Why I Don’t See the New Evangelization Coming to Much Anytime Soon

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Flecte quod est rigidum.

I write inspirational quotes on the dry-erase board
in the servers’ sacristy at my parish
in illuminated calligraphy
whenever I have occasion to go in there.
For the Feast of the Nativity, I wrote,
“Venite, adoremus.”

I am told that a lector,
noticing that I had done this,
objected to this text because,
“It would not do anybody any good,”
since, it being in Latin,
they could not understand it.

He asked the deacon what it meant
and wrote a clumsy interlinear translation
beneath the text.

But as Bede observes,
Neque enim possunt carmina,
quamvis optime composita,
ex alia in aliam linguam ad verbum 
sine detrimento sui decoris
ac dignitatis
transferri.”

In our misguided zeal
to vernacularize
absolutely everything
all the time
we have experienced a loss

of sensitivity,
contenting ourselves
with approximations,
losing our desire
to understand the depth
of the original text,
having no appreciation
for the beauty of expression
found in the original language alone.
We have also experienced a loss

of sense,
missing much,
and neither knowing,
nor caring,
since we have long since
lost our senses.

The same prelates
who chant the Veni Creator
from memory
on their way into the conclave
hardly take any care,
so it seems,
to share such treasures
with their own flocks.

How can a New Evangelizer
be sensitive to the culture
of the unevangelized
if he takes offence
at the Christian culture
of centuries past?

How can he find the value,
the usable gleanings,
the baptizable insights,
the teachable moments,
in the secular world,
if he figures
that the texts,
the prayers,
the ceremonies,
that the Church enjoins Him
to pray and to live,
to love and to make his own,
and that centuries of Saints
have prayed and lived,
loved and owned,
hold nothing of value
for him now?

And in this we are shamed
by the culture we wish to evangelize.
For the non-Catholic composer
Morten Lauridsen
has written gorgeous settings
of Latin liturgical texts
long since passed over
in silence
in most of our churches,
reminding us,
from the outside,
of our own treasures.

Listen, if you haven’t heard.
313,000+ people have sought out
on YouTube
what we thought
would drive people away,
as some ossified, insensitive people
still dogmatically assert.

Fove quod est frigidum.

At four of the five Christmas Masses at my parish,
the priest went out of his way to tell the faithful that,
on the Feast of the Nativity,
in order to honor God’s humbling Himself
to become Man,

to be born in a stable,
to bear with the frailty of our state,
to suffer the scorn and contempt of men,
and to die the shameful death of criminal on the Cross,
all out of love for us,
though we had sinned against Him,

that those to whom He had given
the grace of Baptism,
a share in His divine life,
the freedom and opportunity
to worship Him,
and whom He was about to feed
(for all partake)
with His own precious Body
and Blood spilled for us,

should humble themselves
to genuflect at the words,
“And by the Holy Spirit
was incarnate of the Virgin Mary
and became Man.”

The priest went forward to the altar
at this point in the Creed
and knelt.

About half of the congregation
Sort of tried to.
Most of those got up
after “And by.”
The rest
couldn’t be bothered.

At the Mass where Father said nothing,
No one even bowed.

How can we tell the world
what we have found,
and what we believe,
if we do not believe it enough,
if it does not mean enough, for us
to go down on one knee
for five to ten seconds
in church?

People do not prefer
the enthusiasm
and energy
of megachurches
to the deeply reverent,
physical, and symbolic
liturgical worship
of the Catholic Church:

Perhaps they like them both,
but most people only ever
know where to find the one.

Most people only ever
have experienced the one.

But the Catholic Church
has room for both,
each in its proper place.

Veni, Lumen cordium.

I recently failed to live up
to a major commitment I had made
to complete a job in a timely manner.

I allowed myself to become angry
with the man for whom I was working,
because, after all, I was not getting paid,
and who was he to demand work,
when I was not even being compensated?

I was blind, and my pride was hurt,
when he accused me of lacking
the virtue of justice.

I was lacking justice, though,
and prudence,
and maturity,
and humility,
and patience,
and fortitude,
and charity.

