Cardinal Wuerl publishes book on new evangelization

By Mark Zimmermann

Catholic News Service

Like the first disciples who walked with Jesus as his friends, today’s Catholics are called to proclaim his good news to an indifferent and sometimes even hostile world that now more than ever needs that message of Christ’s truth and love, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl writes in a new book.

Titled "New Evangelization: Passing on the Catholic Faith Today," the book was published in January by Our Sunday Visitor.

"Today, like the first disciples, we can be Jesus’s witnesses, and proclaim his good news in our everyday lives," he writes. "With our hearts transformed by Christ, we can change the hearts of others, and transform the world."

Cardinal Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, was relator general of the world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization last October in Rome, summarizing and reporting on the sessions.

The pope and the 250 bishops at the synod emphasized that this is the moment for a new Pentecost, and a critical time for all Catholics to take up the work of the new evangelization.

"It’s our turn now to share the great gift we have been given, the gift of our Catholic faith, and renew the face of the earth," the cardinal writes in his book.

The cardinal, who arrived in Rome Feb. 25 to vote in the upcoming papal election, draws on personal stories and church teaching and history to illustrate how the new evangelization requires the personal commitment of today’s Catholics to deepen their own faith and share it with others, especially with those who may have drifted from the faith or never heard the Gospel message.

He emphasizes that the new evangelization is not a program, but a lens, a way of looking at how individual Catholics and parishes share their faith. Each chapter of the book includes summaries and reflections designed for personal and parish use.

Pope Benedict XVI, who has made the work of the new evangelization a key priority of his papacy, has emphasized the call must be undertaken by all Catholics, especially the laity, "to re-propose the perennial truth of Christ’s Gospel."

Just as the apostles and first disciples who encountered Jesus were called to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth, Cardinal Wuerl notes that Catholics of today must help family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers encounter Christ.

Then and now, all evangelization "begins with the experience of Jesus Christ," writes the cardinal, and he adds that proclaiming the good news remains "the church’s primary mission."

Cardinal Wuerl said that the pope and the bishops at the synod underscored the urgency of the need for the new evangelization.

That, he noted, was a key message of Pope Benedict’s 2008 visit to Washington, when the pontiff warned of a secularism that causes people to treat religion "as a private matter," a materialism in which people seek meaning through their possessions, and an individualism in which people’s self-reliance causes them not to recognize the need to rely on God and to reach out to others.

To counter secularism and materialism, today’s witnesses of Jesus must share the good news, proclaiming "the Gospel (which) offers us a whole new way of seeing life and the world around us," the cardinal writes.

Cardinal Wuerl cardinal shares the story of a Catholic husband and wife married for many years who told him that they pray together every night before they go to bed. "Otherwise, we could forget that Jesus is a part of our love, our marriage and our lives," they told the cardinal after a Mass for couples marking milestone anniversaries.

That illustrates how "the church and her sacraments are a continual reminder to us of God, God’s love and God’s place in our lives," he writes.

The cardinal emphasizes that "the Eucharist is at the heart" of the life of the Catholic Church. He notes how Blessed John Paul II emphasized the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of individual Catholics and the life of the church today, just as it was for the first Christians who came together to devote their lives to "the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers" (Acts of the Apostles 2:42).

That early description of the Mass, the cardinal writes, shows how the eucharistic celebration then and now reflects Jesus’ teaching that he is "the living bread come down from heaven," and how "at the Last Supper, the Lord instituted a new memorial sacrifice."

Also in the book, Cardinal Wuerl notes how during the recent synod, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan recommended the sacrament of reconciliation be seen as "the sacrament of the new evangelization, because it offers people the chance for a new encounter with Christ and his church."

The parish as a center where the new evangelization can unfold also was an emphasis at the synod, the Washington cardinal notes.

He pointed to an effort under way in the Archdiocese of Washington to revitalize parishes, in which those communities study five "indicators of vitality": worship, education, community life, administration, and service to the poor and marginalized.

"As agents of the new evangelization," Cardinal Wuerl writes, "we are called to renew and deepen our faith, grow in confidence in its truth, and joyfully share it with others."

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