George A. Sprecace M.D.,
J.D., F.A.C.P. and Allergy Associates of New
ZENIT, The world seen from Rome
Father Cantalamessa's 1st Advent Sermon
The First Wave of Evangelization
ROME, DEC. 8, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the first
sermon delivered last Friday, Dec. 2, by Capuchin Father Raniero
the preacher of the pontifical household.
Go into all the world
The first wave of evangelization
In response to the Supreme Pontiff's call for a renewed commitment to
evangelization and by way of preparation for the 2012 synod of bishops
same issue, I intend to identify in these Advent meditations four waves
evangelization in the history of the Church, that is, four moments in
witness an acceleration or a taking up again of the missionary
1) The spread of Christianity in the first three centuries, until the
Constantine's edict, which is led by, first, the itinerant prophets,
2) The 6th to 9th centuries in which we witness the re-evangelization
after the Barbarian invasions -- evangelization led by the work above
all of monks;
3) The 16th century, with the discovery and conversion to Christianity
peoples of the New World -- the work above all of friars;
4) The present age, which sees the Church committed to a
the secularized West, with the decisive participation of the
In each of these moments I shall attempt to illumine what we can learn
Church of today: the errors that must be avoided and the examples to be
imitated and the specific contribution that pastors, monks, religious
life and the laity can make to evangelization.
1.The spread of Christianity in the first three centuries.
We begin today with a reflection on Christian evangelization in the
centuries. There is a reason that makes this period a model for all
is the period in which Christianity gains grounds by its own strength.
no secular arm that supports it; conversions are not determined by
material or cultural advantages; to be Christian is not a custom or
but a decision to swim against the current, often at the risk of one's
some ways, it is the same situation that is happening again in many
The Christian faith was born with a universal openness. Jesus had said
Apostles to go into all the world (Mark 16:15), and make disciples of
nations (Matthew 28:19), and be witnesses to the end of the earth (Acts
and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached to all
This universality was already lived out in principle during the
generation, though not without difficulties and struggles. The first
race, was surmounted on the day of Pentecost (the 3,000-some converts
to different nations, but they were all Jewish believers); in
and in the so-called Council of Jerusalem, especially at Paul's
most difficult barrier of all was surmounted -- the religious one,
divided the Jews from the Gentiles. The Gospel had before it the whole
although momentarily this world was limited in men's knowledge to the
Mediterranean basin and to the borders of the Roman Empire.
It is more complex to follow the expansion of Christianity in fact or
geographically in the first three centuries which, however, is less
for our objective. The most complete and so far unsurpassed study in
respect is that of Adolph Harnack, Mission and Expansion of
Christianity in the
First Three Centuries.
A strong intensification of the Church's missionary activity took place
the rule of Emperor Commodus (180-192), and then afterward, in the
of the 3nd century, that is, until the eve of the great persecution of
Diocletian (302). Apart from sporadic local persecutions, this was a
relative peace that enabled the nascent Church to consolidate herself
interiorly, carrying out a missionary activity in a new way.
Let us see in what this novelty consisted. In the first two centuries
propagation of the faith was entrusted to personal initiative. There
itinerant prophets, of which the Didache speaks, who went from place to
many conversions were due to personal contact, fostered by the common
which individuals were engaged -- journeys and commercial relations,
service and other circumstances of life. Origen gives us a moving
of the zeal of these first missionaries.
Christians make every possible effort to spread the faith on earth. To
end, some of them pose formally to themselves as a duty of their lives
from city to city, also from village to village, to win new faithful to
Lord. It cannot be said that they do it to benefit themselves, because
often reject even what is most necessary to live.
Now, that is in the second half of the 3rd century, these personal
were increasingly coordinated -- and substituted in part -- by the
communities. The bishop, reacting also to the disintegrating effects of
Gnostic heresy, took the lead over the teachers as the director of the
life of the community and the propelling center of its missionary
community was the evangelizing subject to such a point that a scholar
Harnack, not suspected of sympathy for the institution, stated: We must
certain that the sole existence and constant work of the local
the principal coefficient in the propagation of Christianity.
Toward the end of the 3rd century, the Christian faith virtually
every level of society, had its literature in Greek and, although just
beginning, in Latin; it had a solid internal organization; it began to
increasingly larger buildings, a sign of the growth of the number of
Diocletian's great persecution, apart from the numerous victims, did no
than demonstrate the insuppressible strength of the Christian faith.
confrontation between the Empire and Christianity had given the proof
Constantine did no more than confirm the new relationship of forces. It
he who imposed Christianity on the people, but the people who imposed
Christianity on him. Affirmations such as Dan Brown's in the novel The
Code and of other writers, according to whom it was Constantine who,
reasons, transformed with his edict of tolerance and with the Council
Nicaea, an obscure Jewish religious sect into the religion of the
based on total ignorance of what preceded these events.
2. Reasons for the Success
A subject that has always impassioned historians is the reason for the
of Christianity. A message born in a contemptible corner of the empire,
simple people, with no culture or power, spread in less than three
throughout the known world, subjugating the most refined culture of the
and the imperial power of Rome!
Among the different reasons for the success, there are those that
Christian love and the active exercise of charity, to the point of
the most powerful individual factor of the success of the Christian
the point that later it induced the Emperor Julian the Apostate to
paganism with similar charitable works to compete with this success.
For his part, Harnack gives great importance to what he calls the
nature of the Christian faith, namely, the capacity to reconcile in
opposite tendencies and different values present in the religions and
of the time. Christianity presents itself at once as the religion of
and of power, that is, supported by supernatural signs, charisms and
and as the religion of reason and of the integral Logos, the true
as Justin Martyr said. Christian authors are the rationalists of the
supernatural, states Harnack quoting St. Paul's saying on the faith
rational worship (Romans 12:1).
Thus Christianity brings together in itself, in perfect balance, what
philosopher Nietzsche describes as the Apollonian and Dionysian element
Greek religion, the Logos and Pneuma, order and enthusiasm, measure and
It is, at least in part, what the Fathers of the Church understood by
intoxication of the Spirit.
From the beginning, the Christian religion, writes Harnack at the end
monumental research, presented itself with a universality that enabled
seize in itself the whole of life, with its functions, its heights and
sentiments, thoughts and actions. This was the spirit of universality
assured its victory. This is what led it to profess that the Jesus it
proclaimed was the divine Logos … Illumined thus with a new and seeming
as a necessity also is the powerful attraction with which it even
subordinates Hellenism in itself. All that was capable of life entered
element in its construction … Could this religion not conquer?
The impression one has on reading this synthesis is that the success of
Christianity was due to a combination of factors. Some have gone
further in the
search of reasons for such success to the point of specifying 20
favor of the faith and as many others that acted in a contrary way, as
final success depended on the first prevailing over the second.
I would now like to show the inherent limit to such a historical focus,
including when it is done by believing historians as those I have
into account. The limit, due to the same historical method, is that of
more importance to the subject than the object of the mission, more to
evangelizers and the conditions in which it is carried out, than to its
The reason that drives me to insist on this point is that this is also
limit and the danger inherent in so many present and media focuses,
is talk of a New Evangelization. A very simple thing is forgotten: that
himself gave, in anticipation, an explanation of the spread of his
we must go back to it again every time a new missionary commitment is
Let us hear again two brief Gospel parables, that of the seeds that
at night and that of the mustard seed. And he said: The kingdom of God
is as if
a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise
day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how. The earth
of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the
when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the
come (Mark 4:26-29).
This parable on its own says that the essential reason for the success
Christian mission does not come from the exterior but from the
interior, it is
not the work of the sower and not even primarily of the earth but of
The seed cannot sow itself and yet, it germinates by itself. After
the seed, the sower can go to sleep because the life of the seed no
depends on him. When this seed is the seed that falls to the earth and
that is Jesus Christ, nothing will be able to impede its bearing much
One can give all the explanation one wishes for these fruits, but they
always remain superficial and will never reach the essential.
