The Synod and the New Evangelization: Why It’s Important for U.S. Catholics
The principal purpose for the Synod of Bishops, which commenced Oct. 7, is to study how the New Evangelization affects the mission of the Church. The Holy Father has asked the synod to study about “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.” As the theme indicates, the focus is on the “transmission” of the faith. Both Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have identified the New Evangelization as the response to how the Church transmits the Christian faith, considering the challenges confronting believers in today’s world.
Why Does the Holy Father Need to Call a Synod?
The bishops of the Church, in unity with Peter’s successor, and as successors to the apostles, were given a promise by Jesus Christ — I will be with you until the end of time (John 14:16, 26). This promise is given in relationship to the mission entrusted to their care: to teach and baptize all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). When the bishops are assembled by mandate of the pope, amazing things happen. We see this in the Acts of the Apostles, when pastoral questions were raised and answers needed to be given (Acts 15). The apostolic ministry the bishops exercise in the name of Jesus Christ shoulders them with the burdens and joys of shepherding with authority over the flock, with the same love that the Good Shepherd has for the flock — and with the mission to teach and baptize all nations.
We profess our faith in an apostolic Church for a reason. The successors to the apostles, discerning with the ordained and non-ordained the needs of the Church and how to respond to those needs, are the ones who are called to definitively and authentically teach and baptize all nations.
The Synod of Bishops represents a way for the Holy Father to bring bishops together to address matters of the Church in light of the Tradition of the Church and what the word of God has revealed. We should then not look at a synod as a bureaucratic process or a waste of time, but a very important moment in the life of the Church, because the Holy Spirit will bring the bishops the direction, insight and even resolution we need to advance the mission of the Catholic Church.
Do Catholics Understand Evangelization?
Shortly after the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI convened a synod to define what we Catholics mean by “evangelization.” The term, although as ancient as the Church, was ambiguous for many, and even today it does not always speak to a Catholic’s sense of mission. What does evangelization mean? Pope Paul VI’s post-synodal exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (Evangelization in the Modern World) gave the Church sound theological principles that surely guide our understanding of what we mean by evangelization. I would encourage parishes and lay apostolate movements to read through the document as our bishops meet in Rome. This document provides the framework for understanding the principles of evangelization. Now we need to discern “how” evangelization occurs.
The Crisis of Evangelization
The 2012 synod is concerned about “transmitting” the Christian faith. In the so-called developed countries of the West, particularly Europe and the United States, we have technology, social communications, the ability to publish so many materials and to make the Christian faith accessible with all of these technologies. Yet it is here where the Church finds the most difficulty in truly evangelizing people. Why is this?
There is a crisis of evangelization because there is a crisis in the fundamental understanding of what it means to be a person, what true freedom means, the role of family and marriage in the promotion of culture, and the role of faith in culture. How can the Church evangelize when there appears to be a rejection of the natural law? The success of evangelization is when the preaching of the Gospel finds points of reference within culture in which there is a receptivity for the Gospel. There is a cultural crisis in so many parts of the world.
The crisis of evangelization can also be found within the Church. The misinterpretation of the Second Vatican Council has resulted in confusion for so many believers. Consequently, there are many Catholics who do not understand the true nature of the Eucharist, the priesthood of Christ, the institution of marriage, the significance of mortal sin, and so on.
How can Catholics transmit their faith when they do not understand or maybe not even believe in it?
The synod will surely address how Catholics are being formed in their faith in order for them to transmit faith. [More]