16

What the Catholic Church Teaches on Evangelization

Author’s Note: I read with interest Mary Kochan’s article on the Catholic Lane website, “Catholics, Please Say Something about Jesus!” I was somewhat surprised by the passionate responses, both pro and con, to her article. As I said in my own response to Mary’s article: “I think the argument should not be over what you think about the centrality of Christ in our salvation and in evangelization, but what the Church teaches – which is very clear.” I also thought I would join in on the debate with this article that describes some of the teachings of the Catholic Church, and tries to remove the myth that Catholics in general are not called to evangelize.

The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field (Matthew 9:37).

But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name (John 1:12) .

For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God. He does not ration his gift of the Spirit. The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him (John 3:34-36).

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that though this belief you may have life in his name (John 20:30-31).

Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 5:42).       

Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent (Acts 18:9).

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring (the) good news!” (Romans 10:13-15).

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander (1 Peter 3:15-16).

If someone were to tell you that you, as a Catholic, need to evangelize others, what would be your reaction? Perhaps, it might be, “I evangelize by example not with words. That’s what priests and deacons do.” Or maybe, it would be, “I would like to, but I’m not trained or knowledgeable enough to do it.” Or maybe, “That’s something Evangelical Protestants do, not Catholics.” We as Catholics have to get over the notion that evangelism is for Protestants. This notion is totally untrue – evangelization is the “essential Catholic mission.”

Just before he ascended into heaven, Jesus told the apostles: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Beginning on Pentecost, the apostles did just that, and the work of evangelization continues to this day. It is a calling that has not changed over the years, as Pope Paul VI affirmed in his letter on “Evangelization in the Modern World.”

We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church.  It is a task and mission which the vast and profound changes of present day society make all the more urgent.  Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity.  She exists in order to evangelize.

Evangelization is not an optional add-on. It is at the very heart of what it means to be Catholic followers of the Lord. Yet, in spite of this clear mandate, we may still be tempted to respond to this call to evangelization by saying that “Catholics evangelize with how they live their lives, not by our words.” We may even quote the words attributed to St. Francis ofAssisi: “Preach the gospel at all times; use words if necessary.” But this doesn’t mean that we can choose between proclaiming and living the gospel, as if they both accomplish the same thing. Paul VI went on to explain in “Evangelization in the Modern World” the important interplay between word and witness in this way:

The Good News proclaimed by the witness of life sooner or later has to be proclaimed by the word of life. There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed.

Perhaps the resistance of Catholics to the call to evangelization is due to conjuring up images of street preachers and television evangelists shouting “Repent” or talking about the “wages of sin.” Or maybe we think of saints or missionaries or gifted Catholic priests. But true evangelization — whatever form it takes — is born from a love for people and a desire that everyone on earth come to know the love of Christ and the blessings of living in his kingdom. AsSt.Paul once told the Corinthians: “The love of Christ impels us” to proclaim Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14)

Perhaps, the resistance to this call is because we believe that it is not a teaching of the Catholic Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes a disciple in this way: The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it.”

Here are some additional words from Pope Paul VI and John Paul II

Paul VI, Evangelization in the Modern World, Evangelii, Nuntiando

  • “Evangelism will always contain – as the foundation, center, and at the same time the summit of its dynamism – a clear proclamation that, in Jesus Christ…salvation is offered to all men, as a gift of God’s grace and mercy”

John Paul II, “The Mission of Christ the Redeemer, Redemtoris Missio

  • “The moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to a new evangelism [a reevangelization of Christian communities that have lost their original vigor] and to the mission ad gentes (the Church’s mission “to the nations,” regions not yet touched by Christianity).”
  • “The new evangelism is not a matter of merely passing on doctrine, but rather of a personal and profound meeting with the Savior.”
  • “The Kingdom of God is not a concept, a doctrine, or program subject to free interpretation, but is before all else a person with the face of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God.  If the Kingdom is separated from Jesus, it is no longer the kingdom of  God which he revealed…”
  • “No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.”
  • “An essential characteristic of this missionary spirituality is intimate communion with Christ.”
  • “It is not possible to bear witness to Christ without reflecting his image, which is made alive in us by grace and the power of the Holy Spirit.

 “Lord Jesus, I ask for a heart open and willing to respond to the “essential mission” of the Church to evangelize others. Jesus, give me a heart like yours that longs for all God’s children to return to your Father. Holy Spirit, I am nothing without you. Fill me with your power and give me the Father’s heart for those who need to know Jesus, and the courage to reach out to them with his love.