It was the Apostle Paul who perceived with lucidity the priority of the
of the proclamation over the subject: I planted, Apollos watered, but
the growth. These words seem to be a commentary to Jesus' parable. It
is not a
question of three operations of the same importance. In fact, the
So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God
the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). The same qualitative distance between
subject and the object of the proclamation is present in another of the
Apostle's statements: But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to
that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us (2 Corinthians
All this is translated into the exclamations: We do not preach
Christ Jesus Lord! and again We preach Christ crucified.
Jesus pronounced a second parable based on the image of the seed that
the success of the Christian mission and that today must be taken into
given the great task of re-evangelizing the secularized world.
And he said, with what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what
we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown
ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown
up and becomes the greatest of all the shrubs, and puts forth large
so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade (Mark
The teaching Christ gives us with this parable is that his Gospel and
person are the smallest that exist on earth because there is nothing
weaker than a life that ends in death on a cross. However, this small
seed is destined to become an immense tree, which is able to shelter in
branches the birds that take refuge in it. This means that the whole of
creation, absolutely all of it, will go to seek refuge there.
What a difference in regard to the historical reconstructions mentioned
earlier! There everything seemed uncertain, accidental, suspended
success and failure. Here everything is decided and assured from the
As the conclusion of the episode of the anointing of Bethany, Jesus
these words: Truly, I say to you, wherever this Gospel is preached in
world, what she has done will be told in memory of her (Matthew 26:13):
same tranquil awareness that one day his message would spread to the
world. And it is certainly not about a post eventum prophecy, because
moment everything seemed to presage the contrary.
Also on this occasion the one who grasped the hidden mystery was Paul.
an event that always calls my attention. The Apostle preached in the
of Athens and witnessed a rejection of the message, courteously
the promise to hear him on another occasion. From Corinth, where he
immediately after, he wrote the Letter to the Romans in which he said
received the commission to bring about the obedience of faith among all
nations (Romans 1:5-6). Failure did not discourage his confidence in
message: For I am not ashamed of the Gospel: it is the power of God for
salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the
Each tree, Jesus says, is known by its own fruit (Luke 6:44). This is
all trees, except for the one born from him, Christianity (in fact he
here of men); this unique tree is not known by its fruit, but by its
Christianity plenitude is not at the end, as in the Hegelian dialectic
becoming (only the entire is true), but it is at the beginning; no
even the greatest saints, add something to the perfection of the model.
sense, those are right who say Christianity is not perfectible.
3. Sow and … Go to Sleep
What the historians of the Christian origins do not recount or give
importance to is the indestructible certainty that the Christians of
had, at least the best of them, of the goodness and final victory of
cause. You can kill us but you cannot destroy us, the Martyr Justin
said to the
Roman judge who sentenced him to death. In the end it was this tranquil
certainty that assured them of victory and that convinced the political
authorities of the uselessness of the efforts to suppress the Christian
This is what we most need today: to awaken in Christians, at least
attempt to dedicate themselves to the work of re-evangelization, the
certainty of the truth of what they proclaim. The Church, Paul VI once
needs to take up again the yearning, the pleasure and the certainty of
truth. We must believe, we first of all, in what we proclaim; but
believe it, with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind.
be able to say with Paul: since we have the same spirit of faith as he
wrote, I believed, and so I spoke, we too believe, and so we speak (2
The practical task that Jesus' two parables assign to us is to sow. To
widely in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). The sower of the
who goes out to sow is not worried by the fact that part of the seed
ends up on
the road or among thorns. And to think that the sower, outside the
Jesus himself! The reason is that in this case one cannot know which
the adequate one, or which will be hard as asphalt and asphyxiating as
In between is human liberty that man cannot foresee and that God
to violate. How many times among people who have heard a certain
have read a certain book, we discover that the one who has taken it
seriously or has changed his life is the person we least expected, one
perhaps, was there by chance and against his will. I myself could count
Sow and then … go to sleep! That is, sow and do not stay there the
looking to see where the seed arises and how many centimeters it grows
day. Its rooting and growth is not our concern but God's -- and the one
listens. Jerome Klapka Jerome, a great English humorist of the 19th
said that the best way to delay the boiling of water is to look over it
wait for it with impatience.
To do the contrary is the inevitable source of disquiet and impatience:
things that Jesus does not like and that he never did when he was on
the Gospel he never seems to be in a hurry. Therefore do not be anxious
tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day's own
sufficient for the day (Matthew 6:34).
Related to this, the believing poet Charles Péguy puts in God's
words that we would do well to meditate:
I am told that there are men
Who work well and sleep badly,
Who do not sleep. What a lack of faith in me!
It would almost be better if they did not work but slept, because
not a more serious sin than anxiety …
I am not speaking, God says, of those men who do not work and do not
These are sinners, of course …
I am speaking of those who work and do not sleep.
I feel sorry for them. They have no confidence in me …
They govern their affairs very well during the day.
But do not want to entrust to me their governance during the night …
He who does not sleep is unfaithful to Hope …
The reflections developed in this meditation drive us, in conclusion,
to put at
the base of the commitment to a New Evangelization a great act of faith
hope and to shake off every sense of impotence and resignation. We have
us, it is true, a world enclosed in its secularism, inebriated by the
of technology and the possibilities offered by science, which rejects
Gospel proclamation. But, perchance -- was the world in which the first
Christians lived, the Greeks with their wisdom and the Roman Empire
power, less certain of itself and less refractory to the Gospel?
If there is something we can do, after having sown, it is to irrigate
prayer the seed sown. This is why we end with the prayer that the
brings us to recite in the Mass for the evangelization of peoples:
O God, you who will all men to be saved,
And come to the knowledge of truth;
See how great is the harvest and send your laborers,
So that the Gospel is proclaimed to all creatures
And your people gathered by the word of life
And molded by the strength of the sacrament,
Will proceed on the path of salvation and love.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen
 A. von Harnack.
 Origen, C. Cels. III, 9.
 Op. cit. p. 321- s.
 H. Chadwick, The Early Church, Penguin Books 1967, pp. 56-58.
 A. von Harnack, Mission and Propagation of Christianity in the
Centuries, Rist. Anast., Cosenza 1986, p. 173.
 Harnack, op. cit., p. 370.
 S. Kierkegaard, Diary, X5 A 98 (ed. C. Fabro, Brescia II, 1963, pp.
 Address at the general audience of November 29, 1972 (Teachings of
Vatican Polyglot Typography, X, pp. 1210f.).
 Ch. Péguy, Le porche du mystère de la deuxième
vertu, Paris, La Pleiade
ZENIT, The world seen from Rome
Father Cantalamessa's 2nd Advent Sermon
The Second Wave of Evangelization
ROME, DEC. 15, 2011 (ZENIT.org).- Here is a translation of the second
sermon by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the
household. It was delivered last Friday, Dec. 9.
* * *
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free.
The second, great wave of Evangelization, after the Barbarian invasions.
In this meditation I want to talk of the second great wave of
the history of the Church, that which followed the fall of the Roman
the mix of nations caused by the Barbarian invasions. I want to do this
view to how we can learn from this today. Given that vast historical
under examination and the brevity imposed on a sermon, I am able to
only as a broad overview.
1. An epoch-making decision
At the official end of the Roman Empire in 476, Europe had been
some time already, a new face. Instead of a single Empire, there were
kingdoms called Roman-barbarian. Broadly speaking, and starting from
the situation was as follows: instead of the Roman province of
were Anglos and Saxons and in the ancient provinces of Gaul, the
Francs; to the
east of the Rhine, the Frisians and Germans; in the Iberian peninsula,
Visigoths; in Italy the Ostrogoths and later the Lombards; in northern
the Vandals. In the East was still resisting the Byzantine Empire.
