New evangelization starts right here at home

aymond    What is your understanding of the purpose of the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization?
    The Holy Father called for the synod – and specifically called for it on the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council – because he wanted us to reflect again on the great gifts that Vatican II has given to the Church and still is proposing to the Church. He has called us to observe a Year of Faith to recommit ourselves to Christ, to the Church, to the Spirit and to the actualization of Vatican II. He’s calling us to recommit ourselves to the beginning of a new evangelization.
    Did you get a sneak peek at the synod on your ad limina visit to Pope Benedict in January?
    Yes. We met with the new Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. The purpose of the synod is to gather representatives of the Catholic Church throughout the world – cardinals, bishops, priests, women religious and laypeople – as well as ecumenical representatives from other denominations to discuss what we can do to make our world a more Christian and Christ-like place. Of course, the synod can suggest whatever actions it wants, but it’s up to us to put that into practice in our own lives and families, in our places of work and in our community.
    What does Pope Benedict mean by the new evangelization?
    Certainly, he means reaching out as we always have to those who do not know Christ, those people who live in mission lands but also those in our own country who really do not know Christ. He has been very clear in saying that for those of us who know and have accepted Christ, this is an opportunity to deepen our faith in Christ, to have a much more personal relationship with Christ, so that our faith really does guide our actions, attitudes and morality. He also mentions – and this is important – that we must reach out to those who are unchurched, those who are away from the church, those who have been hurt by the church, especially by church leaders. This is an opportunity to invite them back. It’s the Holy Father’s privileged opportunity to promulgate a Year of Faith. The last one was called by Paul VI in 1968, three years following the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council. As we look at the documents of Vatican II, we realize that many of them have been implemented, some have been partially implemented and some of them really haven’t been taken seriously enough.
    What do you recall of Vatican II?
    Many people today were not alive during Vatican II, but I remember it very distinctly. I can remember praying in elementary school at St. James Major for the success of Vatican II and for God’s inspiration. Now I occasionally hear disturbing things. Some people have said Vatican II should not have happened or Vatican II was “a mistake.” Vatican II was called by the Holy Father, Blessed John XXIII; it was attended by all the bishops of the world; and it was led by the Holy Spirit. It’s not only inaccurate to call it an error but also negative and cynical to think that a world council could be called that would not be moved by the Holy Spirit.
    What are the opportunities and challenges of the new evangelization in the Archdiocese of New Orleans?
    Whether we’re Catholic or not, we in the archdiocese live in a very Catholic community and culture. Because of that, it’s very easy to take our faith for granted. The real question is two-fold: First, what can I do in my personal life to become more intimate with the Lord Jesus? How can I spend more time in prayer? How can I become more active in my parish? Second, what can this new evangelization do to parish communities? We call parishes families of faith. How can we build up that family spirit so that parishes do become more fully true families of faith. Within each family, there are tensions and there are people who are not talking to one another. So how can we reach out to those people and invite them back to the family but also show respect to them and try to awaken in them God’s love and forgiveness?
    You have called in 2013 for a Year of Family and Faith. Why have you added the family component to the theme?
    We believe, as the Holy Father does, that faith in nourished first and foremost in the family. The stronger family life is, the greater opportunity a person will have to know the Lord Jesus and experience his love. So if we can strengthen family life, we’ll be strengthening our faith, both at home, in the parish community and in the larger community.
    Questions for Archbishop Aymond may be sent to clarionherald@clarionherald.org.

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