Maurice Blumberg is the Director of Partner Relations for The Word Among Us Partners, (http://www.waupartners.org/), a ministry of The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org) to the Military, Prisoners, and women with crisis pregnancies or who have had abortions. Maurice was also the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.nfcmusa.org/), for which he is currently a Trustee. He can be contacted at  mblumberg@wau.org or mblumberg@aol.com.


  • noelfitz

    I was not surprised at the response to Mary’s article, as it was of fundamental importance and got to the heart of Catholicism. It was just brilliant.

    However this article by Maurice Blumberg is also important. The Bible quotes show the importance of evangelization , as do the other quotations.

    Post Vat II there may be a reticence on evangelization, as we do not want to be accused of proselytism or forcing our culture on others.

    Missionaries seem to have become aid workers or have disappeared.

    However you might like to look at http://www.christlife.org/evangelization/evangelization.html.

  • sammy

    Protestants are always surprised that I know as much as I do about scripture and the Catholic faith. They need evangelizing also so be prepared to do what is necessary to evangilize them.

    Great quotes, especially of Paul VI and the “New Evangilization.” Everyone should read it.

  • Tarheel

    As a convert to the faith I have often wondered why Catholics do not do more. I don’t think it is a lack of faith or knowledge there of, or a lack of biblical knowledge. I have often said that Catholics know more about the Bible then they think they do. They just don’t realize it.

    But I do feel that all Catholics need to do more to spread the Good News of the salvation of Christ. Can we do it through our actions? Yes. But this is harder than it appears to be. Closely analyze this concept before you sign up for it on a sole basis. But it is something we should work towards.

    Recent gospel readings have talked been about the seed that fell on good ground, poor ground, and rocky ground. Anyone that has ever planted a garden, raised a plant, or maintained their yard knows that you must take care of it for it to grow and produce. Is it not the same for our hearts and souls? We must cultivate our “soil” and prepare it so it will produce good fruit. And as parents we are charged with doing this for our children. Remember the part about evangelizing through your actions? Ask yourself how does your family view you?

    There are many ways you can “cultivate the soil of your soul”. Here are just a few. 1.) Join a bible study group at your local parish. Not one? Then start one. 2.) Join and get involved in your parish’s St Vincent de Paul conference. When you look into the eyes of the poor and needy of your community you will know what Christ meant about spreading the gospel. 3.) Are you a man and want to grow in your faith? Then join your parish’s Men of St Joseph group. Don’t have one? Visit http://www.menofstjoseph.com/ to learn how to start one. 4.) Go to your DRE or PCL and say I want to teach CCD or Sunday School. Become a catechist.

    Also think of the impact it would have on people in your community that if on a Saturday morning when you answered the knock on your door that person greeted you with a smile and a handshake and said,”Hi, how about joining me and my family for Mass tomorrow morning at _____________________. We would love to see you there.”

    • http://www.casorosendi.com/ Carlos Caso-Rosendi

      Tarheel: Catholics that don’t do more are not really Catholics. The last instruction of Christ to us before the Ascension was “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Mattew 28:19. The parallel account of Mark uses ton kosmon apanta (to the whole world) instead of panta ta ethné (to all the nations, peoples.) Both expressions indicate a universality (catholicity) of mission and message which is inseparable from discipleship and the personal recognition of the power given to Jesus over all creation by the Father.

      Christ said: “if you are not gathering with me you are scattering” that is you are living your life in essential opposition to Christ’s rule.

      If one is not engaged personally in the catholic work of spreading the Gospel of Christ… one should be thinking of a good excuse to present to the Master in the final hour.

      Every time we say NO to something that would have helped to spread the Gospel we have purchased a ticket to sit in the darkness outside.

      Think about it.

  • Tarheel

    Good points Carlos.

    But how do we get more Catholics motivated?

    • http://www.casorosendi.com/ Carlos Caso-Rosendi

      I will ask Don Corleone… oops!
      :D

    • http://www.casorosendi.com/ Carlos Caso-Rosendi

      I don’t know, Tarheel. Many misinterpret St. Francis’ “preach the Gospel if necessary use words” with “I don’t have to say a thing” which is of course very wrong. Human frailty always “interprets” in the direction of minimal effort. In my case, I write and I tell the truth. As a result of the “shoot the messenger” syndrome I suffer a lot of attacks but I bear them as penance for my many sins.