The Church found itself before an epoch-making decision: What attitude
she adopt in front of this new situation? The determination which
Church to the future was not immediately arrived at without scars. It
in part, what had happened at the moment of separation from Judaism and
welcoming of the Gentiles into the Church. With the sacking of Rome in
Alaric, king of the Visigoths, the general confusion among Christians
its apex. It was thought to be the end of the world since the 'world'
identified with the Roman world and the Roman world with Christianity.
Jerome is the most representative voice of this general disarray. Who
have believed, he wrote, that this Rome, built through the victories
throughout the entire universe, had to fall one day?
From an intellectual point of view, with his work, The City of God, St.
Augustine contributed most to taking the Faith to this new world. His
which marks the beginning of the philosophy of history, distinguishes
of God from the earthly city, identified (somewhat forcing his own
with the city of Satan. By earthly city, he understands every political
including that of Rome. Therefore, the fall of Rome was not the end of
but just the end of a world!
In practice, the determining factor in opening the Faith to the new
that confronted it was a coordination of initiatives of the Roman
Leo the Great was convinced that Christian Rome would survive pagan
would even preside with her divine religion more broadly than she had
terrestrial domination. Little by little the attitude of Christians
the Barbarians changed; from inferior beings, incapable of
would begin to be considered possible brothers in the Faith. From
threat, the Barbarian world begins to appear to the Christians a new,
field of mission. Paul had proclaimed the end of the distinctions of
religion, culture, social class brought about by Jesus, Here there
Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian,
man, but Christ is all, and in all (Colossians 3:11). But how difficult
to translate this revolution into practice! And not just then!
2) The re-evangelization of Europe
Confronted by the Barbarian nations, the Church found herself fighting
battles; the first was against the Arian heresy. Many of the Barbarian
above all the Goths, before penetrating the heart of the Empire as
had had exposure to Christianity in the East and had embraced it in its
version, booming at that time, especially through the work of Bishop
(311-383), the translator of the Bible to the Goths. Once introduced to
territories, they took with them this heretical version of Christianity.
Arianism had no united organization, not even a culture or theology
to that of the Catholics. Throughout the 6thcentury, one after another,
Barbarian kingdoms abandoned Arianism to adhere to the Catholic faith,
to the great work of a few bishops and Catholic writers and also, at
political reasons. A decisive moment was the Council of Toledo in 589,
for by Leandro of Seville, which marked the end of the Visigoths
Spain and practically in the entire western world.
The battle against Arianism however was nothing new, having begun much
in the year 325. Evangelization of the pagans became the true new work
Church after the fall of the Roman Empire. This took place in two
that is to say, ad intra and ad extra, in the regions of the old Empire
those that had more recently appeared on the scene. In the territories
old Empire, Italy and the provinces, the Church up till then had
itself mostly in the cities. It now extended its presence into the
and villages. The term pagan, as we know, comes from pagus, village,
its current meaning from the fact that evangelization of the villages,
general, came long after that of the cities.
It would be very interesting to follow also this kind of evangelization
gave birth to the development of the system of parishes, as sub
dioceses, but given the objective I have set myself, I must limit my
to the other direction of evangelization, that ad extra, destined to
Gospel to the Barbarian territories situated in the aisles and in
Europe, that is to say, England, Holland, France and Germany.
In this new task, the conversion of the Merovingian King Clovis on
Eve of 498 or 499 baptized by the bishops of Reims, St. Remigius,
crucial moment. This decided, as was the custom of the time, not only
religious future of the Francs, but also of other peoples on both sides
river Rhine. There is a famous phrase pronounced by Bishop Remigius at
moment of Clovis' baptism: Mitis depone colla, Sigamber; adora quod
incende quod adorasti: Humbly bow your head, wild Sicamber, adore what
burned, and burn what you adored. To this event the French nation
title of the eldest daughter of the Church.
Thanks to the work of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, the Christianization of
continent culminated in the 9th century with the conversion of the
peoples who had occupied Eastern Europe and the territories left freely
preceding waves of migrants who had moved to the West.
The evangelization of the Barbarians presented a new condition, with
the previous Greco-Roman world. There, Christianity had before it a
educated world, well organized, with an order, a common law and a
language; it had, in short, a culture with which to dialogue. Now it
itself having to civilize and evangelize at the same time, having to
reading and writing while teaching Christian doctrine. Inculturation
itself in an entirely new form.
3) The monastic epic
This gigantic work, which I have only traced in broad outline, was
with the participation of all the faithful of the Church. In first
Pope who promoted the first mission to the Anglos and played an active
the evangelization of the Germans (through the work of St. Boniface)
and of the
Slavic peoples through the work of Sts. Cyril and Methodius;
bishops, the parish priests, in the measure local communities were
silent but decisive role was exercised by some women. Behind the great
conversions of the Barbarian kings, we frequently find the influence
by their respective wives: St. Clotilde, in the case of Clovis; St.
Theodolinda, in the case of the Lombard king Autari; the Catholic wife
Edwin, who introduced Christianity to the north of England.
But the leading protagonists of the re-evangelization of Europe after
Barbarian invasions were the monks. In the West, monasticism, beginning
fourth century, spread rapidly in two distinct periods and directions.
first wave starts from middle and central Gaul, especially Lerin (410)
Auxerre (418), and thanks to St. Patrick who formed himself in those
centers, Christianity arrived in Ireland whose whole future religious
shaped by him. From here, in a first phase, the Irish monks went to
and England and afterward returned to the Continent.
The second monastic wave, destined to absorb and unify the different
Western monasticism, had its origin in Italy from St. Benedict (+547).
5th to the 8th centuries Europe would be literally covered by
of which developed a primary task in the formation of the Continent,
of its faith but also of its art, culture and agriculture. For this
Benedict was proclaimed the patron of Europe and the Holy Father in
Subiaco for his lesson on the Christian roots of Europe.
The great evangelizing monks of our period belong, almost all of them,
first of the two mentioned currents, that which returns to the
Ireland and England. The most representative names are those of St.
and St. Boniface. The first, starting from Luxeuil, evangelized
regions of the north of Gaul and the tribes of middle Germany, arriving
Bobbio in Italy; the second, considered the evangelizer of Germany,
his missionary work from Fulda to Frisia, today's Holland. To him, the
Father Benedict XVI dedicated one of his catecheses during the public
of Wednesday, on March 11, 2009, highlighting his close collaboration
Roman Pontiff and the civilizing work among the peoples evangelized by
Reading their lives one has the impression of reliving the missionary
of the Apostle Paul; the same longing to take the Gospel to every
Earth, the same courage to confront every type of danger and
for St. Boniface and many others, also the same end, martyrdom. The
of this evangelization of such wide embrace are well known, and the
with St. Paul highlights the most serious one. The Apostle, together
Evangelization, established everywhere a Church that assured its
development. Often, for lack of resources and the difficulty of acting
society still in a state of magma, these pioneers were not capable of
a follow-up to their work.
The Barbarian nations were inclined to put into practice only one part
program indicated by St. Remigius to Clovis; they adored what they had
but did not burn what they had adored. Much of their idolatrous and
baggage would remain, and would surface at the first opportunity. The
lasting work left by these great evangelizers was precisely the
foundation of a
network of monasteries and, with Augustine in England and St. Boniface
Germany, the erection of dioceses and the celebration of synods that
deeper and more durable evangelization in the future.
