Archbishop J. Carlson has written a pastoral letter for the Year of Faith titled Go and Announce the Gospel of the Lord wherein he gives a forthright recitation of what Credo Co-Founder Ken Jones called Leading Catholic Indicators, asks what it means for the future, and moves on to examine what caused it and what can be done about it.
He identifies three causes: 1) Confusion following Second Vatican; 2) Secularization, and 3) Personal Sin, which his Excellency called “Personal Choices”. But he wrote unequivocally about sin. He hints at solutions in this section: leadership, education, engagement and personal holiness.
Personal holiness and not activism — the first things the Archbishop speaks of are sacraments and prayer. He points out that these things should cause us to grow in love:
What the whole Christian life is about is little by little growing in love: love for God and love for our neighbor. Holiness is about bringing our whole will into union with God’s will and living more and more fully the purpose for which we’ve been created. (Gal. 5:19–23)
The clear implication is that if we’re not growing in love of God and neighbor, there is something deficient in our prayers and pious practices. There is more to doing it well than doing it right.
He says we should respond to secularism by offering one another mutual support — by getting connected, as Anthony Esolen put it at our last Forum, by not being idiots. He recommends “adult education classes”, which Credo Forums are in a way. And if there are any Credo members who do not know of them, we can very highly recommend the lecture series presented by Credo Advisory Board member Larry Feingold held at the Cathedral Basilica. These are announced on the Credo website and in our e-newsletters.
Archbishop Carlson also recommends participation in the Eucharist on some day other than Sunday and besides the obvious reason for this, he points out that informal support groups often form around the Eucharist.
Next he uses a term I have read of as belonging to the past: ecclesia militans – the church militant. All the prayer is apparently preparation for a struggle, which ought to be approached as a soldier, with evil and its effects. The soldier’s mission is evangelization: “helping other people come to know Jesus Christ and His Church, or to come back to Jesus and the Church.” The Archbishop focuses on The New Evangelization, an evangelization directed towards “the already baptized who aren’t living their faith or who are living it in a much diminished way.” He calls upon all the priests of the Archdiocese to pray every day (and mean it) the prayer of St. John Vianney: “Grant me the conversion of my parish; I consent to suffer all you wish the whole of my life.” But he makes very clear that the laity also have a direct role in evangelization, so perhaps we should pray every day (and mean it) “Grant me the conversion of my family, friends, and neighbors; I consent to suffer all you wish the whole of my life.” The Archbishop lists a number of practical ways we can help accomplish this and two of them include “invite friends to Credo Forums” and “buy CD’s from Lu Cortese and give them away.” (see pg 17)
Besides the New Evangelization, Archbishop Carlson mentions what he calls “primary evangelization” directed at those who have never heard the Gospel message. Which brings me to a connection with Peter Kreeft’s lecture. Now we’re getting into the author’s personal opinions.
Almost everyone in North America has heard of the Gospel. Many, many fewer have heard it in the sense “understood the meaning of”. Even though they have heard of the Gospel, and even if they’re already in Pascal’s Category II, seeking but not yet having found, they still need “primary evangelization” for having heard of the Gospel isn’t the same as having heard it. The Gospel is unintelligible to many of our family, friends, and neighbors: you can’t “hear” the Good News if you don’t believe in the Bad News first. And you can’t “hear” anything when you’re skeptical of everything except skepticism and power. Evangelization old and new depends on philosophy, so we should learn a little that we might teach it. We teach best by example, but sometimes it is necessary to use words, so let us all acquire some.