In his speech, Cardinal Dolan referenced the connection between the color of his biretta he wears as a Cardinal (red) with his call to shed his blood for the sake of the Church and the spread of the Faith. Let us pray that he will never have to take that step, but that if he does he has the courage to accomplish God’s will.
“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church,” Tertullian tells us in Apologeticum. The witness of the Church’s martyrs shouts out to people and evangelizes in a way that words never could. Eleven of the 12 Apostles died a martyr’s death, all choosing to die for our faith rather than live without it. My patron saint, St. Sebastian, was martyred in the early church during the Roman persecutions. Our Church’s history is riddled with examples of men and women shedding their blood for Christ and His Church.
Martyrdom, however, is not something reserved only for Cardinals and Popes. We all must be ready to shed our blood for Christ. Thankfully, many of us will never be asked to shed our blood for our Faith. But that doesn’t mean that we cannot be martyrs. Several bishops have predicted coming persecution for the American Church, where clergy and laity alike could be arrested for proclaiming the Truth. Among those bishops are Cardinal Burke and Bishop Aquila of Fargo, ND.
Taking a look at current events makes it obvious that this is where our country is headed. Sure, the current HHS mandate may yet be tossed away, or at least provide true exemptions for religious employers. But the attack on our Church will not end there. A time is coming, earlier rather than later, when we will be faced with a choice: either be true to the Church or follow the law. The HHS mandate is only the beginning of the war on the Church. We must be prepared to fight this battle!
What a wonderful thing to think about heading into Lent, right? (BTW, Ash Wednesday is tomorrow. Ready to explain those ashes? I found this piece by Mark Hart to be extremely helpful :)) That brings us to the other reason for this post – Lent. Most years, I hear a lot of people talk about giving something up, fasting from something. I am right on board with that. But not drinking coffee for 40 days really only deals with 1 of the 3 pillars of Lent: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving.
In order to best participate in Lent, we should reflect on ways we can progress in all three areas of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I’ve found it effective to couple up those pillars. For example, this Lent I will be fasting from watching TV shows. Instead of watching TV, I’ve decided to pray with Scripture more. I found a good “Read the Bible in a Year” plan here (FYI, this one also includes part of the Catechism to finish that in a year too!). See how that works? It’s like killing two birds with one stone.
So, what things do you do routinely that are unnecessary? Do you watch way too much TV like me? How about Facebook? Fast from that, and in place of it take up some prayerful activity. For the almsgiving part, maybe pick up a CRS Ricebowl from your parish tomorrow and fill it with loose change.
One more idea to cover all 3: Skip your morning Dunkin Donuts run for Lent. Fast from your coffee, then give that money to charity. Then, with the time you save by not making that extra stop in the morning, pray a Rosary daily, or head to daily Mass if you can!
Now, last week I promised an announcement of some sort. Well, here it is: every week during Lent (and maybe beyond) I’ll post a reflection on the Sunday readings. Look for them around Thursday of Friday each week (maybe you could even make that part of your Lenten observance; it would definitely be penitential to read what I have to say).
Anyway, after this marathon couple of days blogging, it’s time to take a break. Happy feasting on this Fat Tuesday; enjoy it while it lasts (another 7 hours or so). Stay strong during Lent!
Earlier today, I wrote about the first 3 parts of Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s approach to the New Evangelization. In case you missed it, here it is. Now, it’s time to tackle the next 3 parts.
“…but this Person, Jesus, tells us He is the truth. So, our mission has a substance, a content, and this twentieth anniversary of the Catechism, the approaching fiftieth anniversary of the Council, and the upcoming Year of Faith charge us to combat catechetical illiteracy.”
Our mission has content, and that is the Truth. Today catechetical illiteracy is running rampant in our Church. We don’t know what Truth is, let alone how to express it to others. If we do not have a firm grasp on the Truth, how can we expect to evangelize others? Just like evangelizing begins within each of our own hearts, spreading the Truth must begin in ourselves too.
I often hear from people how they were never taught this or that about our Faith while they were growing up. That’s a common result of decades of incomplete catechizing on behalf of our Church. However, that is no excuse for not to know what we believe as Christians! In his first letter, St. Peter commands us to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason to believe” (1 Pt. 3:15). We need to know the Truth is we are going to evangelize! To blame our lack of knowledge on our parish priests or religious ed teachers is passing the buck. But fear not! It is never too late to start learning.
