Tag Archives: New Evangelisation

“Let’s just stop catechising children”

classroom

Joanne McPortland over at Patheos has been causing something of a stir… She is proposing that what is wrong with the parish formation set-up is that it has, for too long, been catechising the wrong people – children, not adults. It’s true that the Church attempted to make the shift from child-centred catechesis to adult-centred catechesis certainly since the General Directory for Catechesis (GDC 258 “Adult catechesis must be given top priority” is just one reference made to the paradigm-shift in this document), if not before that. But, on the whole, this ‘paradigm-shift’ has remained in the catechetical documents of the universal Church, and the national documents of the Bishops’ Conferences, and has not been translated into reality.

Why? I think one reason is that it is far easier to focus on children’s catechesis than adults’. There’s an institutional set-up in schools and sacramental preparation which means that children are captive audiences. Catechising adults is the Mount Everest we still have not conquered because it requires evangelising people first (exceedingly hard and slow work) in order to get them there. And, if we are parents, it is so much easier to focus on our children’s faith formation than our own.

But, we can’t deny that focussing on adults is the real deal; this is where it’s really at. The fact that it is so relentlessly difficult shows us that this is precisely where our efforts, energy and resources need to go.

I think to some extent Joanne is right. I would love to see the results of a parish stopping all their sacramental programmes one year and focussing all its energy into evangelising and catechising adults. I’m fascinated by a new approach in a parish in Wales. Here, the parish priest has announced that this year he will not, as they normally do, invite the archbishop to confirm candidates after a short course. Rather, young people of Confirmation age are being invited to undertake twelve months of learning discipleship – through mentoring, attending Mass and the sacraments, service, and prayer. What a courageous move, and one that I am sure the Lord will bless, since it seems faithful to his desire for us to be his disciples, not just sacramentalised, tribal Catholics.

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Homecoming

I’m LOVING the videos from Homecoming, the Youth 2000 new year’s retreat. They really capture the joy, intimacy, mercy, and peace of encountering Jesus…


Happy New … Evangelisation

A Happy New Year, 2014, to all my readers!

Occasionally, I hear someone speak – in a homily or a talk – about evangelising, and I get the feeling that all my efforts at evangelising up to now have been pitiful, but that, starting NOW, things are going to be different. These are people I know who have such a charism for evangelisation that every taxi ride or hair appointment or chance encounter becomes an evangelising moment. People who are not only in love with Jesus but who are also so forgetful of self and so focussed on the other in front of them that they will engage and attract them. We’re all called to be evangelists by our Baptism. It comes more naturally to some people, though. So we need to learn from them…

Right now, we have a Pope who is certainly one of these Christians. Pope Francis embodies evangelisation, as we have seen over the last few months, and Evangelii Gaudium is bursting with priceless wisdom we can learn from. He coaxes us out of our comfort zones, away from from the “idols” we have made for ourselves – personal space, self-imposed limitations – and invites us to discover the “delightful and comforting joy of evangelising” (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 80). He calls us to leave our “security on the shore” and to receive new life precisely by giving it away.

If we are not challenged by this, either we are not letting it penetrate our hearts, or we have fallen into the trap of thinking that it is not written for us.

These words are so challenging because not one of us can deny that we surround ourselves with certain comforts and securities. We will give a certain amount when it comes to evangelisation – but this is our limit, we can’t give any more beyond this.

Pope Francis’s direct, no-excuses approach to evangelisation is precisely needed now for us in the Church in the West because the situation has got way beyond the point where we could pretend everything is well and good in the Church. If we as faithful Catholics don’t have a sense of urgency regarding souls, something is definitely wrong. The cure? We need to get out of our own concerns, and make the Lord’s concern for souls our own.

A friend I have once said that if we have constant concern for bringing souls to Jesus, we would go to bed each day “exhausted”. In the words of EG, we would be tireless in “patient expectation and apostolic endurance” (24). I am not saying that we need to stop taking any care of ourselves, because we do, in order to be attractive, joyful witnesses to the Lord. But perhaps this is what Pope Francis means when he says, “The disciple is ready to put his or her whole life on the line…”

As we enter a new year, what better time could there be to make some new year’s resolutions about evangelisation? Here are just a few ideas… Leave any other ideas you have in the comments…

  • Intercessory Prayer: If I don’t already have one, perhaps I could begin an intercessory prayer list with all the names of those in my life who do not know the Lord, those who I would desire to have a living relationship with Him. We can keep this list in the place where we pray and try to pray for these people daily, if possible.
  • Family and Friends: How can my family or group of friends be more evangelistic? Can we draw people in, avoid being exclusive or cliquey? If my family or group of friends is a place where we encounter the Lord, how can we open ourselves more to others, where others may meet him too? How can we draw in the lost, the outsider, the lonely?
  • Workplace: How can I reach out more to people I work with? Can I develop friendships with my colleagues, show concern for their lives, remember their birthdays? As friendships grow, trust develops, and eventually, they may want to ask us more about our faith.
  • Strangers: Perhaps our parish could begin an evangelisation initiative such as Nightfever, or street evangelisation, or a service specifically dedicated to the poor, e.g. a soup run. Perhaps we could make a conscious effort to engage with those we have regular contact with, e.g. those who serve us in shops or pubs, people at our gym…

What other ideas do you have? What do you find particularly hard about evangelisation?


