Evangelii Nuntiandi 17: A Full Evangelization

I had a recent discussion with a friend about the New Evangelization. As I see it, one of the potential pitfalls with this “new” approach, aside from the lack of a really firm definition, is that it endangers the whole effort. See the middle paragraph below.

17. In the Church’s evangelizing activity there are of course certain elements and aspects to be specially insisted on. Some of them are so important that there will be a tendency simply to identify them with evangelization. Thus it has been possible to define evangelization in terms of proclaiming Christ to those who do not know Him, of preaching, of catechesis, of conferring Baptism and the other sacraments.

Any partial and fragmentary definition which attempts to render the reality of evangelization in all its richness, complexity and dynamism does so only at the risk of impoverishing it and even of distorting it. It is impossible to grasp the concept of evangelization unless one tries to keep in view all its essential elements.

These elements were strongly emphasized at the last Synod, and are still the subject of frequent study, as a result of the Synod’s work. We rejoice in the fact that these elements basically follow the lines of those transmitted to us by the Second Vatican Council, especially in “Lumen gentium,” “Gaudium et spes” and “Ad gentes.”

All the “essential elements” must be maintained. And what are those? The centrality of Christ. The shared responsibility of all believers. The life witness of Christians as the most effective means of spreading the faith. Especially a life lived in such a way as to attract others–in curiosity, in wonderment–very much as the Lord attracted seekers.

These elements of evangelization were not unknown to the council bishops. Those three documents mentioned, the two constitutions and Ad Gentes, all provided the modern groundwork for what has followed through this 1974 synod and the developments since.

One parishioner noted an example of evangelization, and I agreed. This weekend’s priest moved off the altar platform to give an embrace of peace to a wheelchair-bound man. The parishioner commented that that gesture was more effective than the homily in communicating the meaning of evangelization, new or otherwise. I suspect she was right.

Perhaps we Catholics would be better off speaking of a Full Evangelization, and not so much a New. What do you think?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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