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"Success is not one of the names of God." (Old proverb)

“It is not a matter of inventing a new programme. The programme already exists: it is the plan found in the Gospel and in the living Tradition, it is the same as ever.”
(Pope John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte 29)


Cardinal Ratzinger has written powerfully about the new evangelisation. (Most quotations in this section are from a talk he gave to Catechists in Rome for the Jubilee Year, 2000).

Efficiency and success are big temptations in the modern world:

“Yet another temptation lies hidden beneath this - the temptation of impatience, the temptation of immediately finding the great success, in finding large numbers. But this is not God's way..… New evangelisation cannot mean: immediately attracting the large masses that have distanced themselves from the Church by using new and more refined methods. No - this is not what new evangelisation promises.”

Jesus himself has given us the image we need – the mustard seed:

Seeds“For the Kingdom of God as well as for evangelisation, the instrument and vehicle of the Kingdom of God, the parable of the grain of mustard seed is always valid (Mark 4:31-32). The Kingdom of God always starts anew under this sign….. New evangelisation means: never being satisfied with the fact that from the grain of mustard seed, the great tree of the Universal Church grew; never thinking that the fact that different birds may find place among its branches can suffice - rather, it means to dare, once again and with the humility of the small grain, to leave up to God the when and how it will grow (Mark 4:26-29). Large things always begin from the small seed, and the mass movements are always ephemeral.”

So there is something uncomfortable about new evangelisation:

“New evangelisation must surrender to the mystery of the grain of mustard seed and not be so pretentious as to believe to immediately produce a large tree. We either live too much in the security of the already existing large tree or in the impatience of having a greater, more vital tree - instead we must accept the mystery that the Church is at the same time a large tree and a very small grain. In the history of salvation it is always Good Friday and Easter Sunday at the same time.”

In fact, it is closely linked to weakness and suffering (in our logo, the fire comes from the Cross):

“I would like to recall the beginning of evangelisation in the life of St. Paul. The success of his mission was not the fruit of great rhetorical art or pastoral prudence; the fruitfulness was tied to the suffering, to the communion in the passion with Christ (1
Cor. 2:1-5, etc)… A mother cannot give life to a child without suffering. Each birth requires suffering, is suffering, and becoming a Christian is a birth. Let us say this once again in the words of the Lord: The Kingdom of heaven has suffered violence (Mt. 11:12), but the violence of God is suffering, it is the cross. We cannot give life to others without giving up our own lives.”

Above all it is built on prayer:

“A few years ago, I was reading the biography of a very good priest of our century, Don Didimo, the parish priest of Bassano del Grappa. In his notes, Don Didimo says, "Jesus preached by day, by night he prayed." With these few words, he wished to say: Jesus had to acquire the disciples from God. The same is always true. We ourselves cannot gather men. We must acquire them by God for God. All methods are empty without the foundation of prayer. The word of the announcement must always be drenched in an intense life of prayer.”

Our Lady’s role in evangelisation is indispensable:

“A programme of pastoral action with evangelisation as its basic feature… is the desire that we rejoice to entrust to the hands and the heart of the Immaculate Blessed Virgin Mary… On the morning of Pentecost she watched over with her prayer the beginning of evangelisation prompted by the Holy Spirit: may she be the Star of the evangelisation ever renewed which the Church, docile to her Lord’s command, must promote and accomplish, especially in these times which are difficult but full of hope!” (Paul VI: Evangelii Nuntiandi 81-82).