The New Evangelisation and the Desert

Death Valley

Death Valley

Well, readers, I’m aware I’ve been ‘missing in action’ for a while now, without any blogging. To tell you the truth, I’ve been working on an exciting project that I hope to tell you all about before long. It has been taking up my every spare moment. But for now, I wanted just to break the silence with some thoughts on evangelisation…

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But, first! Just to keep you up to speed – a couple of things I’ve been up to… I graduated! Here I am with three truly amazing ladies, all working in different fields for the new evangelisation, on our graduation day…

And here I am with a certain Jeff Cavins, who gave a wonderful talk at Portsmouth Cathedral last week, which was exciting for so many reasons. He gave us a pot of his own ‘Cavins’ Blend’ English Breakfast tea!

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So – back to the topic. ‘The New Evangelisation and the Desert’. It is something I’ve reflected on a lot recently. I believe it is also the experience of many, many ‘intentional disciple’ Catholics living in the UK. We are hearing, reading, talking a lot about the new evangelisation. But our daily reality, the communities we are living in, are more like a spiritual desert.

As many of you know, I used to belong to a parish where there was a ‘higher-proportion-than-usual’ of truly intentional disciples – people who had ‘dropped their nets’, who were intentionally living for the Lord and raising their families that way. Many people moved to live in the parish precisely because of this vibrant, community life. There was also a high proportion of young adults living real discipleship. Shortly after I moved to Portsmouth, I discovered that I’d been living in some kind of ‘Catholic Disney World’ (or Rivendell, as we used to joke). I guess I already ‘knew’ the reality of other ordinary parishes in this country. But now, I really knew it. And I admit it has been a struggle. I feel I can now really empathise with the majority of lay Catholic real disciples who struggle on in their parishes.

The reality in most of our parishes – let’s be honest – is that “personal discipleship” – where we earnestly try to commit our whole lives, our decisions, our will, to Jesus –  is treated as a kind of “optional accessory” (in the words of Sherry Weddell, Forming Intentional Disciples). You’re looked on as slightly eccentric if you express a passion for the Lord, or for evangelisation. Being a ‘good Catholic’ means going to Mass on Sundays, Confession once a year, being involved with a charity, making a lasagne for the parish social. It rarely means ‘discipleship’. It’s why increasing numbers of young, committed Catholics are – understandably – finding more formation for discipleship in evangelical churches.

There are many issues here, but what I wanted to focus on in this post, is ‘survival tactics’ – how we cope with being in this desert, and how God can use us to make it a place which is eventually life-giving. These are just some thoughts from my experience over the last nine months:

  1. Open your heart more attentively in prayer: In Scripture, the desert is repeatedly the symbol of where God leads us to (indeed, seduces us) in order to “speak to our heart”. Just because no one arounds us seems to be committed to prayer doesn’t mean we should not be – in fact, all the more reason to be deeply committed to daily prayer! Only with a solid foundation of prayer and sacrifice can God begin to grow new life. There will be many more reasons to surrender ourselves completely to God in the desert – discouragements, setbacks, disappointment… As we give ourselves more completely to God in all of this, he is actually using the situation to help us grow in holiness, so that we can be more effective evangelists for him.
  2. Pray for ‘kindred spirits’, like-minded friends: Three or four intentional disciples can be so much more effective than one. For one thing, you can encourage each other – your stamina will be far greater in a small group than alone. Discern together where you can start. Remember you need no one’s “permission” to start a prayer group or a Bible study in your own homes. I truly believe, if we ask God earnestly enough, he will never leave one of his ‘intentional disciples’ alone… he is good, and will always gather two or three together in the same place – even if in a way we don’t expect.
  3. Evangelists go out in search of the lost: Have an open heart in all your encounters and conversations with people. Even in the places you’re least likely to expect. You’ll be amazed at the people he will bring into your path. Be proactive in inviting people to things, keeping in touch. Before long, you’ll realise the large numbers of people the Lord has ‘gathered’.
  4. Disciples need formation: Ensure you’re receiving regular formation, nourishment of your mind and heart. In the desert analogy, we need continually to return to the ‘springs’ of water that refresh us and set us on our way again. Perhaps we might need to travel a long distance for this. But it’s vital if we’re going to keep on track.
  5. Discouragement does not come from the Lord: If you’re feeling you’re losing hope in your particular situation, this cannot be “of God”. This is why regular Confession, spiritual direction, and formation helps – it helps us dispel discouragement quite quickly. The worst thing we can do is let it weaken our focus and determination.
  6. Discern the initial plans God has for your area: For me, it seemed quite simple when a friend phoned up and asked if we wanted to host Jeff Cavins at the cathedral. “YES!” was the clear answer. This event will now (with God’s grace) kick-start some adult formation in our parish.
  7. Nurturing new disciples: Emerging disciples and new, growing communities of people seeking to be fed require wise pastoral leadership. Sooner or later, you will need the help of a priest to cultivate the initial work you’ve been doing. The parish (or a new movement) will need to offer opportunities for ongoing deeper formation, for works of service and charity, opportunities for more evangelisation and outreach. Pastoral guidance is needed to cultivate the initial signs of growth, help this new life grow strong, and then equip these new disciples to go out to evangelise others.