4) Mission and contemplation
Now is the time to extract some lessons for today from the historical
we have made. To begin with, we note a certain analogy between the
have covered and the situation today. Then, the movement of peoples was
East to West, today it is from South to North. Now again, the Church,
its Magisterium, has made its decision opening itself to the new
The difference is that today, the new arrivals to Europe are not pagans
Christian heretics but often nations in possession of a well
self-conscious religion. Therefore the new element is the dialogue that
not oppose evangelization but rather determines its style. Blessed John
II, in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio, about the perennial validity
missionary mandate, expressed himself clearly: Inter-religious dialogue
is a part
of the Church's evangelizing mission. Understood as a method and means
mutual knowledge and enrichment, dialogue is not in opposition to the
ad gentes; indeed, it has special links with that mission and is one of
expressions. ... In the light of the economy of salvation, the Church
conflict between proclaiming Christ and engaging in interreligious
Instead, she feels the need to link the two in the context of her
gentes. These two elements must maintain both their intimate connect
ion and their distinctiveness; therefore they should not be confused,
manipulated or regarded as identical, as though they were
What happened in Europe after the Barbarian invasions shows us above
importance of the contemplative life in view of evangelization. With
this, the conciliar decree Ad Gentes, says about the missionary
activity of the
Church: Worthy of special mention are the various projects for causing
contemplative life to take root. There are those who in such an attempt
kept the essential element of a monastic institution, and are bent on
implanting the rich tradition of their order; there are others again
returning to the simpler forms of ancient monasticism. But all are
looking for a genuine adaptation to local conditions. Since the
life belongs to the fullness of the Church's presence, let it be put
This invitation to look for new ways of monasticism with a view to
evangelization, inspired even by ancient monasticism, has not been
One of the forms in which it has been realized is the Monastic
Jerusalem, known as the monks and nuns of the city. Their founder,
Pierre-Marie Delfieux, after having spent two years in the Sahara
the company only of the Eucharist and the Bible, understood that the
deserts today are the great secularized cities. These Fraternities
in Paris on the Feast of All Saints 1975 are present already in various
cities of Europe, including Rome, where they are situated at the
Monti. Their charism is to evangelize through the beauty of art and the
liturgy. What is traditionally monastic is their habit, their style of
and austere, the balance between work and prayer; what is new is their
at the center of the cities, generally in ancient churches of grand
value, and the collaboration between nuns and monks in the liturgy,
their total reciprocal autonomy insofar as living and juridical
dependence is concerned. Not a few conversions of unbelievers or
only Christians have taken place around these centers.
Of a distinct type, but one which also forms part of this flourishing
monastic forms, is the monastery of Bose in Italy. In the field of
the monastery of Taizé in France is an example of the
contemplative life also
directly involved on the front lines of evangelization.
In Avila, on the 1st of November 1982, receiving in audience a wide
representation of the feminine contemplative life, John Paul II
the possibility, also in the feminine cloistered life, of a more direct
involvement in the work of evangelization. Your monasteries, he said,
of prayer amid Christian communities to which you give help, nutrition
hope. They are consecrated places and they can also be centers of
welcome for those, above all the young, who often seek a simple and
life in contrast to that which is offered by the consumer society.
The calling was not ignored and has grown into original initiatives of
feminine contemplative life open to evangelization. One of these was
give a presentation here in the Vatican at a recent Congress, organized
Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. All these new
forms do not
substitute the traditional monastic realities, many of which are also
centers of evangelization, but they accompany and enrich them.
It is not enough in the Church that there be some dedicated to
and some dedicated to mission; it is necessary that the synthesis
two things be present in the same life of a missionary. In other words,
not enough to pray for the missionaries, what is needed is the prayer
missionaries. The great monks who re-evangelized Europe after the
invasions were men coming from the silence of contemplation who
silence as soon as circumstances permitted. In fact, with the heart
left the monastery. They put into practice, in fact they anticipated,
advice that St. Francis of Assisi gave to his brothers before sending
the streets of the world: We have a hermitage always with us wherever
we go, and
every time we wish, we can, like hermits return to this hermitage.
is the hermitage and the soul is the hermit which inhabits it to pray
Of this however we have a much more authoritative example than the
daily life of Jesus was an admirable conjoining of prayer and
preaching. He did
not only pray before preaching, he prayed to know what to preach, to
prayer the messages to proclaim to the world. What the Father has told
what I speak (John 12:50). From there came that authority of Jesus that
impressive in his speech.
The effort for a new evangelization is exposed to two dangers. One is
laziness, of not doing anything and leaving everything to others. The
launching into a feverish and empty human activism, with the result of
little by little the contact with the source of the Word and of its
It is said: How can I pray in stillness when so many demands lay claim
attention, how can I not run when the house is burning? It is true, but
imagine a group of firefighters who would run to put out a fire and who
discovered that they had not one drop of water in their tanks. This is
are when we run to preach without first praying. Prayer is fundamental
evangelization because Christian preaching is not primarily a
doctrine but of existence. He evangelizes more who prays without
he who speaks without praying.
5) Mary, star of evangelization
We end with a thought suggested by the liturgical time we are living
and by the
solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, which we celebrated yesterday.
Once in an ecumenical dialogue a Protestant brother asked me, without
polemical, just to understand it, Why do you Catholics say that Mary is
star of evangelization? What has Mary done to deserve this title?. For
was an occasion to reflect about the subject and it did not take long
the answer. Mary is the star of evangelization because she has brought
Word, not to this or that nation, but to the whole world!
And not only for this reason. She carried the Word in her womb not in
mouth. She was full, physically, of Christ and irradiated Him with just
presence. Jesus came out from her eyes, her face and her entire person.
one perfumes oneself it is not necessary to announce it; it is enough
stand near the person to sense it, and Mary, most especially during the
she carried Him in her womb, was full of the perfume of Christ. One can
that Mary was the first cloistered nun of the Church. After Pentecost,
entered as if into a cloister. Through the letters of the Apostles we
know innumerable persons and also many women of the primitive Christian
community. Once we find mentioned one called Mary (cf. Romans 16:6),
is not her. Of Mary, the mother of Jesus, nothing. She disappears in a
profound silence. But what must it have meant for John to have her by
while he wrote the Gospel and what it might mean for us to have her clos
e while we proclaim the Gospel! First amongst the Gospels, writes
that of John, the profound meaning of which cannot be understood by any
not rested his head on the breast of Jesus and has not received Mary
as his proper mother.
Mary has inaugurated in the Church that second soul, or vocation, which
hidden praying soul, together with the apostolic or active soul. It
expresses the traditional icon of the Ascension, of which we have a
representation to the right of this “Redemptoris Mother” chapel. Mary
with open arms in an attitude of prayer. Around her the Apostles, all
foot or hand elevated, that is to say in movement, they represent the
active, missionary, which speaks and acts. Mary is motionless beneath
the exact point from where he ascended into heaven, almost as if to
living memory of Him and keep alive the hope of his return.
We end listening to the final words of Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi,
for the first time in a pontifical document, Mary receives the title
Evangelization: On the morning of Pentecost she watched over with her
the beginning of evangelization prompted by the Holy Spirit: may she be
Star of the evangelization ever renewed which the Church, docile to her
command, must promote and accomplish, especially in these times which
difficult but full of hope!
--- --- ---
 St. Jerome, Commentary on Ezekiel, III, 25, pref.; cf. Epistole
 St. Leo the Great, Sermon 82
 Gregory of Tours, Historia Francorum, II, 31
 John Paul II Redemptoris Missio, 55
 A.G. 18
 Legenda Perugina, 80 (FF, 1636)
 Origen, Commentary on the Gospel of John, I, 6,23 (SCh, 120, p. 70)
ZENIT, The world seen from Rome
Father Cantalamessa's 3rd Advent Sermon
The First Evangelization of the American Continent
ROME, DEC. 16, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the third
sermon by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the
household, which was delivered today.
