Why the New Evangelization is Necessary, as Humorously seen in a Cartoon

052413The video below is a humorous reminder that, in times like these, when technology changes so rapidly, a few of us can easily get left behind.

There is also something in the video of an admonition to the Church lest we be too much like the old man in the video. And this is so for several reasons:

1. It would seem that the little man has been too long sheltered away in his apartment while the world has passed him by. And we in the Church may also have too long hunkered down in our churches and been afraid to engage the outside world.

For the last 50 years we have been very inwardly focused, debating about liturgy, debating who has power and authority in the Church, how to structure this or that internal program better etc. And while none of these are unimportant things, while we were focused inwardly, we lost the culture which has headed into warp drive away from us.

Job 1, (“Go and make disciples”) was set aside and almost wholly eclipsed by other important but lesser matters. And thus we see an old man in his apartment seemingly very out of touch with what has happened on the outside.

2. The text of the letter he writes is also telling for the Church. The gist of the letter, written in German is, Dear Friend, It is about time I write you again, not simply because I owe you some long lines, or my guilty conscience has gotten to me…. Indeed, as we have well remarked, in too many ways the Church has been too silent, at least collectively speaking. So many Catholics tell me they never hear of so many things from their pulpits that need addressing: Abortion, divorce, homosexuality, same sex “unions,” fornication, modesty, that missing Mass is a mortal sin, death, judgement, heaven and hell, euthanasia, witness, courage, and so forth.

Yes many Catholics would attest that Church leaders might well begin by saying, “It is about time that I write you, that I speak to you….”

And if that be the case of Catholics in the pew, how much more so unbelievers in the street. A Church too silent, to inward in her preoccupation, needs to begin the conversation with many again, and begin from scratch: “It is long past time that I speak with you…!”

3. And he is still typing using an old and outdated method of communication, the manual typewriter. For the Church, this too is a danger. While it is true that we proclaim an ancient and unchanging wisdom, the challenge for us it that our proclamation of it be non nova, sed novae (not a new thing, but newly or freshly)) proclaimed.

Not only have we been slow to pick up on the “new media” but we also struggle to proclaim our magnificent faith in compelling ways. We are doing much better, but have a long way to go. Many parishes and priests still have little Internet presence. Too many homilies are filled with abstractions and generalities and do not often enough apply the faith to modern issues and problems. Too many catechisms  look like comic books from the 1970s.

And while some may ponder how to stay abreast of all the latest technology, it is too important merely to ignore as of utmost importance. Parishes and dioceses must invest resources and enlist skilled staff to ensure that all forms of modern communication are being used and are professional.

Please be certain dear reader that I do NOT mean the Church’s job is to be merely “relevant” and reflect today. That is not our job. Our job is to represent the teachings of our founder and head, Jesus Christ. But we cannot be content to use the equivalent of a manual typewriter.

We have to be wise as serpents in the use of new technology, and innocent as doves when it comes to embracing the false relevance insisted on by the worldly minded. The message cannot change, but the means must move along and be professional and savvy.

4. At last our little man journeys into the world and finds out what has been going on. A crisis and the inability to do business as usual drives our little man into the world. And thus finally the Church too, is now, like a sleeping giant coming alive and going back into the world. We cannot do business as usual and various crises in and out of the Church has driven us forth. The Church’s presence in the new media is growing and getting more professional. EWTN, Catholic Answers, NewAdvent.org, and huge numbers of Catholic sites are now on line and engaging the culture.

5. But then comes the twist – For the little man in the video, while having made progress, still misses the boat and we discover that his use of the technology, and understanding of it, is flawed, to say the least.

And thus we too in the Church must not simply think that having all the latest equipment etc is enough. We have to know how best and most effectively to use it. Otherwise we make silly mistakes similar to the man in the cartoon.

Enjoy this cartoon and strive to learn its lesson. Pray too for the Church that we learn to get it right and have the courage to journey outside the comfort of our four walls to preach the truth we have received effectively.

18 Replies to “Why the New Evangelization is Necessary, as Humorously seen in a Cartoon”

  1. You raise some very important points and offer great advice in this post but I think you are mistaken to say the Church has been too inwardly focused the last 50 years. The Church, if anything, has been openly embracing the outside world and that is why our liturgy has began looking like Protestant worship and our lives are lived out in essentially the same manner as secularists and Protestants. Perhaps it would useful to recover Catholic identity first and then reach out as you suggest. This probably won’t happen though because its become a numbers game for much of the Church leadership, too often at the expense of clarity about what it is to be Catholic and how to to take the narrow gate. But you are right, those who do offer that clarity need to evangelize and communicate with those outside the Church.

    1. I think you’re focused on one point of the post without properly taking into account other points I make to balance the point you object to. The inwardness described here is us viz the world, not the world viz us.

      That the Church has not effectively or properly evangelized is shown by any glance out the front door. This is what is meant by being inwardly focused, our unwilliness to engage the world with our faith, our timidity etc, our thinking that a parish need only be a clubhouse, rather than a lighthouse. What you describe as a problem is worldliness by Church members who bring that to their inward focus. Bu that is not the problem described here.