Start with the Bible, specifically the Gospels. Next, try the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Don’t own them? Read them for free at USCCB.org. Also, I would recommend any of the documents from Vatican II, specifically Lumen Gentium. Still need more? Here’s a book list that I find particularly helpful. Any of those would be a great place to go next.
Keep in mind that it’s not necessary to be an expert when evangelizing. “I don’t know” are the three words I say most often when I answer questions about the Faith; there are always questions that I don’t know the answers to. The important thing is that we are humble and honest when we don’t know something, and then find the answer.
“The missionary, the evangelist, must be a person of joy.”
Who wants to be a part of something that is no fun? There is this weird idea that you can either be Catholic or have fun. Sorry, Billy Joel, but the Saints laugh too, a lot (even the Pope laughs! Cardinal Dolan made him do so in this very speech). Anyone who thinks Catholics don’t have fun has clearly never been to Camp Gray (and why yes, that is me in the Notre Dame shirt!). I’ll let the Cardinal explain the rest of this one with the story he tells next
“A man dying of AIDS at the Gift of Peace Hospice, administered by the Missionaries of Charity in Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s Archdiocese of Washington, asked for baptism. When the priest asked for an expression of faith, the dying man whispered, “All I know is that I’m unhappy, and these sisters are very happy, even when I curse them and spit on them. Yesterday I finally asked them why they were so happy. They replied ‘Jesus.’ I want this Jesus so I can finally be happy. A genuine act of faith, right?
The New Evangelization is accomplished with a smile, not a frown.”
“The New Evangelization is about love.”
The YOUCAT (the Catechism re-written specifically high school and college students) defines love as “the free self-giving of the heart” (YC 402). When we evangelize, it should be out of love. The cross is the greatest example of love the world has ever known. So when we love, it’s supposed to hurt! But when we do it anyway and unite our inconvenience or our suffering with Christ, He transforms it into something so much more. In caring for those around us, we show them the love of Christ. And it is that love that changes souls. Never underestimate the power of that love.
Like what you’ve read? Don’t be afraid to comment! And don’t forget to sign up for email updates. Also, if you know people who this blog would benefit, share it with them! Thanks, and come back tomorrow for #7 from Cardinal Dolan’s speech.
It seems I broke a promise in not posting the first part of my take on Cardnial Dolan’s speech on the New Evangelization from last week (get the full text here). My apologies. I really don’t have an excuse; I just got caught up in watching The Dark Knight for the millionth time (hmmm…I’m sensing a post relating that to JPII’s Springtime of Evangelization…). To reward your patience, you can expect 2 entries today: pillars 1-3 now, and 4-6 later today. Number 7 will still be for tomorrow.
To recap, last week Cardinal Dolan of New York City gave a speech to the College of Cardinals in Rome. The topic was the New Evangelization, a term coined by Blessed Pope John Paul II. The New Evangelization focuses on re-proclaiming the Gospel to cultures and people who have grown up in the Church but have experienced a falling away or lukewarmness in their faith, who have heard the Good News but need a refresher. In his speech, Cardinal Dolan outlined 7 ideas to take the New Evangelization to the next level. So without further ado, let’s get this ball rolling.
What Cardinal Dolan said:
“…we believe with the philosophers and poets of old, who never had the benefit of revelation, that even a person who brags about being secular and is dismissive of religion, has within an undeniable spark of interest in the beyond, and recognizes that humanity and creation is a dismal riddle without the concept of some kind of creator.”
Quite simply, we were created to search for God. His presence is all around us, and yet sometimes we attempt to attribute the beauty of Creation to a coincidence. I think what Cardinal Dolan is saying here is that even those who seem beyond evangelizing to: the scientists, the philosophers, basically anyone smarter than us, are still in need of salvation. No one is beyond our efforts to evangelize.
Sometimes, I think we are intimidated by evangelization. We don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, to make anyone feel uncomfortable. But we need to do it anyway! (more on that in a moment) Jesus calls us to spread the Gospel to all nations and all peoples. That doesn’t mean one person from each person group, but every single person on this Earth! God loves each and every person in this world perfectly. And Jesus tells us to “be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48).
No matter how lost someone may seem, no matter how much they despise the Church, these people are still searching for Something. That Something is God. We must keep that in mind during our encounters with those around us.
Cardinal Dolan: “this fact gives us immense confidence and courage in the
sacred task of mission and New Evangelization. “Be not afraid,” we’re told, is the most repeated exhortation in the Bible. After the Council, the good news was that triumphalism in the Church was dead. The bad news was that, so was confidence!”
When St. Joseph found out Mary was pregnant, he wanted to divorce her. But in a dream an angel appeared to him and told him not to be afraid (see Mt. 1 for the full story). Without St. Joseph’s courage, we may not even have a Gospel to proclaim. Without his protection of the Holy Family, the infant Jesus could have been slaughtered by King Herod (see Mt. 2). And to think if he had just divorced our Blessed Mother.
We too must not be afraid. Is evangelizing awkward? Absolutely. Will we be met with opposition? You betcha. But we have the Truth! Why should we fear? We get our confidence from Christ, and while we must be careful not to be arrogant, we can be sure that when we spread the Gospel, we are doing God’s will. Thankfully, it is not us who change hearts, but Christ working through us.
But don’t assume that just because we do this or do that that everyone around us will magically turn to Christ. Humility is essential in our lives and in our mission to evangelize. When I get a little high on my horse (which happens more often than I would like to admit…) this quote from St. Josemaria Escriva really helps me:
“Don’t forget that you are just a trash can. So if by any chance the divine gardener should lay his hands on you, and scrub and clean you, and fill you with magnificent flowers, neither the scent nor the colors that beautify your ugliness should make you proud. Humble yourself: don’t you know that you are a trash can?”
I am a trashcan. All my gifts come from God. Often times my pride gets in the way of leading others to Christ. Instead of lovingly encouraging others to see the Truth, I force them through debate to admit that I am right. I’ve found that to be a very ineffective way to evangelize. But I continue to seek God’s grace to change my heart and humble myself.
“A third necessary ingredient in the recipe of effective mission is that God does not satisfy the thirst of the human heart with a proposition, but with a Person, whose name is Jesus. The invitation implicit in the Missio ad gentes and the New Evangelization is not to a doctrine but to know, love, and serve — not a something, but a Someone.”
We need to keep in mind that we are not simply trying to convince people to think or act a particular way. When we evangelize, we invite people to have a relationship with our Lord and Savior. Talk of fire and brimstone does not, in my opinion, lead to very strong believers. The power of love conquers all, and it is that love which draws people to Christ. Our Church, our Faith is not simply a list of dos and don’ts, but an engine through which we enter into relationship with the King and Lord of Universe.
When we talk about the New Evangelization, the people we interact with are familiar with the nuts and bolts of our Church. They know what a Bible is, they’ve been to Mass, they’ve abstained from meat on Fridays. What they don’t have is love. They lack a personal relationship with Jesus. Our Evangelical Christian brothers and sisters have this down pat. They KNOW Jesus, and introduce Him to people around them. We do not offer a deal to people when we evangelize, but a person: Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God.
As always, comments are encouraged! Let me know what I’m doing wrong, and what I’m doing right! 🙂 Check back later today for the next 3 pillars from Cardinal Dolan’s speech.
Tomorrow, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan (also the President of the USCCB) will be installed as a Cardinal. I personally am super pumped for this to happen, because Archbishop Dolan is one of the greatest leaders we have in the American Church. He is the only Bishop I know of that blogs regularly, that uses social media as well as he does to evangelize and teach. Looking forward, there is no doubt in my mind that Cardinal Dolan will play a very important role in the future of our Church and our country.
In a speech given before the Holy Father and the College of Cardinals today, Cardinal-designate Dolan outlined 7 principles for advancing the New Evangelization in the world today. Here’s the full text. Definitely worth your time. Quick sidebar, the New Evangelization, as coined by Bl. Pope John Paul II and continued by Pope Benedict XVI, is the necessity to re-evangelize to those in Christian countries who have lost much or all of their faith. Recently, Pope Benedict has been all about the NE.
To prepare for Lent (which starts this Wednesday!), over the next few days I’ll be going through each of the 7 principles Cardinal-designate Dolan discussed in his speech. Hopefully, this will serve as a meaningful reflection heading into Lent on what each of us can do better in our own quest to evangelize to those around us. A rough schedule:
Sunday: Principles 1-3
Monday: Principles 4-6
Tuesday: a Fat Tuesday edition of number 7, to go along with something special for Lent, maybe even a special announcement