* * *
1. The Christian faith crosses the ocean
Four days ago the American continent celebrated the Feast of Our Lady
Guadalupe, which in Mexico is also a holy day of obligation. This is a
coincidence, when our subject in this meditation is the third great
evangelization that followed the discovery of the New World. Never more
the history of this devotion did Mary deserve the title of Star of
I will briefly summarize the main headings of the growth of this
enterprise. Let me begin with an observation. Along with the faith,
Europe also exported its own divisions. By the end of the great
wave, the American continent would exactly reproduce the situation that
in Europe: a Catholic majority in the south, and a corresponding
majority in the north. We will only deal here with the evangelization
America, which happened first, immediately after the discovery of the
After Christopher Columbus, in 1492, returned from his journey with the
the existence of the new territories (at that time still thought to be
India), Catholic Spain took two decisions that were inseparably linked:
bring the Christian faith to the new peoples, and to extend to them
political sovereignty. For this purpose, they obtained from Pope
Alexander VI a
decision by which Spain was given the right to all lands discovered one
miles beyond the Azores, and Portugal to those on this side of the
line was later moved in favour of Portugal, in order to legitimize its
possession of Brazil. Thus were drawn the outlines of the future face
Latin American continent, including its languages.
Each time they entered a country, the troops would issue a proclamation
(requerimiento), ordering the inhabitants to embrace Christianity and
the sovereignty of the King of Spain. Only a few great spirits,
Dominicans Antonio de Montesino and Bartolomeo de Las Casas, had the
raise their voices against the abuses of the conquerors in defence of
rights of the natives. In little over fifty years, also on account of
weakness of the local kingdoms, the continent was under Spanish
at least nominally, Christian.
Recent historians have tended to dilute the somber tones in which this
missionary enterprise was painted in the past. First they point out
Latin America, unlike what was to happen with the “Indian” tribes of
America, most of the native populations, though they were decimated,
with their own language and territory and were subsequently able to
recover their identity and independence. One must also take into
the missionaries were conditioned by their theological formation.
adage “Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus” literally and rigidly, they were
of the need to baptize as many people as possible, and in the shortest
in order to ensure their eternal salvation.
It is worth dwelling for a moment on this axiom, which has had so much
in evangelization. It was formulated in the 3rd century by Origen, and
all by St. Cyprian. To begin with, it was not about the salvation of
non-Christians, but on the contrary, about that of Christians. In fact
aimed directly and exclusively at the heretics and schismatics of the
remind them that by breaking ecclesial communion they were guilty of a
by which they were excluding themselves from salvation. It was
directed against those who were leaving the Church, not against those
It was only later, when Christianity had become the state religion,
axiom began to be applied to pagans and Jews, based on the then common,
objectively erroneous, conviction that the message was by now known to
and that therefore to refute it meant that one was culpable and
It was precisely following the discovery of the New World that those
geographical boundaries were drastically broken. The discovery of
peoples who had lived outside of any contact with the Church forced a
such a rigid interpretation of the axiom. The Dominican theologians of
Salamanca, and later a few Jesuits, began to adopt a critical position,
recognizing that it was possible to be outside the Church, without
necessarily culpable and therefore excluded from salvation. Not only
in the face of the manner and the methods whereby the gospel had
announced to the native people, someone for the first time raised the
of whether those who, while knowing the Christian message, had not
it, could really be considered culpable.
2. The friars as protagonists
This is certainly not the place to make a historical judgement on the
evangelization of Latin America. On the occasion of its fifth
centenary, in May
1992, an international symposium of historians specializing in the
held here in Rome. In his speech to the participants, Pope John Paul II
“Of course, in that evangelization, as in any human undertaking, there
mistakes as well as successes, ‘lights and shadows,’ but more lights
shadows, to judge from the fruits that we find there five hundred years
a Church that is alive and dynamic which today represents a
portion of the universal Church.”
From the opposite side, on that occasion, some spoke of the need for a
“de-colonization” and a “de-evangelization,” giving the impression that
would have preferred it if the evangelization of the continent had not
at all, instead of happening as we know it did. With all the respect
due to the
love for the peoples of Latin America which moved these authors, I
such an opinion must be vigorously refuted.
To a world without sin but without Jesus Christ, theology has shown
prefers a world of sin, but with Jesus Christ. “O happy fault,”
paschal liturgy in the Exsultet, “which gained for us so great a
Redeemer.” Shouldn’t we say the same about the evangelization of both
South and North? Which is preferable: a continent without “the mistakes
shadows” that accompanied the preaching of the Gospel, but also a
without Christ, or a continent with those shadows, but with Christ?
anyone would prefer the latter? Could any Christian, of the left or of
right (especially a priest or religious) say the opposite without by
fact betraying his own faith?
I read somewhere this statement, which I fully agree with: “The
that happened in 1492 was not that Christopher Columbus discovered
that America discovered Jesus Christ.” True, it was not the whole
Christ of the
Gospel, for which freedom is the very pre-requisite of faith, but who
to be the bearers of a Christ free of all historical conditioning?
who propose a revolutionary Christ, who challenges structures and is
involved in the political struggle, perhaps also forgetting something
Christ, for example, his statement that “my kingdom is not of this
If in the first wave of evangelization the protagonists were the
bishops, and in
the second the monks, the undoubted protagonists in this third wave
friars, i.e. religious from the mendicant Orders, in first place the
Franciscans, Dominicans and Augustinians, and at a later stage the
Church historians recognise that in Latin America “it was the members
religious Orders who determined the history of the missions and
John Paul II’s judgement that “there were more lights than shadows” can
applied to them. It would be dishonest to underestimate the personal
and heroism of so many of these missionaries. The conquistadores were
a spirit of adventure and a thirst for profit, but what could they
leaving their homelands and their friaries? They were not going there
but to give; they wanted to win souls for Christ, not subjects for the
Spain, even if they shared the patriotic enthusiasm of their fellow
When you read the stories of the evangelization of a particular
realize how unjust and far from the truth are generalised judgements. I
had occasion to read, on the very spot, the chronicle of the beginnings
Guatemala mission and in the neighboring regions -- stories of
mishaps that can scarcely be recounted. Of a batch of 20 Dominicans who
for the New World, bound for the Philippines, 18 died on the way.
In 1974 a Synod was held on “Evangelization in the contemporary world”.
hand-written note added to the final document (which the Prefecture of
Papal Household had published together with the programme for these
Paul VI wrote:
“Is what is said [in the document] enough for religious? Shouldn’t we
word about the voluntary, enterprising, generous character of the
done by religious men and women? Their evangelization must depend on
the hierarchy and be co-ordinated with it, but the originality, the
devotion, often in the front line and entirely at great risk to
This recognition fully applies to the religious who were the
the evangelization of Latin America, especially if we think of some of
things they achieved, such as the famous “reductions” of the Jesuits in
Paraguay, villages where the Christian Indians, protected from the
of the civil authorities, could be instructed in the faith, but could
invest their human talents.
3. Current problems
Now, as usual, we will try to move on and look at what this briefly
history of the Church’s missionary experience has to say to us today.
social and religious conditions of the continent have changed so
that, instead of insisting on what we should learn or unlearn from
it is useful to reflect on the current task of evangelization in the
On this subject there has been, and still is, such a vast amount of
and documentation, produced by the pontifical magisterium, by CELAM and
individual local Churches, that it would be presumptuous of me even to
could add anything new. But I can share a few thoughts from my own
in the field, having had occasion to preach retreats to episcopal
clergy and people in nearly all the countries of Latin America, in some
several times. Also, the problems that arise in this field in Latin
not so very different from those in the rest of the Church.
