The New Evangelization needs passionate Catholics
Some priests were born to be in the media. Father Robert Barron is one of them. Following his highly successful documentary series, Catholicism, the Chicago priest is now filming a project about the New Evangelization.
Father Barron has probably done more to engage the world with mass media than any other priest today. He's been on the front lines of apologetics and evangelization for 10 years. He has a global reach with new media, engaging the world daily in New Evangelization. (His apologetics videos at his website, WordOnFire.org, are popular examples.)
He gave the opening keynote address for the 2013 Catholic Media Convention here in Denver. He touched on his new project, called Catholicism: The New Evangelization, but he also called all Catholics to remember Blessed John Paul II's call to embrace the new evangelization.
He said Blessed John Paul II, along with subsequent Pontiffs, was right to call the Church to embrace the initiative. "It's what the Church needs."
But what was really engaging about Father Barron's talk was that he offered six suggestions, or tips, for rank-and-file Catholics to follow the Popes' call to bring that New Evangelization to their own cities and towns.
1. Lead with beauty. To battle moral relativism, he suggests Catholics point others to the beauty in the Church. By engaging people in the beautiful, this will lead them to the good, and finally to the true.
2. Don't dumb down the message. He warned against watering down the Gospel message in order for others to understand. He warned against offering others a "cute and cuddly" story of Christ and His message. "Banners and balloons won't do it. A flattened-out, dumbed-down Catholicism isn't going to carry the day."
3. Preach with ardour. No one is ever stirred to excitement by a monotonous, boring speaker, Father Barron noted - so too for evangelization. He said we must be excited and passionate about our faith. He said Catholics must embrace the missionary heart. "We need that grab-someone-by-the-lapels ardour." He also said that ardour is sapped if we "get wishy-washy about the resurrection."
4. Tell the whole story. He also warned against a new type of "Marcion" heresy. (Marcion was a second-century Christian dualist who rejected the Old Testament.) He said new evangelists must preach the whole story of Christ - that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament - and not just the convenient bits and pieces of Christ's story.
5. Channel Augustinian anthropology. Father Barron quoted St. Augustine, "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You." He called it the greatest expression in Christianity, and said Catholics need to "channel" that line in evangelization efforts. He noted that many people now worship at the false altars of wealth, honour, pleasure, and power. He said we need to take opportunities to show people the Augustinian truth that the only way to satisfy human hunger is through God.
6. Use Irenaeus's doctrine of God. Father Barron concluded with St. Irenaeus's expression, "The glory of God is a human being fully alive." He said when we evangelize, we need to understand who God is and that we are not in competition with God. "God does not need us," he said. "God loved us into being. God makes the world luminous and radiant, but He does not consume it." He cited the burning bush as an example of how God illuminates the world, but does not consume it. And that, he noted, is how we must relate the idea of God to others.
Father Barron's talk was informative and imaginative. He is on the frontline of the New Evangelization's surge into the world, and anyone who is interested in New Evangelization should follow up at WordOnFire.org.