We are living in a moment of grace. Blessed John Paul II of happy memory continually spoke of the need for reviving and renewing the faith. Public life today gives too little evidence of religious convictions or moral principles derived therefrom. They find it difficult to “listen to others speaking of God” (Lineamenta on New Evangelization, 19). Soren Kierkegaard rightly pointed out the present condition of Christendom: “Christendom has done away with Christianity, without being quite aware of it. The consequence is that, if anything is to be done, one must try again to introduce Christianity into Christendom” (Kierkegaard 1941, 39).
The time of St. Vincent Pallotti witnessed revolutions, upheavals, and their consequences like declining of faith and love. In this dangerous and difficult situation, Vincent Pallotti felt the need to do something substantial to restore the image of God in every human person. Pallotti realized that the reparation is entrusted with everyone, using every means available, and aimed at reviving of faith and rekindling of charity. As a result, the Union of the Catholic Apostolate was born in response to the actual needs of the Church and the world. Through the Union of the Catholic Apostolate the laity could participate in the mission and play their role in defending the faith.
When faced with similar situations, Pope John Paul II also adopted a method similar to that of Pallotti that is the revival of the faith of the Catholic, and termed it as ‘New Evangelization.’ During his apostolic visit to Poland in 1979, while delivering a homily at Sanctuary of the Holy Cross, Pope used the term, ‘New Evangelization,’ for the first time in history. Then, in 1983, he explained the expression more clearly in the Bishop’s Conference of Latin America. He was not thinking of merely a re-evangelization of the continent, but of a sharing of the faith which was new in its vigor, new in its methods and new in its expressions.
The seventeenth General Assembly of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate took the first step to respond to the call of the Church for New Evangelization. The Assembly declared: “To all a new missionary response appeared to be urgent; a New Evangelization which, starting from a common openness to the Spirit, would lead to internal renewal and succeed in giving voice to the hopes of people as active and decisive subjects of their own faith and of their Christian maturity” (In the Union to Evangelize 1992, 15). Declaring thus the Assembly re-emphasized the role of Pallottines in the new missionary endeavor of the Church. For Pallotti, the project of New Evangelization was not just another theme in his life, but it was the centre of God’s will for his life and the goal of his foundations; the real solution for the crisis of his time; the purpose for which all efforts spiritual and temporal were to be directed; the fundamental project that would unite the clergy, religious and laity; and the instrument through which the hope for one flock and one shepherd would be realized. Having seen the impetus of New Evangelization in the charism of St. Vincent Pallotti, we are now in a position to spell out some expressions that Pallottines are familiar with in order to response to the call for a New Evangelization.
Catholic Apostolate: Pallotti was convinced of the apostolic character of the entire people of God. Apostolate, therefore, is not restricted to the priestly class alone. Every idea and every suggestion put forward by Pallotti regarding the Catholic Apostolate is reflected in the Decrees of Second Vatican Council that came out 115 years after his death. Instrumentum Laboris on New Evangelization (n. 106) reiterates the participation of various persons (priests, parents, religious and catechists) in the evangelization, each exercising a proper task and responsibility. Pallotti asks everyone: “Can you pray for the salvation of men? Then pray. Can you give good example to others? Then show good example. Can you exhort your neighbor to do good? Then exhort him. Can you contribute something to help the missionary activities? This is how you become an apostle” (OO CC IV, 326). Thus you can be an agent of New Evangelization becoming an apostle yourself.
The Cenacle Model: The Pallottine icon of the cenacle is quite capable of responding to the call of the Church today. The little Church gathered in the cenacle is a symbol of an ecclesial vision of communion, where all the faithful feel co-responsible for the mission of the Church and participate in it with equal dignity and right. In this model of the Church, there is no claim for superiority, but all are equal among equals (Gen. Stat. 29a, 31). Today, the churches are caught up in a situation of conflict and struggle within. There are many unevangelical values dominating our churches, for example, power politics, financial ambiguity, growing distance from the poor, excessive institutionalization, and eagerness for fame and recognition. In this situation, the cenacle model invites every Catholic to become an authentic apostle of Jesus for the transmission of Christian Faith. The presence and action of the Holy Spirit will be the hall mark of this project.
Love of Christ Urges Us: St. Vincent Pallotti suggested the words of St. Paul as a motto for apostolic work: “The love of Christ urges us” (2 Cor 5:14). In order to be urged and motivated by the love of Christ, we need to be rooted in his love. New Evangelization is not possible without the motivation by the Spirit of Christ. Pope Francis states, in Lumen Fidei, n. 18, that it is the love of Christ that urges the Christians to live their lives in this world with ever greater commitment and intensity. According to Pallotti the love of God and Jesus should impel us to do everything and this must be the soul of any apostolic work. Pallotti emphasized this motto because of the emerging tendency among evangelists to seek prestige, honour and reward here on earth. This motto should lead us to the realization that we are only instruments in the hand of God.
Thus, we have a paradigm shift in our approach to Evangelization. As Pallottines we are the ‘chosen’ people for this ministry and our charism impels us do it efficiently. It is the right time for us to respond to the situations according to the charism of our founder. Let the charism of St. Vincent Pallotti be spelled out through the apostolic activities we undertake to the revival of faith and rekindling of charity in the Church and in the world. May our founder St .Vincent Pallotti help us in our response to the call of the Project of New Evangelization.
Bro. Shine Augustine, S.A.C. is a member of the Epiphany Province of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate (Pallottine Fathers and Brothers) in Nagpur, India, and is in his fourth year of Theology studies in Prabodhana, Mysore.