One reflection concerns the need to overcome an excessive polarization,
is present everywhere in the Church, but is particularly acute in Latin
America, especially in recent years: the polarization between the
the contemplative souls, between the Church of social commitment to the
and the Church that proclaims the faith. When we are faced with
differences, we are instinctively tempted to come down on one side or
other, exalting the one and despising the other. The doctrine of
should save us from getting into that battle. The gift of the Catholic
is to be precisely that -- Catholic, in other words, open to welcome
diverse gifts given by the Holy Spirit.
This is shown by the history of religious Orders, which have
different and at times opposing demands: involvement with the world and
from the world, apostolate among the learned, like the Jesuits, and
among the people, like the Capuchins. There is room for both. Besides,
each other; no-one can embody the entire gospel and represent Christ in
aspect of His life. Everyone ought therefore to rejoice that others are
what he or she could not do: that some cultivate the spiritual life and
proclaim the word, and that others devote themselves to justice and
development, and vice versa. The Apostle’s warning is always valid: “It
for you to condemn anyone else!” (cf. Rom 14:13).
Another observation concerns the problem of Catholics leaving the
other Christian denominations. First we should remember that these
denominations cannot all be called “sects” without distinction. With
them, including Pentecostals, the Catholic Church has maintained an
ecumenical dialogue for years, which it would not do if it simply
them to be sects.
The promotion of this dialogue, even at the local level, is the best
improve the climate, to isolate the more aggressive sects and
practice of proselytism. A few years ago an ecumenical prayer meeting
Scripture sharing took place in Buenos Aires, attended by the Catholic
archbishop and leaders of other churches, with seven thousand people
One clearly saw the possibility of a new relationship among Christians,
more constructive for faith and evangelization.
In one of his documents, John Paul II said that the proliferation of
forced us to ask why, to ask what is lacking in our pastoral methods.
conviction, based on experience -- and not only in Latin American
is as follows. What is attractive outside the Church are not certain
alternative forms of popular piety, which the majority of other
sects reject and fight against. It is a proclamation, partial perhaps,
powerful, of the grace of God, the possibility of experiencing Jesus as
personal Lord and Saviour, belonging to a group of people who
care of your needs, who pray over you when medicine has nothing more to
If on the one hand we can rejoice that these people have found Christ
been converted, it is sad that in order to do so they felt they had to
their Church. In the majority of churches where these brothers and
up, everything revolves around first conversion and the acceptance of
Lord. In the Catholic Church, thanks to the sacraments, the
the wealth of spirituality, there is the advantage of not stopping at
initial stage, but one can reach the fullness and perfection of the
life. The saints are proof of this. But it is necessary to take
conscious and personal initial step, and this is precisely where we are
challenged and stimulated by the evangelical and Pentecostal
In this respect, the Charismatic Renewal has proved to be, in the words
VI, “a chance for the Church.” In Latin America, the pastors of the
realising that the Charismatic Renewal is not (as some believed at the
beginning) “part of the problem” of the exodus of Catholics from the
but is rather part of the solution to the problem. Statistics will
how many people have remained faithful to the Church because of it,
they found within its ranks what others were looking for elsewhere. The
numerous communities that have sprung up from within the Charismatic
albeit with the limitations and at times the drifting that one finds in
human venture, are at the front line of service to the Church and of
4. The role of religious in the new evangelization
As I said, I don’t want to talk only about first evangelization. But
one lesson we need to learn from it: the importance of the traditional
religious Orders for evangelization. To them Blessed John Paul II
Apostolic Letter on the occasion of the fifth centenary of the first
evangelization of the continent, entitled, in the original, “Los
Evangelio”. The final part of the letter deals precisely with
“religious in the
new evangelization”: “Religious,” he writes, “who were the first
and contributed so considerably to keeping the faith alive in the
cannot fail to keep this appointment with the Church for the new
evangelization. The diversity of charisms in the consecrated life make
message of Christ come alive, making it present and relevant in every
Community life, a centralized government and formation houses of high
were the factors that gave the religious Orders at the time such a vast
missionary outreach. But what has happened to their strength today?
from the inside of one of these ancient Orders, I can venture to speak
certain freedom. The rapid decline in vocations in western countries is
a dangerous situation: nearly all their resources are being spent on
the internal needs of their own religious family (formation of the
maintenance of structures and works), with few active forces available
service in the wider Church. The result is that they tend to turn in on
themselves. In Europe the traditional religious Orders are forced to
several provinces and face the pain of having to close one house after
Secularization is, of course, one of the causes of the decline in
but not the only one. There are religious communities of recent
attract scores of young people. In the letter quoted earlier, John Paul
encouraged the men and women religious of Latin America to “evangelize
starting from a profound experience of God.” And that, I believe, is
“a profound experience of God.” This is what attracts vocations and
foundations for a new and effective wave of evangelization. The adage
quod non habet,” you can only give what you have, has never been truer
The Capuchin provincial superior of the Marches, who is also my
written an Advent letter this year to his brothers. In it he makes a
which I believe all traditional religious communities would do well to
“As you read these lines, imagine you are the Holy Spirit. Yes, you
right: imagine not just that you are ‘full of the Holy Spirit’ thanks
sacraments you have received, but that ‘you are’ the Holy Spirit, the
Person of the Holy Trinity, and in that guise, imagine that you have
to call a young person to embark on a way that will help him to grow
perfection of charity -- I mean of course, the religious life. Would
brave enough to send him to your fraternity, in the sure certainty that
fraternity would be the place that would seriously help him attain the
of charity in the concrete reality of everyday life? Poorly expressed,
mean is: if a young man were to come and live for a few days or months
fraternity, sharing in your prayer, your fraternal life, your
…would he fall in love with our way of life?”
When the mendicant Orders, the Franciscans and Dominicans, were born at
beginning of the 13thcentury, even the existing monastic Orders
them and made their own the call to greater poverty and a more
life, while living according to their own charism. Should we not do the
today, we the traditional Orders, in the face of the new forms of
life which have come to life in the Church?
The grace of these new realities takes many forms, but it has a common
denominator called the Holy Spirit, the “new Pentecost.” After the
nearly all the existing religious Orders revised and renewed their
Constitutions, but already in 1981, Blessed John Paul II warned: “The
work of renewal of the Church, so providentially set forth and
initiated by the
Second Vatican Council -- a renewal that must be both an updating and a
consolidation of what is eternal and constitutive of the Church's
can be carried out only in the Holy Spirit, that is to say, with the
aid of His
light and His power.”
“The Holy Spirit,” as St Bonaventure wrote, goes “to where He is loved,
He is invited, where He is awaited.” We must open up our communities
breath of the Spirit who renews prayer, fraternal life, and love for
and together with this, renews missionary zeal. Of course we do need to
back, to our origins and our founders, but we must also look ahead.
Observing the situation of the ancient Orders in the western world, the
question Ezekiel heard as he surveyed the heaps of dry bones
arises: “Can these bones live?” The dry bones spoken of in the text are
bones of the dead, but of the living; they are the exiled people of
keep saying: Our bones are dried up, our hope has gone, we are doomed!”
Sometimes the same sentiments arise in those of us who belong to the
We know the hope-filled reply that God gives to the question: “‘I will
Spirit in you, and you will revive; and I will resettle you on your own
Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken and done this,’
Lord God.” We must believe and hope for the fulfilment of the last part
prophecy, for us too, and for the whole Church: “The Spirit entered
came to life and stood up on their feet, a great, an immense army” (cf.
