Fifteen ideas for the New Evangelisation.

Given the Synod happening in Rome on how to make the New Evangelisation happen, we have to put our collective heads together and come up with some concrete ideas that should come out of it. Here is some things that I have put together to get the ball rolling:

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Breaking the Ice. Making the leap can be difficult, intimidating, and for most people scary enough that they don’t attempt to even think about it. Sometimes non-Catholics want some other ‘excuse’ for them to start getting closer to the Church, so that they can side-step stigma before they commit. Here are things you can do to make it easier.
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1. Organise a Matthew Party (invite friends, some active Catholic and a few otherwise, to a home meal, party, drinks or games [maybe it will be board games, soccer in the park, or a LAN party]. Let God do His work by osmosis. This is often suggested by Father Michael Gielen. The name is an allusion to the 9th Chapter of Matthew:

And when Jesus passed on from hence, he saw a man sitting in the custom house, named Matthew; and he saith to him: Follow me. And he rose up and followed him. And it came to pass as he was sitting at meat in the house, behold many publicans and sinners came, and sat down with Jesus and his disciples.

Don’t call it a Matthew Party, that is just the concept to inspire you and your Catholic friends or family.
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2. Classes or lectures open to the community, that directly relate to Catholicism. For example an expert on middle-east archeology, or a history of musical development from the Jewish tradition through to the modern forms. Maybe an expert on Tolkein could open up not only the life of Tolkein, but explore his literature and how it relates to Catholicism. Perhaps it will be a discussion of art or architecture. I would like to see a diocese put together a traveling exhibition of items of historical and religious value that can go between parishes and is advertised locally.
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3. Inquirer’s night. Maybe your parish can organise this itself. Maybe it will use Alpha or Catholics Come Home. I think it should do both. You could have an “Ask a Catholic” panel, stacked with faithful and knowledgeable Catholics, including apologists or priests. Another good approach would be to run a parish screening series of Fr Barron’s “Catholicism” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXz7CiIovJ8
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4. Events. An artistic event, parish quiz night, ceili (Irish social dance), St Patrick’s day celebrations, parish or school gala, concerts, carols, Catholic student’s ball, and movie nights (suggestions: Bella, For Greater Glory, Restless Heart). These are things in which people can make an initial involvement with the Catholic community without putting pressure on themselves, or other people putting pressure on them to commit the full way straight away.
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5. Pub or Cafe talks. Build upon the style of Theology on Tap in the States and now spread throughout the world.
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6. Websites designs easy to find, to use, they should be good looking and with functionality such as “ask a priest”. Things like the Catholic Enquiry Centre should be promoted, both to present, lapsed and non-Catholics.
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Warming the pot. The culture of our families, Church and country is not going to easily be changed quickly, and while a sudden change might be remarkable, in the long term it also needs to be sustainable. Here are some ideas that you can do to nudge things along towards Christ.
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7. Hand written invitation to friend or family member. In an age of texts, emails and social media, few things are as genuine and heart felt as a good old fashioned hand written letter! Some people will be more appreciative than others, so judge how your friends or family communicate. Do they prefer face-to-face conversation?
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8. Organise a group of nearby Catholics to meet at someone’s house or flat once a week for prayer. Start the night with fellowship, letting the conversations naturally flow between the people. After about half an hour, have a Rosary, or Vespers. Afterwards you can share a cup of tea, a pot luck dinner, or host a BBQ. This become a useful way to introduce lapsed, or lukewarm Catholics back into a life of prayer, and is particularly good for young Catholics to build holy friendships.
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9. Let love be your motivation. It can be easy to give into efficiency and beat people down with logic. Ironically, heartfelt friendships are more effective, and the ultimate progression of every friendship should be to bring both members to Heaven. This lets you evangelise in daily life. Some people have labelled this as oikos evangelisation, alluding to the conversion of Cornelius in Acts 10 and 11.
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10. Change the culture of the parish. Questions like “what is your last name?”, “which parish are you from?”, and “how long have you been Catholic?” need to go, they may be exclusive. Welcoming someone the very first time they come to a parish is extremely important. Perhaps there needs to be a space new people can sit after Mass, so that people can know they are new and to welcome them.
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11. Showing that other people are converting. Feeling like you are the only person moving towards joining the Catholic Church can be an irrational discouragement for people. Exposing them to people undergoing the same processes can be useful, and if not easily done,  share the personal stories of the prominent convert-evangelists, convert-apologists and convert-priests that the Church has been receiving.
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12. Small groups, e.g. passionist family groups, are useful when organised formally in the parish. But they can also take on a new life if grassroots groups also run alongside. A group of people can meet and go to a cafe after a daily Mass. Or if it is Sunday, meet for brunch/lunch at someone’s house or flat.
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13. Never being ashamed of being Catholic. To the point where you take up visible devotion and don’t shy from continuing them when in public. This means grace before meals, even if it is in public.

I remember I once asked a confessor for help with my sadness and anger against a communist at university who would deliberately blaspheme in front of me and would tear up Bibles and eat pages from them. The priest’s suggestion was that whenever the name of Jesus is used in any context referring to the second person of the Trinity, positively or negatively, liturgically or casually, I should solemnly bow my head. [ Following the admonition of Pope Gregory X at the Second Council of Lyons in 1274:

Each should fulfill in himself that which is written for all that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow; whenever that glorious name is recalled, especially during the sacred mysteries of the Mass, everyone should bow the knees of his heart, which he can do even by a bow of his head.

If someone should blaspheme, I was to bless myself with the sign of the cross, and to repeat this patiently with every blasphemy. Sure enough this unsettled the communist enough that his terrible blasphemies were not uttered near me again, because he could not tolerate these simple responses. Even if this had not been the result, the peace it gave me was consoling.

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Fanning the flames. From the beginning we should be looking to set everyone’s hearts ablaze for God. There is only one tool that I suggest for this.
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14. Prayer. Pray. And remember than no prayers are ever so effective as those said at Holy Mass. So go often. Confess often, monthly at least, and weekly if needed. Start the day with a Morning Offering, and end the day with an Examination of Conscience. Stop at midday for the Angelus.
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15. … Use your talents, creativity and resources for the Glory of God and the growth of His Church. Comments about these and further ideas for the New Evangelisation are strongly called for!
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    1 comment

    1. Originz October 21, 2012 at 1:58 pm

      Excellent list, Opthomistic. They would all be worthwhile, but I particularly like numbers 2, 5, 11 and 13.

      5 and 13 are in the category “Be visible”. In this category I would also put encouraging clergy to wear their clerical dress at all times and (though I realise that this is rather more of a challenge) getting religious to don their habits again. It disappoints me to see that most photos of priests and many of bishops in the NZ Catholic (as well as the mainstream press) show them in open neck shirts, cardigans, etc, and it is not unusual to see your priest at the supermarket wearing shorts and jandles. Priests should be proud to wear their “uniform”, we should expect it, and it is a wonderful witness to the rest of the world – a reminder that the Church is still here. A priest is always on duty in the spiritual battle of our times, so should always be wearing the uniform, like you would expect of a police officer, soldier, or paramedic.

      Another suggestion: promote Catholic TV. As far as I know the only channel available in NZ is the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) and it is brilliant. It must represent over 95% of TV viewing in this household. One needs only the occasional flick over to local or world news channels to keep up to date – the rest of secular TV can be easily missed. I recommended EWTN to a Protestant (Pentecostal) friend from Australia, and he is loving it: not converted yet, but he now understands the Church a lot better, and is less critical.