      Padre Pio said that if we knew the bind we are in we would do nothing but pray and spread the Gospel. Since he could see many spiritual things we can’t see, I think we better pay attention to him and heed his advice.

      Watch the Evangelicals: they talk about Jesus all the time. We just have to do the same and try to “infect” our parishes with more enthusiasm about the Gospel. Once a person gets the fever it keeps on growing.

      In 2005 I had a conversation with a Jehovah’s Witness who was sincerely trying to learn the truth. At the time it seemed like nothing had happened. He went to have a personal encounter with Our Blessed Mother. His life changed completely and now 33 other Jehovah’s Witnesses (his wife, family and friends) have been received in the Church.

      So: read, learn, pay attention, understand, AND DON’T BE SILENT.

      • noelfitz

        Tarheel, Carlos, Sammy,

        many thanks for your contributions here.

        Reading them I am encouraged to try to do more to live up to my Catholic faith. It often seems to me that most contributors here are converts. They do seem to bring into the Church more enthusiasm and zeal. Are we cradle Catholics too comfortable and relaxed in our Catholicism?

        I agree very much with this article, as I do with Mary’s which inspired it.

        “…you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge…”(2 Pet 1:5).

        But… There are usually ‘buts’

        Sammy, BUT most of us Catholics do not know as much about the Bible as we should.

        Tarheel, BUT most of us do not do as much as we should. I am fortunate in my parish and in the local Church, and also in many of my friends, but perhaps I should do more and pray more.

        Carlos, BUT what is the ‘more’ we need to do? You wrote “Catholics that don’t do more are not really Catholics.” Maybe your judgment is a bit harsh,. If we do ‘more’ will we end up praying “God I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ (NRSV, Luke 18:11,12).

        • http://www.casorosendi.com/ Carlos Caso-Rosendi

          Hey Fitz,

          I thank you for calling me a Pharisee. To enjoy the company of all my detractors join the Communist Party and subscribe to Mother Jones. You never seem to have anything positive to say about my comments and you “thank” us and “welcome” us like if the site was yours. Go back and see that I was commenting here the first day this site was open. So I welcome YOU and thank YOU (a little) for coming up with your mostly unsubstantial and bland comments occasionally peppered with thinly veiled despise for us traditional American Catholics and yours truly in particular. I love you too.

          If my “judgment” appears harsh to you, just read Luke 13, 28. We’ll talk later about that.

          You say you don’t know enough about the Bible. Oh!

          You can do a couple of things. The first I suggest is to stay humbly silent until you learn, otherwise you may be taken for someone that goes around challenging others while basing your belief in the fads blowing from your TV set.

          The other thing you can do is to apply yourself to the reading of the Fathers of the Church from the Apostolic Fathers onward. While you do that you can read and pray the Bible following the Liturgy of the Hours. Familiarize yourself with the Lectio Divina and the lives of the saints.

          Once the foundation is laid and you are familiar with Scripture and the writings of the Fathers it will be time to take in some basic philosophy beginning with the usual Classics (my approach was the Greeks and some of the Chinese masters.) Paulsen’s little book on the rudiments of Classic Philosophy was useful to me in my youth, but there are others equally good (Like Perry’s published by Oxford Press.)

          Having the tools of thought sharpened by that… one can begin to chew on good commentaries on Aquinas’ ST. The Catechism already contains a lot of it. Reading the British Fab Four (J.H. Newman, R. Knox, G. K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis) is a great way to gain insight on the Christian thought facing the challenges of modernity. Follow them with some Romano Guardini, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Karol Wojtyla, and Joseph Ratzinger. That should be read almost parallel to the Papal Encyclicals from the XV Century onwards with special emphasis in the Pacendi, Rerum Novarum, and Humanae Vitae but that is only a retracing of my path. I am a voracious reader and I was given the blessing of being able to read Spanish (helpful to read St. John of the Cross, Leonardo Castellani, Julián Marías, Ortega y Gasset among many others,) Italian (reserved mostly to read Guareschi, Corti, Cammilleri, Messori, Tornielli…) and English, which has a treasure trove of Catholic authors too long to enumerate. Having some ability to read Latin and Greek helps but is not essential.