Four days ago, as I recalled at the beginning, Latin America celebrated
feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. There is much discussion about the
of the facts underlying the origins of this devotion. We need to
understand what is meant by an historical fact. There are so many facts
are historical but not historic, because not everything that happened
“historic” in the truest sense, but only that which, in addition to
happened, has had an impact on the life of a people, has created
has left its mark on history. And what a mark has left the devotion to
of Guadalupe in the religious history of the Mexican and Latin American
It is of great symbolic significance that, at the dawn of the
the American continent, in 1531, on the hill of Tepeyac to the north of
City, an image of the Virgin Mary was imprinted on the cloak, or tilma,
Juan Diego as “La Morenita,” in other words, with the features of a
half-caste girl. There could have been no more expressive way of saying
the Church, in Latin America, is called to become -- and wishes to
indigenous with the indigenous, Creole with the Creoles, all things to
[Translation by Charles Serignat]
 Cfr. J. Glazik, in Storia della Chiesa, ed. H. Jedin, vol.
Jaca Book, 1075, p. 702.
 F. Sullivan, Salvation outside the Church? Tracing the History of
Response, Paulist Press, New York 1992.
 John Paul II, Speech to the participants at the International
Symposium on the evangelisation of Latin America, 14 May 1992.
 Cfr. Glazik, op. cit., p. 708.
 John Paul II, “Los caminos del Evangelio”, nr. 24 (AAS 83, 1991,
 John Paul II, Apostolic Letter “A Concilio Constantinopolitano
 St. Bonaventure, Sermon for the IV Sunday after Easter,2 (ed.
Quaracchi, IX, p.311).
ZENIT, The world seen from Rome
Father Cantalamessa's 4th Advent Sermon
The Current Wave of Evangelization
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 23, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the
Advent sermon by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of
pontifical household, which was delivered today.
* * *
1. A new audience for the proclamation
Prope est iam Dominus: venite, adoremus (The Lord is close at hand;
us worship him). We begin this meditation just as the Liturgy of the
begins in the days that precede Christmas in such a way that it may
as part of our preparation for the solemnity.
I have tried to recount in the preceding meditations three great waves
evangelization in the history of the Church. Other great missionary
can certainly be recalled as well: the mission of St. Francis Xavier in
16th century in the East -- India, China, and Japan -- and the
of the African continent in the 19th century by Daniel Comboni,
Guglielmo Massaia, and so many others. Nevertheless, there is a reason
selection I made that I hope has emerged in the course of our
The thing that changes and distinguishes the various waves of
mentioned is not the content of the proclamation -- the faith which was
for all delivered to the saints as the Letter to Jude verse 3 says --
to whom that proclamation is addressed: the Greco-Roman world, the
world, and the new world, that is, the American continent, respectively.
We can ask ourselves, therefore, who comprises the new group that
allows us to
speak of the proclamation today as a fourth wave of new evangelization?
answer is the western world that has been secularized and in some
post-Christian. This analysis, which already appeared in the writings
Blessed John Paul II, has become explicit in the teaching of the Holy
Benedict XVI. In the Motu Proprio with which he established the
Council for Promoting New Evangelization, he speaks of many
Christian countries that now seem particularly resistant to many
aspects of the
During Advent last year, I tried to demonstrate what characterizes this
group to be evangelized, summarizing into three categories --
secularism, and rationalism -- the three mindsets that lead to a common
Paralleling the appearance of a new world to evangelize, we have also
the emergence of a new category of heralds with each wave: bishops in
three centuries (especially in the third century), monks in the second
and friars in the third. Today as well, we can observe the emergence of
category of primary agents in evangelization: the laity. This does not
course, that one group displaces another but rather that a new
component of the
people of God is being joined to the others, while the bishops, with
leadership of the pope, always remain the authorized guides and the
ultimately responsible for the missionary task of the Church.
2. A parallel to the wake behind a large ship
I said that over the centuries, those to whom the proclamation was
has changed but not the message itself. I must, however, clarify this
statement. It is true that the essence of the proclamation cannot
its mode of presentation, the priorities, and the departure point of
proclamation can and must change.
Let us summarize the unfolding progression of the gospel proclamation
up to our
time. There is first of all the proclamation by Jesus whose central
the news that The kingdom of God has come to you. After this unique and
unrepeatable period that we call the time of Jesus comes the time of
after Easter. In this second period, Jesus is no longer the one who
but is the one proclaimed. The word gospel no longer means the good
brought by Jesus but the good news about Jesus that has Jesus as its
his death and resurrection in particular. That is what St. Paul always
the word gospel.
We need to be careful, however, not to separate too strictly the two
the two proclamations -- of Jesus and of the Church or what is
the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith. Jesus is not just the
the Church's proclamation, that which is proclaimed. We dare not reduce
merely to that! It would mean forgetting the Resurrection. It is the
Christ who, by his Spirit, still speaks in the Church's proclamation;
also the one who is doing the proclaiming. As one Vatican Council text
is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy
scriptures are read in church.
Beginning with the initial proclamation of the Church, that is, the
can summarize the successive unfolding of the preaching of the Church
an image. Let us picture the wake made by a large ship. It begins as
and that point is the ship itself, but it grows wider and wider until
spreads out across the horizon and touches the opposite shores of the
is what has happened with the Church's proclamation. It begins with one
the kerygma: [Christ] was put to death for our trespasses and raised
justification (Romans 4:25; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1–3) or, in a phrase
even more concise and pregnant with meaning, Jesus is Lord! (Romans
An initial expansion of this one point occurs with the appearance of
Gospels, written to explain that original nucleus, and then with the
the New Testament. After this comes the Tradition of the Church, with
magisterium, its theology, its institutions, its laws, its
final result is an enormous patrimony that can make us think precisely
ship's wake in its maximum distension.
So now, if we want to evangelize a secularized world, there is a choice
make. Where do we begin? From some place within that expanded wake or
initial point? The immense wealth of doctrine and institutions can
handicap if we are trying to present all of that to a person who has
contact with the Church and no longer knows who Jesus is. That would be
clothing a baby with one of those enormous, heavy brocaded copes that
and bishops used to wear.
Instead, it is necessary to help this person establish a relationship
Jesus. We need to do what Peter did on the day of Pentecost when 3,000
were present: to speak about Jesus whom we have crucified and whom God
raised and to bring that person to the point that he or she, cut to the
asks, Brethren, what shall we do? (Acts 2:37). We will respond as Peter
Repent, and be baptized every one of you (Acts 2:38) if you have not
baptized, or if you have already been baptized, go to confession.
Those who respond to the proclamation will join themselves -- today as
day -- to the community of believers. They will listen to the teaching
apostles and will partake in the breaking of the bread. Depending on
person's calling and response, little by little they will be able to
immense heritage arising from the kerygma their own. Jesus is not
the word of the Church, but the Church is accepted on the word of Jesus.
We have an ally in this effort: the failure of all the attempts by the
world to substitute other calls and manifestos for the Christian
often mention the example of the famous painting by the Norwegian
Munch called The Scream. Against a reddish background, a man on a
his hands cupped around his mouth is emitting a scream that we
recognize is a cry of anguish, a hollow-sounding cry without words.
to me the best description of the situation of human beings in modern
who, having forgotten the cry of the kerygma that is full of meaning,
themselves having to scream their existential anguish in a vacuum.
3. Christ, our Contemporary
I would like now to explain why it is possible in Christianity to start
any time from the point of the ship, without this being either a mental
pretense or a mere exercise in archeology. The reason is simple: that
still sailing on the sea and its wake still begins with one point!
There is an issue about which I do not agree with the philosopher
Kierkegaard, although he has said some very wonderful things about
about Jesus. One of his favorite themes is the contemporaneity of
he conceives of that contemporaneity as our making ourselves
with Christ: He who believes in Christ, he writes, must be contemporary
Him in His humiliation. His idea is that in order to truly
the same faith required of the apostles, we need to ignore 2,000 years
history and of affirmations about Christ and to put ourselves in the
the very ones to whom Jesus addressed his word: Come to me, all who
are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28). Dare you
man uttering such incredible promise while he himself has not even a
which to lay his head?
