If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it! (1 Corinthians: 16)
Not too long ago within some conversations the phrase “new evangelization” came up. I have to confess that I was not aware what this was and was very confused. The word “evangelization” even seemed strange within a Catholic conversation. But as I’ve been reading more on this topic, the real truth is that “evangelizing” is very the heart of the Church’s responsibility and mission. And who is “The Church”? Well, we are.
Now, this is not intended to be a theological analysis of “New Evangelization”. I will leave that for far better minds than mine. This phrase and notion of it should neither be taken lightly or assume, and I highly recommend further reading which links are provided below. The purpose of these first few paragraphs is to give those who are not fully aware or maybe never heard of this a “simple” overview. In all honesty, it’s not all that “new” of a topic. In fact, the discussion mostly began back with Pope John Paul II in 1990 as he began to “set the stage” in regards to the Church’s mission in the new millenium. To re-identify our calling as a missionary Church.
Last night I was at adoration thinking, praying, and reading more on this. As I read Dave Nodar’s article “What Are The Characteristics of New Evangelization?” and was struggling to get a sense of what this “looked like” and how this tech discussion came together in this topic, my mind immediately went back to the candle lighting ritual of the Easter Vigil. This yearly ritual speaks volumes to the beauty and power of evangelizing throughout the Church’s rich history. I witnessed this from a balcony a few years ago and the experience from that perspective is etched in my memory forever. This is when the Church is completely dark (a world that does not know Christ) and the newly lit Paschal Candle (Jesus Christ) appears. From the Pascal Candle the parishioner candles begin being lit and parishioners pass their flame to their neighbor lighting their candle. Pretty soon the entire Church is lit solely by the light of all of those individual candles with the focus on the largest and brightest . . . the Paschal Candle. It’s brilliant, beautiful, and one of the most eye-opening experiences to who we are as Christians and what we are called to do. To understand the complexity of this as well, imagine this ritual played out over the landscape of the entire globe with the “goal” of always keeping those little candles burning brightly!
Technology, I know, I’m getting there. Within Dave Nodar’s article he speaks to 3 “situations” where “evangelization” (and “re-evangelization”) needs to take place. 1) Where the Church is not established, and we bring Christ to those individuals and culture, 2) where a strong Church community exists and “carries out her activities and pastoral care.”, and 3) Those who have fallen away from their faith and are in need of “re-evangelizing”. Within each of these scenarios/situations we can see relevant, beneficial, and necessary technology applications to carry out such an important mission for ALL of the Church. It is not just what we say, but who we are as a whole. That Christ is present in us where ever and when ever we are.
This does not mean that technology replaces or is the only solution to this great challenge. The young man who claims he does not need the “candle” any longer (i.e. the rejection or moving away from faith) because he can gain “light” from, say, a cell phone is mistaken. The candle not only provides light. It provides warmth too which the cell phone does not. All the richness of ritual and tradition is important, relevant, and irreplaceable. The technology merely provides solutions to overcome barriers we may encounter.
Ok, so how does technology and the appropriate effective use of it play into all of this? A lot! Let’s take a look:
- Websites are often a “hub” of information to assist in providing information, coordinating activities, and communicate plans. These are important at the parish level, at the national level, and for missionary organizations. We need to get better at providing websites at all of those levels that are service-centric to their members and the outside world.
- Blogs allow us a “new media” avenue to express our Christ experience and bring Christ to others. All evangelizing, as Pope John Paull II pointed out, begins with being a witness. Sharing our Christ experiences, our own encounters “on the beach” when we met Him, throughout each day in our daily lives, so forth and so on. We are not bound to local geographic areas and can reach audiences far greater than we could have ever imagined. At the same time we must be very cognizant of the great responsibility we are taking on through blogs and the representation we take on as a Catholic and Christian. The goal should always be to reach others and invite discussion, and not alienate others.
- Digital Video and Photos. As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words”! And this could not be more true. Our great parish events can be shared with the world! We can reach and bring Christ to others through online video and no longer are bound by televisions.
- Social networking and AUTHENTIC participation allows us to connect with others like never before. One’s faith is not meant to be kept to themselves, but shared. We must not be swayed into feeling as though we can not be who we are in Christ in public. This does not mean we must post scripture passages daily. It means that we should truly be our Catholic selves and shine for others online within our connections as we do in all other aspects of our lives. We should be our authentic selves as a parish in our Facebook pages or tweets and our individual accounts. No longer are we bound by small meetings, events, or restricted by geographic distances. We can be connected and are connected to a much larger world community than ever before.
- Synod of Bishops XIII Ordinary General Assembly: The New Evangelization For The Transmission Of The Christain Faith
- Apostolic Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II At The Close Of The Great Jubilee Year of 2000.
- The New Evangelization: Building The Civilization of Love – by Cardinal Ratzinger (2000)
- What Are The Characteristics Of The New Evangelization? – by Dave Nodar
- The Church and New Media – by Brandon Vogt