Tag Archives: New Evangelization

Pope Francis, St. Junipero Serra and the New Evangelization

September 29, 2015

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An image of St. Junipero Serra is displayed as Franciscans celebrate his canonization with a Mass of thanksgiving at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington Sept. 24. CNS

An image of St. Junipero Serra is displayed as Franciscans celebrate his canonization with a Mass of thanksgiving at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington Sept. 24. CNS

William Wordsworth in his poem “The Virgin” called Mary, the Mother of God “our tainted nature’s solitary boast.” By the grace of God the Blessed Virgin Mary was our wounded humanity’s lone exception to St. Paul’s statement that, “all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) Regardless, God’s mercy endures for all of us sinners who strive daily to preach the Gospel with our lives.

God’s great and tender mercy is the message of the Gospel Pope Francis is emphasizing as the bridge between truth and love. Like a marriage, the Christian life is not one of perfection this side of heaven, but in being open and honest to living the truth – as God has revealed and as the Church has taught – in love, with the mercy of God that consummates or unites the two as one.

This is precisely why Pope Francis chose to canonize Father Junipero Serra, the 18th century Franciscan missionary whom he declared to be a holy man and great evangelizer of the American West within, at times, an unjust system of Colonialism. After all, our baptismal call to Christian holiness or becoming a saint has never been about perfection or impeccability, but instead striving each day, however imperfectly, to grow in Christian virtue by choosing God’s will over our own in loving God and our neighbor as our self.

When meeting with the Native Peoples in Phoenix, Arizona, before coming to California in 1987, Pope St. John Paul II acknowledged that there were serious negative and unintended effects of Colonialism: abuse by Spanish soldiers against Native women, diseases Europeans brought over which many Natives had little immunity toward and died, and forms of evangelization which were much more aggressive than the Church would consider proper today. But, not Father Serra, whose great good John Paul II said was in bringing the Gospel message to the Peoples of the Americas.

For example, in seeking to protect his Native converts, Father Junipero Serra (at age 60) took two years to travel from Carmel-Monterey, California, to Mexico City and back, to obtain from Viceroy Bucareli the first “bill of rights” for the Native Peoples – a 32 point representation.

Thus, on September 23, 2015, outside the eastern lawn as the afternoon sun was beginning to descend toward the western sky high above the grand dome of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (Patroness of the United States), God’s mercy was displayed in our Nation’s capital amidst the great excitement of Pope Francis’ first visit to our beloved country when the Vicar of Christ celebrated the first-ever Mass of Canonization on U.S. soil, by officially declaring once and for all that Fr. Junipero Serra, OFM, STD – “Apostle of California” – was a saint.

No matter what happens in the future: whether a majority of California’s political environment succeeds in removing Father Serra’s statue from the “Hall of Nations” in Washington, D.C., or whether so-called academics rewrite California history to their own bias, nothing can change the fact that Father Serra has been declared a saint – something that Serra Clubs around the world and many Catholics, including Native American Catholics, already knew.

In fact, it was a Native American Catholic from California (Andy Galvin), a descendant of the Ohlone Tribe (to whom Father Serra ministered) and current curator of Mission San Francisco (Mission Dolores), who — proudly wearing his native eagle feather shawl —joyfully processed up to Pope Francis carrying the ornate Caravaca cross reliquary containing a first-class relic (piece of bone) of our Church’s newest saint – Junipero Serra – during the canonization ritual of the Mass.

In canonizing Father Serra on his pilgrimage to the U.S. for the World Meeting of Families, Pope Francis made clear that even though the Church as Christ’s Body is made up of sinners, where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. In doing so, his Holiness affirms that Catholics can truly look to St. Junipero Serra in the spirit of Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel) as a humble servant and witness for the New Evangelization teaching us to “always go forward and never turn back!”

St. Junipero Serra – Pray for us!

Father Allan Paul Eilen is pastor of St. Patrick in Oak Grove. This essay originally appeared in the parish’s bulletin.

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My Meeting with a Pro-abortion Feminist

April 25, 2014

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I had the interesting opportunity this past week to have dinner with Kathy Sloan. Kathy is from N.O.W. – yes that is the National Organization for Woman. Kathy is on the board of directors and is the U.N. representative for N.O.W. We normally would be on different sides of the table, but Kathy is here in Minnesota lobbying with the Minnesota Catholic Conference against the bills legitimizing surrogacy. I finally understand that phrase “Politics makes strange bedfellows.” It seems we agree on some things – Surrogacy is bad for women is one, but I found durring my dinner conversation that we agreed on a few other things as well. If you would like to know more about the Surrogacy issue – check out the Article by Katheryn Mollen from the Minnesota Catholic Conference: http://www.mncc.org/catholic-spirit-wombs-rent-industry-now-legal-minnesota/

Katheryn Mollen was the one who arraigned the meeting between Kathy and I. It was at my request because my 21 year old daughter is involved with her feminist club on her college campus. To get this meeting for my daughter made me the “rock star” in her eyes. Yes we are a diverse family with a lot of different ways in which we approach things and I support her in her efforts even if occasionally she gets it wrong, but the jury isn’t out on her yet! She is a strong independent young woman and I am proud of her.