      1. Yes, the Church has allowed the society to race ahead of it. Why? The “evangelization” the Church has preached for the past half-century has been Protestant. THAT’S why the pews are empty. The means of communication are secondary to the message being right.
        Why go to a stodgy, old church, when the hip, new, with-it Protestant congregation down the street is preaching THE EXACT SAME THING! Real Presence? Vatican 2 made that optional. Good works as well as faith for salvation? Vatican 2 rejected that and agreed with Luther. And on and on….
        Once the Church gets back on message, the true message, presented through the true liturgy at the true (Tridentine) Mass, the pews will refill.

  2. Whenever someone starts talking about the new evangelization or the new springtime or the new pentecost I sigh and wait for the next the other shoe to fall. It almost always entails an adult acting like a fool in order to be relevant, middle aged women writhing around the altar, or the speaker asking for my money for some crackpot scheme.

    1. Dymphna, perhaps you don’t speak German? Here’s the message in the medium:

      “Dear Friend
      is is about time that I get around to write to you again.
      Not because I’ve been owing you a few lines for some time now, or that my guilty conscience drives me to it…”

      The reason is … what message did the receiver of the finished letter see?

      That’s the task we’re posed as members of Christ’s Church – to finish the work He began, to evangelize the world waiting expectantly, seeking that which would fill the absence they sense intuitively that they find themselves unsatisfied by. There is more to life than this…

      (intriguing clip Msgr, the closing lines concerning venison mention a Swiss village named Prés-d’Orvin, no bearing on the theme of the animation other than perhaps the content of the message is more intriguing to the old man — or his imaginative illustrator — than the medium used to communicate it, a mailed Macbook). I wonder what Marschall McLuhan would have made of it!

  3. Meanwhile, as we move through the science-fiction world we have created with all of our fancy toys, some of us (as humans have for millennia) think the New Technology obviates the need for old forms of religion, and some of us (for millennia also) are so tied to the era of buggy-whip and reins that we would have everyone go back to time before the horseless carriage.
    As the “Vatican II generation” of Americans dies off, with its crude bloviating influence, it will be up to the “twentysomethings”, as ever throughout history, to carry out the revolution. Whether SSPX or “Nuns on the Bus”, once the brave dissenters are out of the picture, and we erase their *modifications*, Holy Mother Church will get back to doing what she has done for 2000 years. (Until the NEXT crisis of Faith and Practice.)

      1. Good grief, have you ever studied Church history? When in the past two thousand years has the Church ever been
        without divisions, disagreements and problems? In fact, you don`t even have to have studied Church history, just read
        some of the Epistles that reprimanded various peoples for their practices, or lack of. In my view Faith is a gift from God
        and a study of and living the Gospels according to Jesus Christ is the most important. “Seek first the Kingdom of God
        and all the rest will be given to you.” Many of the Church Councils in the past were convened to settle differences and address heresies and so on it goes. The old tired and worn out saying applies here, the more things change the more they stay the same. Sow the seed and it will take root where God wants it too all the rest is irrelevant intellectual
        dualism. Just my two cents.

  4. Funny video. Was glad that I got the understated punchline, if I did get it. Our job is to be the grunts for people who still write with a manual typewriter–Pope Francis, last I heard–and for people who still write by long-hand–Pope Emeritus Benedict.

    1. I think of all the wisdom and knowledge held by so many of those people “too long sheltered away in their apartments as the world has passed them by” and I too would like to give them the means to communicate with us and by a speedier means… we so desperately need that (wisdom that is).

    2. There is little doubt that mass-communication is better served by electronic/computer technology. However, in the communication between friends, the technology can mask important features of the communication. The fidelity of the message between friends may be better when certain forms of communication are delivered in person, or by a hand-written message. I have always been struck by the beauty of the old-fashion handwritten letters that I received from my older relatives–most now dead. Hand calligraphy is a dead art. Too bad, since it was a sign of care, commitment, and friendship. I think too that evangelization must ultimately depend upon personal friendship: “Cor ad cor loquitur.”

