What is the New Evangelization? The term is used so commonly, but I don’t yet know what it is or how it will be accomplished? Sometimes I worry that it has become a mere cliché or a slogan. It’s now printed in almost every Catholic brochure, book review, and website. But what exactly is “The New Evangelization”? Is it a strategy, a cultural renewal, a missionary effort, something to do with the internet, or a renewal of something already present?
Pope Francis may have entirely different understanding of “New Evangelization”? I think that His Holiness may surprise us by recasting the “New Evangelization” as something simply Marian.
In my new book The Eternal City: Rome & the Origins of Catholicism
I wrote (in the Conclusion
) that the New Evangelization will only be successful to the extent that it models itself on the Old Evangelization of Europe – a process that was deeply Roman, evangelical, missionary, miraculous, and monastic. However, when I wrote the book, I left out one key ingredient. The great missionaries, saints, and doctors of the Church share a total consecration of their life and apostolate to the Blessed Virgin Mary. All great “evangelizations” were profoundly Marian.
For this reason, I was excited when I learned that Pope Francis prays the 15 Mysteries of the Holy Rosary daily.
I discovered this interesting detail as I scanned over the “fast facts” about Pope Francis over at NewAdvent.org
. The Rosary is the central devotion of my life and of my family. It is the way in which I chiefly come to know and understand my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
After the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio recounted how John Paul II’s example inspired him to “recite the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary every day.”
If I remember well it was 1985. One evening I went to recite the Holy Rosary that was being led by the Holy Father [John Paul II]. He was in front of everybody, on his knees. The group was numerous; I saw the Holy Father from the back and, little by little, I got lost in prayer. I was not alone: I was praying in the middle of the people of God to which I and all those there belonged, led by our Pastor.
I felt that this man [John Paul II], chosen to lead the Church, was following a path up to his Mother in the sky, a path set out on from his childhood. And I became aware of the density of the words of the Mother of Guadalupe to Saint Juan Diego: ‘Don’t be afraid, am I not perhaps your mother?’ I understood the presence of Mary in the life of the Pope.
That testimony did not get forgotten in an instant. From that time on I recite the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary every day.
After reading the long quote above by then-Cardinal Bergoglio, I think we can have hope. Our new Holy Father does not seem to be interested in new methods or new cliches. He is attracted to saints like Saint Juan Diego and Saint Francis of Assisi. Small, poor, humble men with GREAT devotion to the Mother of God. No wonder: These two humble saints brought about the greatest moments of evangelism in the history of the Church.
Evangelization, new or old, always depends on the mediating intercessions of the the great Mother of God, Mary Most Holy. Christ chose to enter the world through her, and He has established that we might come to Him most easily through her. The greatest “New Evangelization” in the New World happened the Blessed Mother appeared to a humble and forgotten peasant named Juan Diego. The Virgin of Guadalupe rapidly converted 9 million natives!
Now the greatest “New Evangelization” in the Old World of Europe (after the time of Christ and the Apostles) was arguably the ministry of Saint Francis of Assisi who “rebuilt” the Church of Christ. Francis was so conformed to Christ, that he bore the wounds of Christ in his own flesh.
Saint Francis was probably the most Marian saint that ever lived. His entire life was consecrated to Mary. He is probably the first saint to identify Mary as the “Spouse of the Holy Spirit.” In a dream of Brother Leo, Saint Francis indicated to the friars that Heaven could not be attained by hard penance, but by trustful surrender to the loving mother of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Moreover, the mother church of Saint Francis, the “Portiuncula” or Saint Mary of the Angels, was revealed to him as a special “little portion” of Mary. Francis desired that this “mother church” of Mary be a place of pilgrimage – equal in significance (bearing an equal indulgence) to Rome and Jerusalem. When Francis died, he wanted to be laid naked on the floor of that little Church of Saint Mary – so that he would die in the arms of Mary!
My hunch is that Pope Francis believes that true devotion to Mary is the key to both personal conversion and conversion of the entire world to Christ the King. I hope that Pope Francis will bear that warm “Marian glow” carried by Popes Pius IX, Leo XIII, Saint Pius X, Pius XII, and John Paul II.
Perhaps when the secular press speaks of “humility” in Pope Francis, what they really see a Pontiff that is quietly Marian. Time will tell
Question: Now it’s your turn. What do you think? What exactly is the New Evangelization? Must it be explicitly Marian to succeed? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
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