November 24th, 2013 marks the end of the Year of Faith as declared by Pope Benedict XVI. This Year of Faith was themed, “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith”, a year to “usher the whole Church into a time of particular reflection and rediscovery of the faith.” The process of reflection and rediscovery is not a process that ought to come to a dead halt on November 24th. The movement of the “New Evangelization” that was started by the hierarchy of the Church around the time of the Second Vatican Council is one that is vital for all of the lay people to consider in their faith lives.
Many Catholics are hesitant about the idea of Evangelization. The idea of going out and preaching the Good News and attempting to persuade others of your faith which you know to be Truth is difficult. In some ways, evangelization seems to be a part of the history of the Church. We are familiar with the stories of the apostles and their journeys to various parts of the world to spread the good news like St. Paul and his many letters, Luke the evangelist who traveled with St. Paul, and John who traveled all around Asia Minor. There is a distinct association of evangelization with the persecution of the early church up through the Middle Ages, which is perhaps why in this modern age we are reluctant to heed the Pope's call.
Evangelization in modern America, however, very rarely results in death. Today, living out your faith results in a new kind of persecution. Catholic culture is by no means mainstream. In fact, living a Catholic life is very counter-cultural. In a recent homily on the beatitudes, a Holy Cross Father remarked on how living life according to Catholic teaching should not be easy. We live in a culture where we are pulled in an opposite direction. Hollywood teaches us that casual sex is the norm, that modesty is irrelevant and that we should be allowed to express ourselves in whatever means necessary. It is extremely difficult to live a life fully steeped in our Catholic faith where we evangelize through our actions rather than words.
In a recent study performed by the Pew Research Center, only 41% of Catholics report attending worship serves on a weekly basis, 41% report attending monthly or a few times a year and 17% never or seldom attend. We’ve all been in mass on Christmas or Easter in extremely over packed church’s wondering why it is we never see some parishioners at regular Sunday masses. The New Evangelization encourages us to seek out these Catholics. Catholics who have been swayed by the mass media, Catholics who need a helping hand in returning to the faith. This New Evangelization calls us to always be witnesses to our faith and to be vocal about it, to explain why we are Catholic and what that means to us and engage in dialogue with those around us.
Living out our Catholic faith in light of the New Evangelization we are called to means much more than daily prayer or weekly mass. It means first being a witness in the fights we are waging – it means being willing and open to adoption as pro-lifers, it means defending the stance of traditional marriage through both word and action, it means serving and befriending the poor. Being an evangelizing Catholic means encouraging our family and friends to do the same. It means preaching the Good News everywhere we go and not being afraid to talk to others we know to be of different faiths about our own beliefs.