Back to my meeting with Kathy. I have to say, I was a little anxious about meeting, as I wondered what we would talk about or if it would be adversarial. Driving to dinner I reflected on my own journey in life and my thoughts on the feminist movement. I reflected that I have much to be thankful for from the feminist movement. I am a product of the advances made by Gloria Steinem and others who fought to get equal pay for equal work and I greatly benefited from Title IX that allowed me to participate in High School and intercollegiate sports. When I am talking to young women athletes now – they can’t even imagine that less than 35 years ago there were practically no sports programs for women and if there was a program, it was not funded.

As we conversed over dinner I found out that Kathy was a fan of the music of Hildegard of Bingen (Catholic Saint) and has been working with Catholic bioethicists on the issue of donor eggs and surrogacy. Her reasoning that she is against legitimizing commercial surrogacy, (and feminists are split on this) is that it makes “women nothing more than objects … an oven… something to be used.”

Hmmm… It seems I have heard something like that before…

Man is a person, man and woman equally so, since both were created in the image and likeness of the personal God.” Pope John Paul II

This was an opening to express my difficulty with the traditional feminist movement and its stance on reproductive rights. It was… an opening to evangelize. I said, “As long as the feminist movement focuses on reproductive rights, it will keep women, and men, viewed as objects whose purpose is primarily sexual pleasure.”

My daughter Courtney and Kathy Sloan - Feminist from N.O.W.

My daughter Courtney and Kathy Sloan – Feminist from N.O.W.

From there I started speaking of the new feminism and Pope John Paul II’s writings. I can’t say she became a convert or revert right there, but she asked a lot of questions about this new feminism. I gave her a book of writings by Edith Stien and promised to send her a copy of MULIERIS DIGNITATEM.
Yes, it seemed I had more in common with this feminist from N.O.W. than I ever thought I would. I love building bridges and I have always purported that we can’t evangelize if we never meet people who are different than us.
On a side note… my daughter thinks I am a “rock star!”

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What’s new about the New Evangelization?

July 12, 2011

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A boy holds the Scriptures aloft in a procession during Sunday Mass at St. Joseph Church in Mutunguru, Kenya. An outline of the 2012 general Synod of Bishops was issued at the Vatican last March. The synod will look at "new evangelization," proclaiming and living the Gospel today. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

It seems like a product isn’t on the store shelf very long before it reappears in different packaging boasting of a “new look” or that it’s “new and improved.”

When Bl. John Paul II began speaking and writing about the New Evangelization, I confess I didn’t delve deeply into it, maybe because the term seemed like more marketing. Now that it’s no longer so new, I’ve been wondering what it means and how it affects me.

It turns out that it does have something to do with marketing but a lot more with ways to reach our changing world for Christ and show all Christians that they have a role in that mission.

To begin with, I wondered what exactly is evangelization? In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, Pope Paul VI synthesizes teaching that originated at the Second Vatican Council, a major inspiration for the New Evangelization.

Evangelization is the Church’s deepest identity, Pope Paul VI writes. “She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection.”

In his encyclical Redemptor hominis, Bl. John Paul II emphasizes that the New Evangelization isn’t merely passing on doctrine but “a personal and profound meeting with the Savior.”

Its content can’t be new because its theme is always Christ’s Gospel, JPII writes. However, he says “evangelization can be new in its ardor, methods and expression.” It makes sense since he writes, “In the history of the Church, the “old” and the “new” are always closely interwoven. The “new” grows out of the “old,” and the “old” finds a fuller expression in the “new.”

So why a New Evangelization now? Because according to Pope Paul VI, the “split between the Gospel and culture is without doubt the great drama of our time.”

Perhaps in reaction to that, the Church gained a new awareness of her salvific mission from Christ during preparation for the Jubilee Year 2000, JPII writes.

The New Evangelization isn’t just about the institutional Church. It’s the work of each member to share the Gospel, says Pope Paul VI. “Those who have received the Good News and who have been gathered by it into the community of salvation can and must communicate and spread it.”

JPII even calls evangelization a duty in his encyclical Redemptoris missio. “No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.”

Does this mean we’re supposed to do mission work in a foreign country? Pope JPII emphasized that along with reaching those who’ve never heard the Gospel, the Church needs to focus on the many people who may already be baptized but have “lost a living sense of the faith or no longer consider themselves members of the Church.”

Evangelizing our culture often means reaching out to people we know. “… always taking the person as one’s starting point and always coming back to the relationships of people among themselves and with God,” writes Pope Paul VI.

What do we tell them? First, about the need for conversion, says Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI). Second, conveying to them that, “God exists. God is alive. God is present and acts in the world, in our—in my life.” Third, showing them Jesus, with His Cross and Resurrection as the path of life. Finally, sharing with them the reality of God’s justice and eternal life.

Above all, evangelization needs to offer a convincing response to the question of how to live, Cardinal Ratzinger writes. “…evangelizing is not merely a way of speaking, but a form of living: living in the listening and giving voice to the Father.”

The New Evangelization isn’t about immediately attracting large crowds through new and refined methods but rather about planting small mustard seeds and letting God decide when and how they will grow, notes Cardinal Ratzinger.

“We ourselves cannot gather men,” he states. “We must acquire them by God for God. All methods are empty without the foundation of prayer.”

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