We new evangelists should lead with the beautiful. We should lead with the beauty of our faith… The beautiful is less threatening. The beautiful is more winsome… I’m not telling you what to think, I’m not telling you how to behave, I’m just saying “look”. And the wager is that you’ll be so beguiled by what you see, that you’ll begin to ask on your own the question “how is that possible? What is the thinking behind such a thing? What is the community of people that produced such a thing?” The wager is that you tend to go from the beautiful, “it’s splendid”, to the good, “I want to get into that”, to the true, “oh now I understand it”…
How do you lead people to the truth of the Catholic faith? Show it to them… I really believe in the saints as an evangelical strategy… Show it in its beauty and then gradually lead them to its truth… This is my first recommendation.
My second recommendation; don’t dumb down the message. I’m shouting on purpose here to make my point… Don’t dumb down Catholicism… It was a pastoral disaster of the first order; the dumbing down of our faith…
A lot of people in my generation left the Church, why? Because they grew up, and life hit them in the face. You see, a dumbed down, beigefied, uncompelling, not intellectually satisfying Catholicism is not going to respond to the challenges of an adult life…
John Henry Newman, one of my great intellectual heros said that one of the signs of a properly developing Christianity, meaning that it’s alive, is that it relentlessly thinks about revelation… And by the way his model here is Mary, the Mother of God, who ponders these things in her heart, we hear. She takes in the date of revelation but not dumbly, she ponders it and thereby becomes the model of all theology. That’s a sign of a vibrant faith…
Here’s my third recommendation for the new evangelization; preach with ardor, preach with fire… People only really ever listen to an excited speaker… If the speaker can’t get worked up about what he’s saying, why would you bother listening?
Number four is, tell the great story. Evangelization is a climax to a great story. It’s not an isolated truth like a philosophical principle… One of the problems is that we Christians, increasingly are announcing the climax of a story that people don’t know anymore, and that’s why it’s not compelling to them… We need to tell the story again…
Number 5 is stress the Augustinian anthropology. I know it sounds abstract, I’ll explain it. Augustine, one of the great heros of the faith. I think the single great expression of Christian anthropology is found on page 1 of ‘the Confessions’… Lord you made us for yourself, and so our heart is restless until it rests in thee… what do we all have in common? Everyone has got a hungry heart… We’re not made for this world ultimately, we’re not made to be satisfied by this world. We’ve got hungry hearts because they are hungry for God… The awakening of this religious desire and the proper directing of it, that’s a huge evangelical move.
C.S. Lewis… referred to this experience of a longing that’s never satisfied in this life as Joy. He called it joy; this delicious sense of something more. I say delicious because it becomes clear to us not in the toughest moments of life, but precisely in the best moments of life… It’s precisely in the best moments of life that the hungry heart most asserts itself…
Thomas Aquinas, by the way, said that the 4 great substitutes for God are wealth, pleasure, honor and power… The 4 things that we tend to worship are wealth, pleasure honor and power… We tell ourselves “if we just get enough wealth, pleasure, honor and power, we’ll be happy”
Number 6… stress Thomas Aquinas’ doctrine of God… Here’s the point, Thomas Aquinas doesn’t refer to God as… “Highest being”, rather he calls God… “The subsistent act of to be itself”… God’s not one being among many. Thomas Aquinas said “God is not one being among many”… “God is not one thing among many”… “God is the sheer act of to be itself”… it means that God is not competitive to His world… God is not a finite thing, which means God is not in competition with His creation…
“The glory of God, is a human being fully alive” (St. Irenaeus)… As the true God gets close to His creation, He makes it radiant and beautiful and does not consume it. The richest possible expression of this is what we call the incarnation… Jesus is truly Divine and truly human, His Divinity and humanity are not in competition with each other, but rather precisely because of the proximity of His Divinity, the humanity of Jesus becomes radiant and beautiful… God makes us like the burning bush, He makes us radiant and alive… See everybody, that this is the message that none of the atheists get…
Number 7… to use the new media… I’m not leading with the new media… I think all of us as Catholics need to be immersed in our great tradition, and then we have something to say…
The new evangelisation… New in expression, new in method, new in ardor. New in expression – new ways of communicating. New in method – the new media. New in ardor.”
– Bishop Robert Barron, Evangelizing with the heart of a shepherd
A summary… 7 recommendations for practicing the new evangelization:
1. Lead with the beautiful
2. Don’t dumb down the Catholic faith/message
3. Preach with ardor
4. Tell the great story
5. The restless heart (Stress the Augustinian anthropology – “Lord you made us for yourself, and so our heart is restless until it rests in thee.”)
6. The glory of God is a human being fully alive (Stress Thomas Aquinas’ doctrine of God – God is not one being among many, He is the sheer act of to be itself. And therefore, God is not in competition with His creation. Rather, the glory of God is a human being fully alive.)
7. Use the new media