Scott Hahn provides the laity with an important and useful guide to the new evangelization with his book Evangelizing Catholics: A Mission Manual for the New Evangelization. He educates readers on what the new evangelization is, what it is not and how to successfully share your faith. Our current Pope and the two before him have all spoke of the new evangelization and Scott Hahn delivers a book that helps guide us to successfully accomplishing the mission.
The book is divided into three main parts as follows. The Call: Understanding the New Evangelization, The Response: Models and Methods for the New Evangelization, and The Message: The Content of the New Evangelization. Scott draws upon multiple documents of Vatican II, writing of Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict and Pope Francis to provide a complete resource on the New Evangelization..
A few key points are made in part one of this book. The New Evangelization is not a job for priests or bishops. It’s a mission that only we, the laity, can achieve. We are the ones “in the trenches” so to speak. We are the ones who can go where priests and bishops can not readily go. The laity has the unique advantage of daily interaction with many people via our co-workers, family and friends. This leads to another point we may not consider. As Scott points out when asked about our faith we have two choices. The first is we could walk away and not address it because of fear that we do not have the knowledge to adequately give an answer. The second is we can go do our own research, finding the answer and returning with that answer. In effect we educate ourselves as we search for the answers for others. He goes on to say that we must realize that evangelization is not a “one time proclamation of the Gospel” but rather we must evangelize by our witness. He points out the Church “calls us to overcome our reluctance to evangelize and to do it in word and deed. Not just for the sake of others, but for our own sake as well.”
The early church is used as our example in the second section of the book. The opening chapter of this section “The Catholic Gospel: Lessons from the First Evangelists” contains five lessons we can learn from and follow that were used during the infancy of the Church. The chapters that follow continue the theme. The early Christians did it first and perhaps best. Despite the efforts of the Roman Empire and some pretty ruthless Roman leaders…..Christianity flourished. They accomplished this by example. As Scott states: “The old evangelization, however, didn’t end with the apostles. It began there. Afterward, countless men and women throughout the Roman Empire imitated and lived by the evangelists’ message and methods. In their lives, in the lives of those early Christians, we find equally fundamental lessons for the New Evangelization”.
Scott wraps this excellent book up in section three where he details major teachings of the church. This section opens with a fantastic statement. “It takes exactly ten seconds to proclaim the Gospel. In a mere one-sixth of a minute, you can pronounce the basic pillars of the faith: (1) God loves you; (2) we have sinned; (3) Christ has died for our sins and risen from the dead; and (4) we have to respond to those gifts by faith. It takes a whole lot longer, however, to understand those four truths and let them transform how we see the world and live with it.” This section alone is a must read as Scott touches upon the nature of sin, atonement, the covenant and the Mass. Finally the last chapter opens with these words of caution we all need to hear. “As we go forward to do the work of the New Evangeliztion, we need to guard against an us vs. them mentality. In this culture, it’s easy to see ourselves as the faithful few braving the condemnation of the secular world in order to proclaim the Gospel to all those fallen souls. We may not be sinning as boldly as others. But we still sin. We may believe in Christ. But we need to believe in him more. In this world, we are all fallen. We are all in need of Christ’s mercy and grace.”
The new evangelization is certainly not that new. It’s roots were based in Vatican II and are only being realized now. There is definitely confusion and uncertainty among laity about what their role in it is and how to move forward. Thankfully Scott Hahn has masterfully outlined the what, when, where and how so that everyday lay people may answer the call with success. This is not a job for priests and bishops but rather for us. Scott Hahn has provided the mission manual. This is a book I wish was available when I first launched The Catholic Book Blogger as I struggled with what the purpose of my evangelization endeavor was. That’s how good I think this book is. Read it. Understand your role in the new evangelization than go forth and make disciples.