A few thoughts. Do you have any ideas to add? How do you survive in the ‘new evangelisation desert’? 


Quick Takes…

7-Nightfever

~1~

I love what Mgr. Charles Pope has written in this article on the plan he’s made for children’s catechesis in his parish. What I love most is his realisation…

It became clear to me in that moment that we could no longer do business as usual when it came to catechesis.

I love it because it is so courageous to stand back, look at what you’re doing (which you may have thought is GREAT for so long) and to say – in all honesty – is this working? What Mgr. Pope identifies as key is telling the kerygma. He does it in three sections – Sin – Redemption – Grace. It seems to me that sometimes the most effective plans for catechesis are the most simple.

~2~

I stumbled across Mgr Pope’s article on the Forming Intentional Disciples Facebook Forum, which, if you have not been there yet — is BUZZING. Go and check it out! I cannot keep up with it, truth be told, let alone enter into any of the great discussions happening on there. If I get sick for a week or so, that’s where I’d be spending my time 😉

~3~

In Portsmouth we’re excited that Sherry Weddell will actually be visiting us next June (cannot contain my excitement in fact). Even sooner than that, though, we have Jeff Cavins, creator of the Great Adventure Bible Timeline, gracing our cathedral on 14th November – more details here.

~4~

Just published by CTS is Fr Stephen Wang’s, The New Evangelisation: What it is and how to do it. I’ve started reading it and it’s excellent. There are also very practical examples of new evangelisation initiatives in the UK. A must read!

~5~

Finally, still on the topic of the new evangelisation, I leave you with this wonderful short clip of Nightfever. I cannot believe I have not even been to Nightfever yet, since so many of my friends in London coordinate it, and it takes place every six weeks in St Patrick’s, Soho – a church close to my heart. I am praying that one day we will be ready to host Nightfever in Portsmouth Cathedral – it is such a simple yet brilliant tool for the new evangelisation – inviting people off the streets to come into church, light a candle, come before Jesus. It is EXACTLY what Pope Francis is calling us to do.


Some Quick Takes

september

– 1 –

Right now feels kinda strange… Normally this time of year has that great buzzy feeling of gearing up to the new year of parish activity. Last September we had a ‘Vision Night’ for all our incredible catechists, ‘casting the vision’ for catechesis in the parish for the Year of Faith. It’s a great time of meeting teenagers and children in sacramental programmes for the first time, and meeting with parents, sharing expectations and enthusiasm for the year ahead.

What is your parish planning at this time of the year? Do you have a vision for the year ahead?

– 2 –

Here is the wonderfully moving sermon given by Bishop Hugh Gilbert, welcoming the Nashville Dominican Sisters to the Scottish diocese of Aberdeen. It powerfully sets out the place of religious consecrated life in the new evangelisation… Wow – if we had a few more bishops with the vision of Bishop Hugh…

– 3 –

This is a really interesting and excellent article on the necessity of youth ministry (which responds to this article). Fr Damian Ference does many different things in this one article – all of which are well-theologically rooted: our spiritual familial relations in the Church are highlighted, as is the legitimate role of the laity in apostolate within the Church (not only outside it). Well worth a read.


“Sacramentalisation”

This time of year, filled with First Holy Communions and Confirmations, is full of joy. It is also a time where we risk “sacramentalising” another batch of young people or adults, perhaps without really evangelising or catechising them.

This is precisely the problem that we face in the New Evangelisation – and one which we, to some extent, inflict on ourselves.

It is a theme which occurs again and again on this blog. I am not being overdramatic when I say it breaks my heart to see us shortchanging people by bringing them to the sacraments too soon. Graces are heaped upon them, yet they don’t have the means or the maturity or the understanding to open their hearts to these graces, because they have not been through a sufficient period of formation.

This video clip from Dr Scott Hahn isn’t new, but it is worth taking just over ten minutes out of your day to watch. He speaks about the relationship between evangelising, catechising, and sacramentalising, in depth. I showed it to a group of seminarians, one of whom said it was the most inspirational thing he’d seen all year (maybe an exaggeration…) – but it is truly a good clip from Dr Hahn and a topic all of us in the Church need to wake up to, and think hard about theologically, pastorally, spiritually.