Evangelizing the world anew

December 3, 2012
Filed under Featured, Features

Two Legates participated in the Bishops’ Synod on the New Evangelization . . .

by Matthew A. Rarey

Bishops from around the world participated in a synod on the new evangelization held in Rome from Oct. 7 to 28. More than 100 experts and advisors, both lay and religious, assisted the 262 bishops by advising them on how best to present Christ’s timeless message to today’s world. Among them were two Legates.

Ralph Martin works with Washington
Cardinal Donald Wuerl at the Synod

“We shared observations on the state of the Church all over the world and suggested ways in which a new evangelization could contribute to the strengthening of the Church in light of the challenges it’s facing,” said Ralph Martin, a member of Legatus’ Ann Arbor Chapter.

Martin is the director of Graduate Theology Programs in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and president of Renewal Ministries. He was one of five U.S. experts.

He was joined in the Eternal City by Denver Legate Curtis Martin, president of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), who participated as an auditor. The two Martins are related by faith, not family.

The Gospel and salvation

The challenges the synod addressed included the growing influence of secularism, pressures from Islam in many parts of the world, and the fragmentation of family life.

Bishops focused their attention on Catholics who have fallen away from the faith — either by deliberate choice or because they did not know what they had in the first place. The gathering also emphasized the need for proper catechesis after years of watered-down Catholicism taught in schools following the Second Vatican Council.

The new evangelization, according to Ralph Martin, is directed toward three main audiences:

• “Already baptized Catholics, many of whom are no longer living as disciples of Christ”
• Those who are entrusted with evangelization, “not just priests, nuns and those who work full time for the Church, but every baptized Catholic” living their vocation to witness to the faith
• The culture at large, which in the Western world is “increasingly hostile to Christ and the Church”

Although participating in the synod was a privilege, said Ralph Martin, the workload was “exhausting.” His contributions included helping Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C., prepare the final English draft of the set of synod propositions presented to the Holy Father. The Pope will consider these as he writes his post-synodal apostolic exhortation, which will give his assessment of the synod.

Ralph Martin was particularly pleased that the synod adopted a proposition which draws attention to an inconvenient teaching from the Second Vatican Council document Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution of the Church).

That teaching indicates that one cannot presume everyone will be saved, he said, “but that very often human beings are on a broad path that leads to destruction.” This underscores the urgency of a new evangelization, “which invites them to the salvation that only Christ and the Church can provide.”

This topic is the focus of Ralph Martin’s new book, Will Many Be Saved? What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization.

Springtime of evangelization

Curtis Martin greets Pope Benedict XVI after a session

Curtis Martin, the Denver Legate, was accompanied by a group of FOCUS missionaries. Mostly young graduates, they are on the frontlines of the new evangelization, spreading the faith among university students.

“This was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in a unique and vital moment in the Church’s history,” he said. “There is a critical need to re-awaken people to the goodness of the Catholic Gospel, so that they can become who they are meant to be and then reach the rest of the world with the Good News.”

Echoing Ralph Martin and the synod fathers, he noted that the big problem confronting the new evangelization is indifference toward Christ and ignorance of him, fostered by a secular culture that distracts people from the divine.

Many people, even baptized Catholics, simply do not know God, he noted. This has resulted in their pursuit of worldly goals that fail to satisfy man’s deepest longings, which only find completion and peace in God.

Curtis Martin is hopeful that the synod will be a blessing for the Church. “The primary fruit of the synod will be a new springtime of evangelization,” he said, and the unity of the faith on display at the synod should serve as an example for all Catholics.

Already the Pope is drawing Catholics’ attention to the universal nature of evangelization, a mission shared by all Catholics as part of their universal vocation to holiness and witnessing to the faith.

“Even now the Holy Spirit is inspiring many people to invite others to an encounter with Jesus Christ,” Curtis Martin said.

On a personal note, he was honored to take away from the synod a deeper understanding of the Church through conversations with bishops from every part of the world.

“The needs and experiences of the local churches are quite diverse,” he reflected. “However, in each local church there is one thing that is greatly needed: to draw close to Jesus Christ, to know him, to touch him in the sacraments and to allow that experience of the living God to transform each of us so that God’s will for the world can be fulfilled.”

Matthew A. Rarey is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

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