The true contemporaneity with Christ is something quite other than
that: It is
Christ who makes himself our contemporary because, having risen, he
the Spirit and in the Church. If it were up to us to make ourselves
of Christ, it would be a contemporaneity that was merely intentional;
if it is
Christ who makes himself our contemporary, it is a real
According to a bold idea in Orthodox spirituality, anamnesis is a
remembrance that makes the past even more present than when it was
is not an exaggeration. In the liturgical celebration of the Mass, the
the death and resurrection of Christ becomes more real for me than it
been for those who were actually physically present at the event,
were present in the flesh, but now we are present in the Spirit.
The same thing is true when someone proclaims with faith, Christ died
sins, he was raised for my justification, and he is Lord. A
writes, For every man the beginning of life is the moment when Christ
immolated for him. But Christ is immolated for him at the moment he
acknowledges grace and becomes conscious of the life obtained for him
of that immolation.
I realize that it is not easy and may perhaps not even be possible to
things to people, much less to the secularized world of today. But it
those of us who evangelize need to be very clear about so that we can
courage from it and believe the word of John the Evangelist that says,
is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
4. The laity, the primary agents of evangelization
I said at the beginning that in terms of the protagonists, the novelty
today's period of evangelization consists in the laity. Their role in
evangelization has been described by the Council in Apostolicam
[Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People], by Paul VI in Evangelii
[Evangelization in the Modern World], and by John Paul II in
laici [The Lay Members of Christ's Faithful People].
The basis for this universal call to mission is already found in the
After Jesus first sent the apostles out on mission, we then read in the
of Luke that Jesus appointed seventy-two others, and sent them on ahead
two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to
(10:1). Those seventy-two disciples were probably all the disciples he
gathered at that point, or at least all those who were disposed to
themselves seriously to him. Jesus thus sent all his disciples.
I know a layman in the United States, the father of a family, who
profession also carries on powerful evangelization. He is the kind of
has a good sense of humor and evangelizes to the sound of loud laughter
can only happen with Americans. When he goes to a new place, he begins
saying very seriously, Twenty-five hundred bishops gathered in Rome
me to come proclaim the gospel to you. People are of course intrigued.
explains that the 2,500 bishops are those who participated in the
Vatican Council and wrote the decree on the apostolate of the laity in
they exhort every Christian layperson to participate in the
mission of the Church. He was perfectly correct when he said, they
Those words are not blowing in the wind, addressed to everyone but no
particular. They are personally addressed to every Catholic lay person.
We all know about the nuclear energy that is released by the fission of
atom. An atom of uranium absorbs a high energy neutron and splits in
creating two new elements from the original; energy and more neutrons
released though this process. This begins a chain reaction. The two new
elements in turn can themselves absorb neutrons and break into four new
and so on to the point where the energy released in the end is
enormous. It is
not necessarily destructive energy because nuclear energy can be used
peaceful purposes on behalf of the human race.
Similarly, we can say that laypeople are a kind of nuclear energy in
on a spiritual level. A layperson caught up with the gospel and living
other people can contaminate two others, and these two, four others,
lay Christians number not only tens of thousands like the clergy but
of millions, they can truly play a decisive role in spreading the
light of the gospel in the world.
The apostolate of the laity did not begin to be discussed only by the
Vatican Council; it had already been discussed for a long time.
the Council brought forth that was new about this topic concerned the
qualification for laypeople to work alongside the apostolate of the
They are not merely collaborators who are called upon for their
contributions, their time, and their resources. They are bearers of
through which, Lumen gentium says, they are made fit and ready to
various tasks and offices for the renewal and building up of the
Jesus willed that his apostles would be pastors of the sheep and
men. For the clergy it is easier to be pastors than to be fishermen,
it is easier to nourish those who come to Church through the word and
sacraments than it is to seek out those who are far off in cultural
environments that are very different. The parable of the lost sheep is
today: ninety-nine sheep have gone off and one remains in the
danger for us is to spend all our time nourishing this one remaining
not to have time -- also because of the scarcity of clergy -- to seek
who are lost. The contribution of the laity in this situation seems
The most developed expression along these lines is found in ecclesial
movements. Their specific contribution to evangelization is to offer
opportunity to rediscover their baptism and to become active and
members of the Church. Many adult conversions and the return of nominal
Catholics to religious practice are occurring through these movements.
Recently the Holy Father Benedict XVI has returned to the topic of the
importance of the family in evangelization, speaking of the central
role of the
Christian family: Just as the eclipse of God and the crisis of the
linked, he said, so the new evangelization is inseparable from the
Commenting on the text in Luke about the seventy-two disciples, St.
Great writes that he sent them two by two because there can be no love
there are fewer than two people, and love is how people can
that we are disciples of Christ. This is true of everyone, but in a
special way for the two parents. If they can do nothing more to help
children in their faith, they would already be accomplishing a great
their children, seeing them, could say among themselves, Look how Dad
love each other. The scripture says, love is of God (1 John 4:7), and
explains why wherever there is some genuine love, God is being
The first evangelization begins within the walls of the home. Jesus
said to a
young man who asked him one day what he needed to do to be saved, go,
you have, and give to the poor, . . . and come, follow me (Mark 10:21).
However, in the case of another young man, who wanted to leave
follow him, Jesus did not permit him to do that but told him, Go home
friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he
mercy on you (Mark 5:19).
There is a famous Negro spiritual called There is a Balm in Gilead.
of the words can encourage lay people, and not just them, in the task
person-to-person, door-to-door evangelization:
If you can't preach like Peter, if you can't pray like Paul, go home
your neighbor, he died to save us all.
In two days it will be Christmas. It is a comfort to lay brothers and
to remember that in addition to Mary and Joseph around Jesus' cradle,
representatives were also there, the shepherds and the magi.
Christmas brings us back to the point of the ship's wake because
began there with that Baby in the manger. In the liturgy we will hear
proclaimed, Hodie Christus natus est, hodie Salvator apparuit (Today
born, today the Savior appeared). Hearing these words, let us ponder
we said about anamnesis that makes an event more present than when it
the first time. Yes, Christ is born today, because he is truly born for
the moment when I recognize and believe the mystery. What good does it
do me if
Christ was born in Bethlehem once if he is not born again in my heart
faith? This idea was expressed by Origen  and repeated by St.
and St. Bernard.
Let us make our invocation the one chosen by the Holy Father for his
greeting this year, and let us repeat it with all the yearning of our
Veni ad salvandum nos (Come, Lord, and save us!).
[English translation by Marsha Daigle Williamson]
--- --- ---
 Benedict XVI, Motu Proprio, Ubicunque et semper, September 21, 2010.
 Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy [Sacrosanctum concilium], 7, in
Council II: Constitutions, Decrees, Declarations, gen. ed. Austin
(Northport, NY: Costello Publishing Co., 1995), p. 12.
 Søren Kierkegaard, Training in Christianity, trans. Walter
Richard John Neuhaus (New York: Random House, 2004), p. 29.
 Easter Homilies of the year 387 (SCh 36, p. 59ff).
 Lumen gentium [Dogmatic Constitution on the Church]. 12, in Vatican
II: Constitutions, Decrees, Declarations, p. 17.
 Benedict XVI, New Evangelization Inseparable from Family, Address
Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family,
Romano, December 2, 2011, p. 8.
 Gregory the Great, Morals on Job, 34, 41, quoted in Gregory the
Moorhead (New York: Routledge, 2005), p. 148.
 See Origen, Homilies on Luke, 22, 3, trans. Joseph T. Lienhard
DC: the Catholic University Press of America, 1996), 94: For what
profit is it
to you, if Christ came once in the flesh, unless he also comes into
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