Just hours before being elevated to Cardinal, New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan addressed the College of Cardinals and offered seven pointers on evangelization for reflection.
Zenit Newsis reporting that Cardinal Dolan was selected by the Pope to give this address because he hails from New York City, the “capital of secular culture.” Dolan acknowledged this secularization of the culture, and offered a “creative strategy of evangelization” of which there are seven main planks.
First, we must work to keep the quest for God alive by always remembering that even those who boast of their secularism have an innate longing for the divine.
“New York, without denying its dramatic evidence of graphic secularism – is also a very religious city,” Dolan said. “There one finds, even among groups usually identified as materialistic — the media, entertainment, business, politics, artists, writers — an undeniable openness to the divine.”
Second, “Be not afraid.” We should be confident in our message, which comes from Jesus Christ, but without giving way to triumphalism, which is the belief that our work is done and we have triumphed.
“Confident, yes! Triumphant, never! What keeps us from the swagger and arrogance of triumphalism is a recognition of what Pope Paul VI taught in Evangelii Nuntiandi: the Church herself needs evangelization!” Dolan reminded. “This gives us humility as we confess that Nemo dat quod not habet, that the Church has a deep need for the interior conversion that is at the marrow of the call to evangelization.”
Third, we need to know that the new evangelization is not about presenting a doctrine or belief-system, but a Person, whose name is Jesus. The invitation which is implicit in the New Evangelization “is not to a doctrine but to know, love, and serve — not a something, but a Someone,” Dolan said.
Fourth, because Jesus is the Truth, evangelization is linked to catechesis.
“True enough, the New Evangelization is urgent because secularism has often choked the seed of faith,” Dolan said. “but that choking was sadly made easy because so many believers really had no adequate knowledge or grasp of the wisdom, beauty, and coherence of the Truth. Cardinal George Pell has observed that ‘it’s not so much that our people have lost their faith, but that they barely had it to begin with; and, if they did, it was so vapid that it was easily taken away’.”
Fifth, we need to be joyful evangelizers. “The New Evangelization is accomplished with a smile, not a frown!” he said.
Sixth, the New Evangelization is about love.
“In New York, the heart of the most hardened secularist softens when visiting one of our inner-city Catholic schools. When one of our benefactors, who described himself as an agnostic, asked Sister Michelle why, at her age, with painful arthritic knees, she continued to serve at one of these struggling but excellent poor schools, she answered, ‘Because God loves me, and I love Him, and I want these children to discover this love’.”
Lastly, the new Evangelization is about martryrdom. All Christians are called to be ready to suffer and die for Jesus. “It was Pope Paul VI who noted wisely that people today learn more from ‘witness than from words,’ and the supreme witness is martyrdom. Sadly, today we have martyrs in abundance.”
He went on to tell the story a young man in New York who told him that he returned to the Catholic faith of his childhood, after reading the story ofThe Monks of Tibhirine, which is about Trappists who were martyred in Algeria fifteen years ago.
“While we cry for today’s martyrs; while we love them, pray with and for them; while we vigorously advocate on their behalf; we are also very proud of them, brag about them, and trumpet their supreme witness to the world. They spark themissio ad gentesand New Evangelization.”
He closed his address by thanking the Holy Father and his fellow Cardinals for “my primitive Italian.”
“When Cardinal Bertone asked me to give this address in Italian, I worried, because I speak Italian like a child. But, then I recalled, that, as a newly-ordained parish priest, my first pastor said to me as I went over to school to teach the six-year old children their catechism, ‘Now we’ll see if all your theology sunk in, and if you can speak of the faith like a child.’
“And maybe that’s a fitting place to conclude: we need to speak again as a child the eternal truth, beauty, and simplicity of Jesus and His Church.”