Monday, October 11, 2010

Why is "Evanglization" a Dirty Word for Catholics?

Interesting discussion about a name change on the Facebook page for Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association (PNCEA).  Fr. Frank DeSiano and Fr. Tony Krisak et al are raising the question as to whether the term "evangelization" should even be included, because it might be a "turn-off" for Catholics. While this might have some validity, as one person who commented points out, we need to educate people that "evangelization" IS the primary mission of the Church.

So, just why would it be a "turn-off"?  A discussion I have been having with another person on the Facebook site is revealing. It revolves around an understanding that Evangelization is something we do after we have been led to a personal experience of a relationship with Jesus Christ. This person seems to think we need to teach people the Tradition and doctrine of the Church and that is the more important priority... and should be enough.  Personally, I believe it is "both-and" -- we do not need to wait until we learn everything there is to know about Tradition and doctrine before going out and inviting others to know Jesus.  Teaching people the Tradition and doctrine is very necessary, but not the first priority. When we focus in that direction, we, in effect, put the cart before the horse.

Catechesis is a moment within Evangelization (General Directory for Catechesis). It does not substitute for Evangelization. It should, for those "raised in the faith" as children, be simultaneous. For adults, ideally, Evangelization is the front door to the catechetical process - the "Inquiry" phase of the RCIA.  It is a concept at the heart of who we are - the Church that came into being when the Apostles ran into the street to tell others about Jesus Christ. The Church as institution exists to support Evangelization (Evangelii nuntiandi 14), and in turn, Evangelization exists to support a lived experience of Jesus Christ, which also takes place and is supported within the context of the Church.  It really is "both-and"... not "either-or"... and we don't need to apologize for that.


  1. I think the main reason the average Catholic looks askance of evangelizing is that the average Catholic doesn't know the faith or the Bible well enough to answer the questions that he will inevitably be asked.

  2. The Church teaches that evangelization is should take place before being taught the Tradition and doctrine. That's why Inquiry comes frist in RCIA. Your friend is exactly putting the cart before the horse. Of course, it is possible that some evangelization takes place through learning about the doctrine and Tradition of the Church. But it is first and understanding of the need of a savior and a desire to be united with him through the Church that should precede the formal catechetical lessons. Good post.

  3. Good point, Marc. The real issue, I believe, is that for too long we have catechized those baptized as infants about "faith facts" - doctrine, and Tradition - without realizing that those we catechize often do not have a living relationship with Jesus Christ. We need to be providing evangelizing catechesis to children, youth - and to their parents.