Evangelization was at the heart of Chaminade’s vision. The new evangelization is at the heart of our mission as Marianist Lay women and men. We face the same challenges as our founders. How do we spread the gospel in a society that is indifferent and even hostile to religion? How do we renew a desire to seek God in a culture that no longer has a need for the Divine? How do we form modern women and men into mature, committed, and faith-filled people of God?
My love for our Marianist charism is rooted in the timeliness of Blessed Chaminade`s prophetic vision for building and rebuilding the Church. Recent events affirm this for me.
Blessed John Paul II introduced the term new evangelization for spreading the Gospel message to historically Christian countries where the faith is weak or no longer exists. In September, 2010 Pope Benedict XVI established the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. The XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will gather in October, 2012 to discuss the theme `The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian faith.`
All of this is beautifully timed with God`s loving providence for us, as a Marianist family. We are in the midst of celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Blessed Chaminade. His life, message, and methods are as viable today as they were following the devastation of the French Revolution. This is explored more fully in my Circular, Marianist Lay Communities and the New Evangelization available online at www.clm-mlc.org.
Our International Team of MLC is gathering in Rome during the first week of November for our annual meeting, and the meeting of the World Council of the Marianist Family. We have an appointment at the Pontifical Council for the Laity with members of the Section on Ecclesial Movements and New Communities. I have forwarded the Circular to our friends at the PCL. The important role of ecclesial movements and new communities and the new evangelization will be the theme of our discussions.
In terms of promoting a “new evangelization” that might draw jaded Westerners back to the faith, Benedict seemed to propose small Christian communities as one such model.
“Small communities could be one such path, where friendships are lived and deepened in regular communal adoration before God,” he said.
“There we find people who speak of these small faith experiences at their workplace and within their circle of family and friends, and in so doing bear witness to a new closeness between Church and society. They come to see more and more clearly that everyone stands in need of this nourishment of love, this concrete friendship with others and with the Lord.”
That papal endorsement could prove a boon for the small communities pastoral model, which has been especially successful in Latin America, often under the aegis of “base communities,” and in Africa.
It is, indeed, an important and timely moment in the history of Marianist Lay Communities. We must be more intentional in sharing who we are and what we do; for who we are and what we do are needed in our church and in our world today. May we all respond to the call for a new evangelization with the wisdom and courage of our founders!