Notes from Congress: Dr. Ralph Martin on the Urgency of the New Evangelization

imageIn early November, the Saint Joseph Province of the Dominican Order held a Congress for the Lay Fraternities of Saint Dominic. (That’s our official title as Lay Dominicans.) It was a spiritually enriching experience to go to the Congress, and I was blessed to be able to hear several amazing speakers, including the Master General of the Dominican Order, Father Bruno Cadoré. I’ll be sharing my notes from the Congress each Sunday for a few weeks. To find the entire list, look for the “Notes from Congress” category on the sidebar.

Please keep in mind that these are my notes, and that I did my best to write everything down correctly. If there are holes or mistakes, consider them mine. I will do my best to faithfully represent the talks that I heard. If you were there (or are one of the speakers!) and see a mistake in my posts, please comment so that we can clear up any misunderstandings I have or misrepresentations I might have made. (Unless I use quotation marks, consider the words you read to be my summary of the talk given. Direct quotes that I was able to put down will be in quotation marks.)

The last time I wrote, I featured Mr. David Brecount, OP, discussing how to activate the Lay Dominican life as a family. This week, I’m featuring Dr. Ralph Martin, who discussed with us the urgency of the new evangelization. Dr. Martin works with Renewal Ministries and is the author of several books, including The Fulfillment of All Desire.


When did the New Evangelization begin? Really, it began with Jesus’ command to preach the gospel. What Vatican II wanted to do was to begin evangelization anew, to have a renewal of the Church for the sake of evangelization. Vatican II calls for a recovery of the universal call to holiness. As Saint John Paul II said, every Catholic is called to sainthood.  In Pope Paul VI’s  Evangelii Nuntiandi, as well as in Pone John Paul II’s Redemptoris Missio, we read that confusion undermines evangelization.

[Side note: While typing these notes, I found the following in Evangelii Nuntiandi:

4. This fidelity both to a message whose servants we are and to the people to whom we must transmit it living and intact is the central axis of evangelization. It poses three burning questions, which the 1974 Synod kept constantly in mind:

— In our day, what has happened to that hidden energy of the Good News, which is able to have a powerful effect on man’s conscience?

— To what extent and in what way is that evangelical force capable of really transforming the people of this century?

— What methods should be followed in order that the power of the Gospel may have its effect?

Basically, these inquiries make explicit the fundamental question that the Church is asking herself today and which may be expressed in the following terms: after the Council and thanks to the Council, which was a time given her by God, at this turning-point of history, does the Church or does she not find herself better equipped to proclaim the Gospel and to put it into people’s hearts with conviction, freedom of spirit and effectiveness?]

What is a good definition of evangelization? John Paul II gives a good core definition in paragraph 46 of Redemptoris Missio: “The proclamation of the Word of God has Christian conversion as its aim…” At its heart, this is an invitation to freedom.

The above quote continues: “…a complete and sincere adherence to Christ and His gospel through faith.” This means that conversion isn’t complete until we’re willing to write a blank check to the Lord. Sometimes we love the search for truth moire than the finding of it. We should be like Peter, who said, “Leave me, Lord, for I’m a sinful man!” but ultimately left everything behind and followed Jesus.

Following Jesus isn’t easy. Jesus is popular for His nice actions. When a hard teaching is brought up, we hear people say things like, “My Jesus wouldn’t say that!” Saying that is like creating a God in our own image. There aren’t compassionate and non-compassionate teachings of Jesus. Everything He says is out of love. Conversion means making a personal decision for Christ and becoming His disciple. And it all comes down to one question:

Who do you say He is?

imageHow do we engage in the New Evangelization? Pope St. John Paul II said that the mission is all around us. Baptized, confirmed Catholics aren’t living as disciples of Christ. That is the mission field! Sacramental prep must be looked at with an evangelization optic. Homilies have to tell people what kind of response is expected of them.

We’re used to thinking of priests and nuns as the evangelists, but the laity needs to step up! Vatican II’s “Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People” says that we don’t need special permission to evangelize because Jesus gives it to us.

There are four aspects of lay evanglization:

1. The witness of our lives: We don’t need to be perfect, but our faith should inform our lives. People will notice if we’re living our faith.

2. Works of Mercy: We should be helping people. This is a part of witnessing with our lives.

3. Renewing the temporal order: Participate in society! Be involved in political activity, the pro-life movement, environmental care. We can’t retreat from this.

4. Speak about Jesus with words as well as giving witness with an eye for conversion. How? Invite people to hear speakers, share spiritual books, explain about spiritual retreats and other opportunities to grow in faith. If someone asks you a question that stumps you, say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out,” and then look for the answer in the Catechism.

What’s the worst thing that can happen to you when you evangelize? A radical Muslim gets angry and kills you for it? That’s martyrdom! That’s not a losing situation!

Right now, this is a Dominican Moment. This is the time for the Order of Preachers to get out and do what they do best.

Today’s world has a problem. People say that the way to Heaven is easy and wide, and the road to Hell is narrow and hard to find. They have it completely backwards. We must help people understand the truth. Death is the punishment for sin, but Christ gives us a solution; He removes the sting of death!

Who do you say He is?

Knowing about Jesus is not enough: we must act upon it! Jesus told St. Faustina, “His mercy is great and boundless, but without response, it cannot help us.” Response means repentance and faith. If we stay silent, we will be held responsible for souls that are lost.


Thank you for reading along this week. Next week, I’ll be writing about Mr. Caleb Payne, OP, and his discussion of evangelization in today’s world, with some real-world techniques.