Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Dec
  • 6

Laity have a clear mission

Posted By December 6, 2012 | 12:22 pm | Lead Story #3
Have you read a good spiritual book lately? Share it. Is you parish having a mission speaker? Invite a friend to go. In doing these things, you become a missionary and an evangelist - just what the Church needs more of these days. Ralph Martin, president of Renewal Ministries in Ann Arbor, Mich., shared these simple ideas of evangelization with members and guests of the Partners in Charity St. Paul Society at a dinner Saturday night in Tuckerman Hall. He also talked about how we got from Vatican II to the point of needing a new evangelization, as Pope John Paul II has called it.

By Margaret M. Russell

Have you read a good spiritual book lately? Share it.
Is you parish having a mission speaker? Invite a friend to go.
In doing these things, you become a missionary and an evangelist – just what the Church needs more of these days.
Ralph Martin, president of Renewal Ministries in Ann Arbor, Mich., shared these simple ideas of evangelization with members and guests of the Partners in Charity St. Paul Society at a dinner Saturday night in Tuckerman Hall. He also talked about how we got from Vatican II to the point of needing a new evangelization, as Pope John Paul II has called it.
Martin recently returned from Rome where he attended the world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization. He is director of graduate programs in the new evangelization at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit and has been a leader in the Charismatic Renewal since the 1970s. Pope Benedict XVI chose him as one of 45 experts to serve as a resource for the bishops as they explored the theme: “New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.” Martin helped write “propositions” which were presented to Pope Benedict at the end of the synod for his consideration in writing a post-synodal apostolic exhortation.
The main good that will come out of the synod, Martin said, is that the whole Church will sign on to the theme of the new evangelization.
The new evangelization is a radical call to holiness and a radical call to mission, Martin explained.
And just who does this new evangelization?
“Us” is Martin’s response.
Catholic laypeople are used to having the priests and nuns do it, but “we have to rediscover our baptismal spiritual reality,” Martin said.
“We don’t have to wait for priests and bishops to ask us to do something. We have already been asked by Jesus. We’ve been asked to follow him; become his disciples. He is asking for all of us,” meaning all of our being, Martin said.
We are made holy by our baptism and there are four aspects of the Catholic lay mission in which we can participate, he said.
The first is to witness to the faith by the way we live our lives. “Just living it (the faith) is huge,” Martin said. Something like getting married in the Church and being open to the gift of children tells society a lot about how we value our faith.
Participating in works of mercy and charity is a second way we can live out our mission.
A third call for lay people, which was made clear in Vatican II documents, is to renew the temporal order by working for peace and justice in society.
And the last one is “hard for Catholics to hear,” Martin said. It is direct evangelization – announcing Christ by word.  “Catholics are known for not talking about Jesus,” Martin said to a chuckling audience.
The role of the laity in renewing the culture has been talked about since Vatican II. Popes since have had something to say about evangelization, Martin noted. He shared some. Pope Paul VI said there can be no true evangelization if the name, teaching, life and promises of Jesus Christ are not proclaimed. Pope John Paul II said that evangelization is more than just more activity in the church.
“We could have people who are active, but not converted,” Martin explained. Pope John Paul II defined this conversion as the complete adherence to and acceptance of the saving sovereignty of Christ, so that we become his disciples. “It is turning your life over to the Lord,” Martin said. It is a really high goal, he said, but a Gospel goal.
So why do we need a new evangelization?
“Christian society as we once knew it is now gone. We are increasingly living in a culture that is hostile to Christianity,” he said.
The message out of Vatican II was that we are supposed to renew the culture. “We are to show Christ to the world. That fell apart because of confusion,” he said.
The confusion came in, he said, because the talk of ecumenism and inter-religious dialog and of people being saved without knowing Christ left people asking:  Why should we be trying to bring people into the Church if it doesn’t really matter?
Martin says that an incomplete reading of Lumen Gentium 16 left people under the presumption that God will save everyone. “People make a leap from possibility to probability to certainty,” he said.
“What is often ignored about this teaching are the last three lines … about being deceived by the Evil One,” Martin said. Because of flawed reasoning some people end up “worshiping the creature not the creator.”
Martin studies this in his new book “Will Many Be Saved?: What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization.”
“It is urgent then for the sake of their eternal salvation, that we help people come to know the true God,” Martin said.
“People need to come to an awareness of who Christ is.”
He said there are various renewal ministries that have developed since Vatican II that bring people to a deeper understanding of who is at the heart of our faith. He cited Cursillo, Ignatian retreats and the Charismatic Renewal.
“In our culture people are increasingly separating themselves from Christ and his Church. People buy the lies. We really need to preach the Gospel,” he said.
“If we really love someone, pray for them to come to faith and turn from sin. In this world the only thing that is necessary is to die in friendship with Christ,” he said.

– To read more about Ralph Martin and the new evangelization, visit his website at https://www.renewalministries.net.