RALPH MARTIN: While we have been very good at emphasizing the mercy and love of God for many years now a certain indifference, even presumption, has crept into many minds and hearts, to the effect: since virtually everyone will be saved there is no real urgency to evangelize. Of course, this isn’t what Jesus or the Apostles teach nor what Vatican II teaches. In the book I devote entire chapters to what Vatican II teaches, what Jesus and the Apostles have asked us to tell people, and a whole chapter on mercy. While the mercy of God is great there is a need to respond to mercy for it to be efective in our lives in bringing forgiveness of sins, and there are consequences to closing our hearts to mercy – namely, separation from God. There really is a heaven and there really is a hell and it does matter a great deal what we believe and how we live. As Jesus said: Not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ will get into the Kingdom of God but only those who do the will of our Father in heaven.
PETE: You make a good point that the new evangelization is really not that new but had its roots in Vatican II. Why do you think Vatican II’s outcome was so misinterpreted and why has it taken so long for us to finally realize its intent and value?
RALPH MARTIN: There are many factors that contributed to the confusion after Vatican II. The purpose of the Council, as stated by subsequent Popes, was renewal for the sake of evangelization, and yet just the opposite seemed to happen. For one thing just as Church was opening the windows for the Holy Spirit the cultural revolution of the sixties hit and the spirit of the age entered as well. Also, very famous theologians gave lectures around the world saying that Vatican II was a good start but it didn’t go far enough, which tilted people towards speculation about ‘what else can change’ at the expense of paying attention to what Vatican II actually taught.
PETE: In the book you state that people should first educate themselves. What recommendations do you have for them to achieve this?
RALPH MARTIN: In terms of the reasons for evangelization I would recommend my new book. In terms of apologetics and being able to answer objections to the faith there are so many good books by Peter Kreeft, Scott Hahn, etc.
PETE: When people have strengthened their own faith they can now go out and evangelize their friends and neighbors. For those not comfortable with this task, what advice can you give?
RALPH MARTIN: Pope Francis even says we don’t need never ending preparation but need to get out there and start witnessing to our faith. There are so many simple ways of doing this: inviting people to events where they can hear the gospel, passing on a book or CD that could awaken faith, giving our own personal testimony, etc.PETE: Pope Benedict XVI named you as Consultor to the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization. What does this appointment entail?
RALPH MARTIN: The appointment means being available for consultation on matters that concern the New Evangelization. The biggest responsibility so far was also being named as an “expert” to the Synod on the New Evangelization in 2012. I willl also be in Rome June 1-2 to speak at a big event with Pope Francis and will touch base with the Pontifical Council as well.
PETE: Time for my signature ending question. This is a blog about books. What is currently on your bookshelf to read?
RALPH MARTIN: Having writing deadlines right now my reading is focused on these projects. I’ve been asked to contribute a chapter to a book on Vatican II and my assignment is the Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity (Ad Gentes) so my reading is focused on books and articles that deal with this Decree.
You can read my review of The Urgency of The New Evangelization: Answering the Call here.
Other books by author Ralph Martin
The Fulfillment of All Desire
Will Many Be Saved?: What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization