Witness to the New Evangelization
Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis Missouri
From Steubenville Conference July 27, 2012
When we find a good restaurant…see a good movie or read a good book or find a good recipe we want to share it with our friends, and we do… The good wants to be shared, and anyone who resists doing so is rightly called selfish.
It's a curious fact about many Catholics, however, that there is one good thing that we're reluctant to share: the good news of our faith in Jesus Christ. For one reason or another, our culture tells us that it's selfish to keep good things to ourselves, but rude to share the good news of Jesus Christ. And, for one reason and another, we've grown comfortable with that double standard.
Well, the time has come to challenge our culture, and ourselves. The time has come to stop following our culture, which tells us to keep God out of the public square and inside the walls of worship, and start following the Lord, who tells us that we will be his witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). It's time for us to stop conforming to the world and accommodating the culture, and time for us to start transforming them. How can we do that?... I want to propose three bench marks for an Apologetics that can contribute to the New Evangelization today.
First: orthodoxy. Orthodoxy of teaching is essential to an apologetics that can contribute to the new evangelization. This is especially urgent in an age of relativism. If our speaking and teaching are not within the channel marked out by Church teaching, then we are not bearing witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ - which is preserved in the teachings of the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit - we're only bearing witness to our own preferences…Unless our apologetics is orthodox, we're not contributing to the new evangelization, we're contributing to the dying of the light.
Second: contemplation...Orthodoxy alone is not enough. As Blessed John Paul II said in Novo Millennio Ineunte: “The men and women of our own day…ask believers not only to "speak" of Christ but in a certain sense to "show" Him to them…Our witness… would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated His Face.” If the words and arguments of our apologetics are not rooted in a contemplation in which we encounter the Lord—then our apologetics won't bear witness to the Gospel but only to our own cleverness. Our own cleverness is a rock to those who are asking for bread. Orthodoxy that's not rooted in contemplation won't offer people a living encounter with the Lord. It may win some arguments, but it won't convince hearts…That can only happen… if we ourselves have known Him.
Third: deepening receptivity to the Holy Spirit. Orthodoxy without living witness to the love of God is Saint Paul's noisy gong and clanging cymbal. The Spirit is the source of the Church's mission and witness. The only way our witness can bear fruit is if we follow the Spirit's lead - and that means paying close attention to the gifts and the fruits that the Spirit gives. In those gifts and fruits, the Spirit is showing us the way that leads to life.
Orthodoxy, contemplation, and deepening receptivity to the Holy Spirit, to…contribute to the New Evangelization—we have to combine these three things…
That's a lofty calling. But remember, Christ called us to be leaven, not flour. It takes a lot of flour to make bread. But it only takes a little leaven to make a lot of flour rise.
Pax et bonum