Continuing this site’s examination of the Year of Faith, I thought we’d take a look at some additional documents and publications to inspire us the last two to three months of the effort.
I plan to spend about a month with the US bishops’ Go and Make Disciples. Rather than examine the text section by section, I’d rather zero in on selected highlights. The entire document is available online. The USCCB makes available printed copies as well, here.
GMD includes 141 numbered sections. On the average these are smaller than the usual Vatican documents. On the web site, the outline is given as follows:
Part I: A Vision of Catholic Evangelization
- Introduction (¶1-9)
- What Is Evangelization? (¶10-27)
- Why We Evangelize ( ¶28-33)
- How Evangelization Happens (¶34-44)
- Our Goals (¶45-60)
- Why We Are Issuing the Plan Now (¶61-64)
- Led in the Spirit (¶65-69)
Part II: Goals and Strategies
- Goals and Strategies (¶70-74)
- How to Use This Plan and Strategy (¶75-79)
- The Context of the Goals (¶80-88)
- Presentation of the Goals (¶89-127)
- Goal II and Its Objectives (¶104-116)
- Goal III and Its Objectives (¶117-127)
- An Invitation (¶128-132)
- Structures for Implementation (¶133-136)
- A Concluding Prayer (¶137-141)
I remember skittishness in some quarters about using the term “evangelization” when this document was issued in 1992. Clergy and lay people alike objected to the less-than-positive associations of the word.
These days, there’s more of a purpose in many quarters to reaching out to unchurched people and to inactive Catholics. Attaching that simple adjective, “new” seems to be the key. Of course, many of our sisters and brothers in Catholicism get a bit anxious about attaching “new” to things like songs, or heaven forbid, the Church itself. In that sense there is no such thing as a “new” evangelization. Evangelization is as old as the Church, as the Gospels themselves give witness:
And (Jesus) said to (the eleven), “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. (Mark 16:15)
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)
These days, evangelization is cool. The recognition of the need is much greater. Why might that be? I imagine a combination of factors. Optimistically, I think the message of Vatican II is finally sinking in. Pope Paul VI’s 1975 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi is now recognized as one of the most important post-conciliar initiatives in Catholicism. Cynically, I might suggest that the reality of parish closings and the many friends and family members who no longer practice the faith actively have led many of us to reconsider old expectations, including a deep-rooted sense of entitlement. Pope John Paul II’s witness inspiring at it was, may also be taking root. And we have a batch of bishops who seem more on board than ever before.
Hopefully, evangelization will have lasting power as the Catholic Church recovers the mission of Jesus and embraces it more fully. Hopefully, it will be more than a short-term program.