Evangelical Catholicism

One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.                             Matt. 4:4.

Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.                                                               John 6:68.

This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.                                                                                                     Mark 9:7.

Is Catholicism relevant? If you find yourself asking this question, then ask yourself are you happy with the world as it is? If you blog, then you only have to look at your spam to know how full of filth the world is. Evil hunts you. You cannot hide from it. What about the people you know, your co-workers, your friends and acquaintances, your family? Are their lives as God-centered as you think they should be? Were you happy with our choices for the Presidential election? After all, there were Catholics on both sides of the ticket. This caused a number of us to consider family values Catholicism versus social justice Catholicism. Why should we have to vote for one to the disparagement of the other? Ask yourself, are you content with the growing secularism of societies? Are you content with the proliferation of pornography and mass murder? Do you walk away when talk turns to the filth that has infiltrated our Church?

I could not sleep last night thinking of such things. During the day I had read George Weigel’s column “The Rise of Evangelical Catholicism.” I longed to read his new book. I was wide awake, and so I opened up my Kindle in the dark bedroom and ordered it. No, I haven’t finished reading yet; I’ve just begun. No, this isn’t a review or an endorsement, not yet at least. However, I think I know what is coming.

In his article he considers the challenge that lies before us. “The challenge can be defined simply: throughout the western world, the culture no longer carries the faith, because the culture has become increasingly hostile to the faith. Catholicism can no longer be absorbed by osmosis from the environment, for the environment has become toxic. So we can no longer sit back and assume that decent lives lived in conformity with the prevailing cultural norms will, somehow, convey the faith to our children and grandchildren and invite others to consider entering the Church.

“No, in our new situation, Catholicism has to be proposed, and Catholicism has to be lived in radical fidelity to Christ and the Gospel. Recreational Catholicism—Catholicism as a traditional, leisure-time activity absorbing perhaps 90 minutes of one’s time on a weekend—is over. Full-time Catholicism—a Catholicism that, as the Second Vatican Council taught, infuses all of life and calls everyone in the Church to holiness and mission—is the only possible Catholicism in the 21st century.

“The Evangelical Catholicism of the future is a Catholicism of radical conversion, deep fidelity, joyful discipleship and courageous evangelism. Evangelical Catholics put friendship with the Lord Jesus at the center of everything: personal identity, relationships, activity. Evangelical Catholics strive for fidelity despite the wounds of sin, and do so through a daily encounter with the Word of God in the Bible and a regular embrace of Christ through a frequent reception of the sacraments.”

The environment in which Catholicism, and yes all Christianity, depends upon for life and growth has become toxic. Our faith will no longer grow on its own. Recreational Catholicism as he defines it is no longer sufficient to grow our faith or even ensure its survival. No less than radical conversion, dedicated discipleship and renewed gospel-centered evangelization are what is now required.

I write primarily for the laity, because that’s where my experience and vocation lie. And make no mistake, the role of the laity is a vocation. Ever since Vatican II the Church has called for a renewal of the religious life and role of the laity. See The Essential Role of the Laity at Ignatius.com. Lay Christians need to permeate social, political and economic realities. Lay Christians must bring Christ’s message to the whole world. This is part and parcel of our coming evangelical orientation.

“Evangelical Catholics enter mission territory every day,” writes Mr. Weigel. The call is for our role of discipleship to invite the question “how can you live that way?” And to that our answer must be “how can you not live that way?” This brings to mind the words of Saint Francis of Assisi: preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary use words. We must not only preach the gospel by how we live but sometimes, yes, by standing up for our faith with words and being counted.

It is not only Lent but a time for electing a new Pope. This is a great time to put on the new man and to renew our baptismal vows. This is a great time to be reborn again in the Holy Spirit and fire. And it is a necessary time of prayer for our church and the wisdom of its leadership as we move into the 21st century. Do not forget to pray and then pray some more. And burn for Our Lord.