          Having said that— not to blow my own horn but—in an attempt to show that I am not a big mouthed spic and I know what I am talking about. I don’t like someone to try to put me in my wetback little place by patronizingly and condescendingly imposing his pseudo-Anglo-Saxon smugness on me. We have enough of that in the US and we don’t need to import more.

          Now let us give you a small practical example of biblical interpretation. Open your Bible in Luke 18:11,12 that you were so quick to slap me with. This passage comes at the end of the parable of the wicked judge. Then it continues:
          “I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
          Why does Jesus ask about finding faith on earth at the time of his coming when he was talking about prayer and the dispensing of justice to the righteous? Jesus is preparing the audience for his next parable, that of the self-righteous man who is a self appointed judge BEFORE GOD and telling God what to do not only with his own case but becoming an amicus curiae of the court of God in the matter of his neighbor. The man takes time in his prayers to take the high moral ground before God Himself. In doing that he presumes his judgment to be so good that he can inform God of (a) the good deeds he has performed (b) the faults of his neighbor.
          He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity – greedy, dishonest, adulterous – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
          Notice that God is not hearing the presumptuous: he “spoke his prayer to himself.”
          Notice also that he judges “the rest of mankind.” In Hebrew terms this is VERY presumptuous because one of the titles of the Most High in Hebrew is The Judge of All the Earth, (see Genesis 18:25) This man is not a worshiper of the God of Abraham but a pathetic caricature of Satan who is primarily a self-serving, narcissistic accuser, a busybody who thinks himself so great a finished work that now can turn to claim his chair in the tribunal to judge the entire universe.
          But now Jesus (who, by the way, is God) turns his parable’s focus to the other guy. This is a generally despised tax collector. A Roman employee who in the opinion of most Jews should not even dare to thread the Holy Temple…
          But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
          Jesus’ opinion of this man’s prayer is so high that He made that prayer a prayer of God’s Church. I am inclined to believe that this tax collector was somewhat more merciful than the rest in performing his collection duties. I am also inclined to think that the pompous ass that accused him left a few very dirty sins out his confession. That is not my opinion only. I challenge the readers to find the same suspicion in the words of the Church Fathers… a worthy search. But then Jesus passes His Divine Judgment on the pair of worshipers:
          I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
          Now, I have been a Catholic for ten years. This August 15 it will be ten years since I was received in the Church. It was a lovely summer afternoon in London and I walked a mere sinner into the Cathedral of the Most Precious Blood and walked out a son of the Church, a redeemed soul, made free by the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.

          Save for some basic skills and a little hasty dabbling in Aristotle the rest came to me by paying attention in Mass, reading good authors and praying and meditating Scripture. I seek the company and conversation of wise men and women, many are priests and most of them are older than me. I listen to them and then I think about it and try to get to the essence of their experience.

          I heard them say many a shocking thing but I took that in and found the good. I dug the treasure out many times and I am sure God has given me a hand in understanding.

          Because it’s all about Him and not about me.

          God Bless You, Fitz.

  • Tarheel

    LOL. In a way Jesus did “make us an offer we can’t refuse.”

    Getting Catholics involved is a problem that must be dealt with. I wish I knew the “how” of this so I could do more.

    In the past 18 months I have read several books that have “infected” me to do more. In no particular order here they are.
    1. “Imitation of Christ” by Kempis
    2. “Rediscover Catholicism” by Matthew Kelly
    3. “Be a Man” by Father Larry Richards
    4. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

    And those items I mentioned in my first post? I lead a bible study group, I am a Vincentian, I attend Men of St Joseph, and for the past 10 years and going on 11th, I teach CCD or Sunday School. Not to brag on myself mind you. I truly feel like I can’t give back enough to the Church that has given me so much.

    Sometimes I feel all of us as Catholics expect the Church to do more for us. Perhaps a paraphrase of JFK’s famous phrase is warranted. “Ask not what your Church can do for you, but what you can do for your Church.”

    • http://www.casorosendi.com/ Carlos Caso-Rosendi

      Good reading and good activities, Tarheel. It is also good that you present it to others so they can see what is missing in their mix. I benefited from reading your comments and see that I need to get more involved in my parish.

      Unfortunately many misinterpret diligence as if it was a fault. Those poor souls understand humility to be a form of mediocrity that one must treasure. Those are the ones Our Lord described as the slave who buried his talent.

      Continue working and never mind the comments from the peanut gallery. They are inevitable. Saint Paul enumerates his own work and many times he places himself as an example. He also had choice words for his detractors and also for the slackers.

