Thursday, November 12, 2009

Is Evangelizing Wrong?

A new article by Deacon Fournier caught my eye this morning on Catholic Online. Paul has been hard at work on a final paper for his most recent class and has been doing a lot of reading. He has been making his way through most of the Vatican II documents (you should see the stack of papers he has been lugging around and which have now been spread out around the room he was working in) as he researched for his subject. The task was taking up so much time that I became involved and read several of the documents aloud to him on our way into the large town an hour and a half away, to do our food shopping. I made good progress, reading and highlighting, despite the winding mountain roads and my ever increasing morning sickness. Today's article by Deacon Fournier is titled, A "Different Benedict is Here': Benedict the XVI and the New Missionary Age. Paul's paper takes a look at evangelizing and the Catholic stance on the subject. Thus the title of the article caught my attention and I clicked over the see if it was relevant.

Paul undertook this paper after being told, confidently, by other Catholic students that "Vatican II says that you can't evangelize!" (for the record, it doesn't). I think there's been some confusion lately since the Bishop's Conference have spoken out against proselytizing and apparently most people don't know the difference between evangelizing and proselytizing (I'll admit that I didn't until I read an article, got mad, and then had Paul explain it to me). I didn't get this when I looked at the definitions in the dictionary, but apparently evangelizing is spreading the good news about Christ and proselytizing has taken on the negative connotation of telling someone that they need to change their religion because their current religion is wrong. That's why proselytizing is a no-no and evangelizing is a good thing. Of course we're still supposed to tell people the good news about Christ and his Church! As a convert I find it especially disturbing that there are Catholics out there that believe that this goes against Church teaching. I would still be a confused, angry young woman if I hadn't found my way home to the Church!

Paul has been amazed by the Vatican II documents. We have realized as we've delved more and more in depth that most of the time when people say "since Vatican II" and proceed to justify something, they usually have no idea what they're talking about (for example: headcovering, which just isn't there at all, but which many people claim stopped at Vatican II... there were letters that came MUCH later that addressed it... however the "from Vatican II" fallacy covers a plethora of subjects that people lump under "things that must have changed" that really didn't). Many of the documents reaffirm the Church's beautiful traditions. And they certainly do not outlaw evangelizing (just as they don't allow many of the things that people claim they allow)!

Reading this morning's article was especially exciting in light of our recent conversations about Paul's studies. Deacon Fournier compares our current Pope to his namesake, Saint Benedict, who was born in Umbria around the year 480. Saint Benedict's holiness drew others to him, which led to the founding of monasteries and an entire monastic movement, which in turn transformed the world. Fournier says that "It was this movement which led to the evangelization of Europe and the emergence of an authentically Christian culture. This Culture was the fertile soil for the birth and flourishing of the academy, the arts and the emergence of what later became known as Christendom."

He goes on to quote Alisdair MacIntyre's book "After Virtue" which calls attentions to the parallels between Europe, as it slipped into the Dark Ages following the decline of the Roman Empire and our present era. MacIntyre says that while it's dangerous to draw too precise parallels, and while some that haven been made have been misleading, there are parallels that do exist. One such parallel is that men and women of good will who saw that their world was changing attempted to construct new forms of community as the moral life of the Roman Imperium fell apart around them. He goes on to say:
"If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us.
And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament.We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another-doubtless very different- St. Benedict."
Deacon Fournier goes on to speculate that Pope Benedict XVI is a response for the need for "a different Benedict:" He explains further:

"I am even more convinced of it now. In an age which has witnessed a decline in Christianity on the European continent, Pope Benedict XVI boldly calls for a rebirth of Christianity in Europe. In an age which has been beset by disunity in the ranks of those who bear the name Christian, he has undertaken an extraordinary mission of Church Unity. His prophetic and pastoral response to Anglicans seeking full communion in the safe harbor of the Catholic Church is one among several courageous and prophetic actions taken by this quiet, diminutive, and humble “servant of the servants of God.”

Read full article here.
He ends the article by saying: "A “different Benedict” is here and a new missionary age has begun."

A fitting ending for a great article and I think it could definitely be helpful to Paul's argument with some in his class that it is most certainly not un-Catholic to tell others the good news!

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