  5. To evangelize effectively it is best if the “soil” is fertile. Not rocky, full of thorns, a hardbeaten path. How can we cooperate with God to help people become fertile soil? Impossible for us? maybe. But with God all things are possible.
    Where to start: Only one thing is needed. For the other person(s) to will to and work to believe whatever God wants everyone to know and believe (whatever that is). For those who believe in a creator God, infinite, all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful who creats all space and time and has one, single, infinite, always in the present tense thought; there is no need for a specific list becaause the conclusion that God wants everyone to know and believe whatever is on that short (?) list is sufficient for them and they will want to work to know and believe it all simply because God wants everyone to know and believe it.
    Every minister of every faith should agree with the above statement and be eager to lead the way in helping anyone in their search for those things that we can know with absolute certitude that God wants everyone to know and believe. The only one who will hesitate will be those who are afraid of where that honest seeking to know will lead. How many “catholic” priests, Bishops and laity will do all they can to keep such a universal program from getting off the ground? How many will acctually work to help this idea? God only knows. Titus 3:1 reads, ” we should be open to every good enterprise.”
    All competant Jews, Christians, and Muslims will know that since God is infinite truth and we can know that because God is the infinite perfection of every good virtue, He is therefore the infinite perfection of the virtue of sharing every good thing with those who can benefit; He must will as only a perfect God could to share Himself (all truth) with us. If only we can work to help people consider their obligation to seek to know whatever God wants everyone to know and believe concerning God, leaving the rest up to God. If we can help them choose to turn their whole heart to knowing whatever God wants everyone to know and believe, understanding there is only one other choice: that of twlling God, at least implicitly, that they do not care what HE (God) wants them to know; He can go jump in the lake for all they care. There are no other options: seek His truth, or turn your backs on Him.
    Question: Why should not every minister of every faith be expected to be eager to lead the way in getting all other ministers to publicly support this idea or publicly explain why they oppose it?
    All the efforts to evangelize someone (especially our children) should start with asking them if they understand that they owe it to themselves, because they are worth the effort, to seek the truth so they can help pass it along with the peace that knows no bounds and we all know such peace is good.

  6. The media is NOT the message of Christianity which is handed on and taught best as lives lived in love, without the benefit of advanced technology, as the saints witnessed in their lives. Television, etc., enables us to reach mass audiences, all at once, but that does not mean they are engaged. Quite the opposite. Our liturgy, as given us by God, is designed to energize us to go forth and live lives of love, nothing more or less. I think
    our current Pope is being both helped and harmed in his efforts to reach the world, by the media, who for the most part, do not understand him or the Catholic faith. The Church has grown more in parts of the world, during the last 50 years, where there is little to no technology. It has deteriorated in the most advanced parts of the planet.
    The Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways, ways known to God; and not by man’s greatest efforts and accomplishments. I am reminded of a line from a favorite poem, written many decades ago but still true today:

    Men who serve the world’s great lacks, can hardly travel on camel’s backs”!

    Much wisdom expressed in simple terms.

  7. Thirstfortruth, I think you have a great point. I believe the number one way to evangelize is to emanate God’s love. In order to do that we have to be on fire for Jesus and the Church he gave us to help us. That means praying always, turning the other cheek, loving our neighbors and our enemies, choosing the narrow gate, being confident that we really can do all things through Christ. The world is a terrible place, full of despair and loneliness. If we love brightly with the love of Jesus, if we are the light on the hill, people will flock to the Church. People hunger for meaning and truth and the culture we live in is terribly, terribly lost. If we all realized our main job, the one we are called to do, is to love with the passion of Christ, we won’t need to worry about what medium is most effective. The real medium is love. I think Pope Francis is trying to show us that with his actions. People can’t figure him out. They want to label him politically but he won’t fit into categories neatly. I think we need to follow his evangelization to his flock: be joyful, trust in Jesus, love one another. So in a way we do need to focus interiorly in that we need to work on our own relationship with Jesus. By doing that, or in the words of St. Francis de Sales, if we ‘live Jesus,’ we can truly evangelize the world.

  8. Msgr. Pope,
    Our Diocese started our renewal with going back to a more Orthodox celebration of Mass and the preaching and witnessing of sin from the Pulpit with an infusion of modern Evangelizing within the Parish so all became one in knowing what it is to be Catholic.

    At first people left our pews for more “Hipper” one’s, those that embrace same sex marriage, abortion on demand, un-wed cohabitation and no judging. We at the same time filled those pews with many leaving fore mentioned styled church’s for one that will spread the true word of God and not turn from the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ by embracing Secularism.

    We then began to bring processions back into the street’s after a long twenty year’s in hiding, this was easy as we have been walking for life ever since it’s inception and other missions, however more and more parishioner’s wanted to participate so we never turn down a procession(our staff is very good at getting all parade forms filled out) especially if it goes through the nearby university campus, as many of the young priest’s are very involved in SPO and Stubbenville missions. The young priests can be the backbone of the New Media as seen in such places as The Catholic Underground, Spirit Juice Studios and St. Paul Outreach.

    In the summer we have young and old musicians play in a couple of places around our town, some in parks, some by a coffee shop(owner is a guitarist) and it is amazing the people that you can meet and many do not even know that the music is all Christian, whether it be traditional or modern, and when they ask we tell them it is Christian and that always starts a conversation, not always good but you are trained how to deflect the bad. Our summer is short in day’s but long in hours.

    Amen to you my brother, go forth and spread the Good News, The Word was mad Flesh and dwelt among us.

  9. Forgive me, I did not quote correctly that line from Sr. Madeleva’s poem. It should have read:

    ” Those who serve the world’s great lacks, can hardly travel on *donkeys* backs” ….

    referring of course to the simple ways Christianity is meant to be spread, as compared to today’s mass
    media technological feats. Quite paradoxical! Please excuse my error.

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