      That is not haughtiness nor self-aggrandizement. It would not be in Scripture if it was. Paul could do that because he also had the marks of the Cross earned in his many sufferings. It is our long suffering what turns what it would be ordinary bragging into a humble lesson in living the Gospel.

      We must also pray that God will open the eyes of those who see living in Christ like a pissing contest (excuse the comparison) that they must “win” and the other must “lose” orr be the “lesser.” That is a serious misunderstanding, a tragedy that imperils the souls of many who are so insecure that they must compare themselves to others all the time and come up on top somehow.

      The secret is to serve not by coming up on top of some imaginary contest but to be the losers of this world by becoming the servants of our brothers and sisters:

      “Some seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge: that is curiosity. Others seek knowledge that they may themselves be known: that is vanity. But there are still others who seek knowledge in order to serve and edify others, and that is charity.” St. Bernard de Clairvaux

      Keep up the good work!

      If it helps you in your work please see my short manual on defending Our Blessed Mother. you can read it here:

      http://ark-of-grace.blogspot.com/

      – Sorry Catholic Lane for this shameless self-promotion :)

  • noelfitz

    Carlos,

    many thanks for your post.

    I assure you I did not mean to imply you were a Pharisee. I am very sorry that you feel I did this. This would be far from my intention.

    I have reread what I wrote and I see that in my post I did not criticize you. I never referred to you as a Pharisee. We are here to encourage and build up each other and I would not do anything to upset another person, especially one I consider my friend.

    I am also sorry that you consider that I never seem to have anything positive to say about your comments. I do appreciate them. Again let me emphasize that I consider all the Catholics who contribute here to be loyal and faithful ones.

    The site is not mine, but I would like to have many here discussing, arguing and learning, as part of a family, and in a family we relax and feel we are among people who love us and know us and thus say things we would not say to strangers. We hope to be accepted as we are.

    I am grateful that you thank me for my contributions and welcome me here.

    I am glad that you love me. “ubi caritas et amor Deus ibi est”.

    I really do not think I should stop contributing here. If people take me as “someone that goes around challenging others while basing your belief in the fads blowing from your TV set.” So be it. I think that I have to be true to myself. But I am sorry if I offend anyone.

    You also wrote “The other thing you can do is to apply yourself to the reading of the Fathers of the Church from the Apostolic Fathers onward” I do read the Fathers. Next week at the Sixteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies in Oxford I will give a paper entitled “‘At One with the Bishop and the Presbyters and Deacons’: the Letters of Ignatius Compared with those of Paul.”

    Previously I have given talks and contributed to international conferences in patristics and the Bible in many universities and college in Britain and Ireland, mainly on Paul and the Apostolic Fathers. I have also for example, given a talk in St Patrick’s College, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, which is our national seminary, on Newman and Ignatius of Antioch.

    I consider that none of us know enough about the Bible and we can all benefit by studying the Word of God more. You wrote “The first I suggest is to stay humbly silent until you learn, otherwise you may be taken for someone that goes around challenging others while basing your belief in the fads blowing from your TV set.” How much should I learn until I am free to express an opinion? I have studied for years including in the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem and other reputable institutions.

    I have been a Catholic for over 70 years, but I lack all the reading and study you have done, which is very impressive. Congratulations.

    In September at the first meeting of the Newman Society of Ireland I will introduce and talk on “The Philosophical habits of Mind – Rhetoric and Person in John Henry Newman’s Dublin Writings”, a new book written by a friend of mine Angelo Bottone,

    You also wrote “I don’t like someone to try to put me in my wetback little place by patronizingly and condescendingly imposing his pseudo-Anglo-Saxon smugness on me.” I am an Irish person, a Celt. I am not Anglo-Saxon.

    I really am very sorry if I offended you. It was not my intention. I hope we can continue discussions in a friendly and constructive way.

    I am pleased you ended your letter with a blessing.

    So Carlos, thank you for your contributions here. It is beneficial to hear some straight talking. I will consider seriously what you wrote and be careful not to offend anyone by by posts.

    May God bless you, and your family and friends also, and may he help you in your work in spreading the good news.

  • http://www.casorosendi.com/ Carlos Caso-Rosendi

    Apology accepted and yes BE MORE CAREFUL.

    • noelfitz

      Carlos,

      many thanks for your most recent post. I appreciate it.

      God bless.

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