John Paul II on the New Evangelization

John Paul II on the New Evangelization
Karol Wojtyla, on canoe trip w youth

John Paul II referred to himself as a “pilgrim pope of evangelization, walking down the roads  of the world, bringing to all people the message of salvation.” (Mexico City, May 6, 1990).  I found this quote in a collection of essays edited by Ralph Martin entitled John Paul II and the New Evangelization. It is in an essay by Avery Dulles. It goes well with the chapter on the new evangelization in Crossing the Threshold of Hope. The last sentence in that chapter reads: “There exists today the clear need for a new evangelization. There is the need for a proclamation of the Gospel capable of accompanying man on his pilgrim way, capable of walking alongside the younger generation.” John Paul II had a special concern for the youth, stemming from the early days of his ministry when he would gp on canoe trips with the youth of his parish so as to get out of earshot of the communists authorities and freely talk about Christianity.

The concern for the young must be a part of  the process because “in its ever renewed encounter with man, evangelization is ed to generational change. Generations come and go which have distanced themselves from Christ and the Church, which have accepted a secular model of thinking and living or upon which such a model has been imposed. Meanwhile, the Church is always looking toward the future. She constantly goes out to meet new generations. And new generations clearly seem to be accepting with enthusiasm what their elders seemed to have rejected.”

Evangelization is closely ed to education. We have refined the mission statement of the Pope John Paul II Forum for the Church in the Modern World. Its mission is: “to promote the understanding of the thought of Pope John Paul II and to develop his legacy as it forms and equips the Church for the new evangelization.” The mission places the academic character of the Forum more solidly in the context of the mission of the Church. Through its educational opportunities the Forum serves the Church in its evangelization.

Against the spirit of the world, the Church takes up anew each day a struggle that is none other than the struggle for the world’s soul. If in fact, on the one hand, the Gospel and evangelization are present in this world, on the other, there is also present a powerful anti-evangelization which is well organized and has the means to vigorously oppose the Gospel and evangelization. The struggle for the soul of the contemporary world is at its height where the spirit of this world seems strongest. In this sense the encyclical Redemptoris Missio speaks of modern Areopagi. Today these Areopagi are the worlds of science, culture, and media; these are the worlds of writers and artists, the worlds where the intellectual elite are formed.

As John Paul II said, it is a struggle for the world’s soul. I suspect that many people who work at Catholic universities are not even aware of the powerful forces of “anti-evangelization” that impinge upon our culture and well up from within our very institutions. Scientific reductionism, the dictatorship of relativism, secularism, and religious indifferentism in the culture at large but also setting the climate within the very Catholic universities themselves militate against a clear explanation of the gospel or the teaching of Catholic culture.

But John Paul II was hopeful.

Christ is forever young. The Holy Spirit is incessantly at work. Christ’s words are striking: “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work” (Jn 5:17). The Father and the Son are at work in the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of truth, and truth does not cease to fascinate man, especially the hearts of the young. Therefore we should not consider statistics alone. For Christ, works of charity are important. Despite all of the losses the Church has suffered, it does not cease to look toward the future with hope. Such hope is a sign of the power of the Spirit.

The John Paul II Forum will strive to build communities of “joy in truth” through prayer, study and dialogue and “walk alongside the younger generation.”.

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