I had agreed to do something
I had never done before
on a timetable whose feasibility
I could not even venture to judge,
in the face of many other
commitments and responsibilities,
and I irresponsibly, out of pride,
and without reflection,
continued at every turn
to recommit myself.

Even if I had never acted in that way,
had I never been asked to do the work,
I would still have lacked those virtues.

Had God not sent this holy employer
into my messed up life
and allowed him to make
my diseased soul
feel pain and show symptoms
of its dreadful illness,
I may never have known
my own vices.

Now that I know, it is within my power
to gain those virtues by perseverance,
and by prayer.

Now that I understand that,
I am grateful for,
and reconciled with,
the man who let me see.
He has been a truer friend to me
than many flatterers.

What hand each of us has
in the brittle rigidness
and stone-cold lovelessness
that we see in evidence
in so much of the Church,
we must ask the Light of Hearts,
the Holy Spirit, to show us.

Perhaps behind our veneer of devotion,
we ourselves are cold and hard
to the warm and tender light
of the Gospel of Christ.

Perhaps we are truly devout,
but lack the fortitude
to take the light we have been given
and to preach the Good News
once more to the baptized
in confident humility.

Ox and ass before Him bow,
bathed in the radiant light
of His manger, unembarrassed
to show homage to their God.

We asses too may,
perhaps,
with grace,
grow so bold,

and our bray will be heard
’round the world.

Sean Connolly

Sean Connolly

Sean is a teacher of History, Latin, and Choir at the high school level and parish music director. He keeps his domestic church in ordered disarray with an equally beleaguered and altogether lovely lady and his little daughter.

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7 thoughts on “Why I Don’t See the New Evangelization Coming to Much Anytime Soon”

  1. OneTimothyThreeFifteen

    The real problem?

    I can see from your writing you’re an incredibly pretentious twit – like most of the New Evangelisation aficionados I know – and so you, like the rest, just annoy sane and normal people.

    In other words, it’s the hubris and sanctimoniousness of most NE advocates that is the biggest obstacle to the program, sadly.

    Needless to say, you all mistakenly thought the Narcissism and Clericalism Pope Francis was talking about at the beginning of his Papacy referred to dissenters and not yourselves.

    1. I’m so sorry that you think that you know me.

      I sense you may need to learn to control your tongue. Writing the first thing that comes to mind has rarely done me any good.

      1. I liked this poem a lot, though I didn’t directly see it relating to the title. I am not sure why the commenter said those things. When I was in high school, I wrote a love sonnet and submitted it to an online poetry contest at the encouragement of my teacher. I got a page-long email back from someone at the website telling me how pretentious it sounded and everything else they believed wrong with it. It made me feel terrible and I didn’t write anything for a long time. When I look back on everything now, I understand that those words were not a reflection of me and my work, but of the angry and bored person behind the computer. I think something similar is at play in this situation. I hope you will continue to write, because I benefit from reading you. Pax +

  2. Sean, I thought your writing was beautiful. It made me feel sad, and I would have left this website without ever having let you know. However, the comment from this “onetimothythreefifteen” person bothered me so much, I had to post something. Thank you for taking the time to share with all of us. Even those of us who forget how our words should be encouraging, and if critical at all, should be said with love and gentleness. I pray that Our Lord will bless you, Sean and also that He will bless this person “onetimothythreefifteen”. Whatever is going in “his” life that has caused him to be so mean and hurtful to others…perhaps Our Lord will relieve him of that burden.

  3. I was surprised by the title so I read the poem. I’m not sure the title fits?? The “new evangelization” is a bit of a mystery at this point. We know why we need it (your experience of apparent hopelessness at mass, for example), and we know the Church is calling for it, but you haven’t said much to answer the question your title suggests. I suppose I could comment on positive experiences of renewal just as easily as I might affirm your frustration about bowing during the creed (for example, I bow now thanks to “new evangelists”). Why exactly don’t you see the New Evangelization coming to much anytime soon?

  4. I sympathize with some of the sentiments here. I find much comfort in knowing that the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. Seeds grow in quiet, dark, earth. I take comfort in knowing that the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword. I find a strange comfort in knowing that, to God, my soul is in such need of help. God condescended to us. How often am I blind to beauty, or the chance to love? The world isn’t kind to sensitivity, is it? Thank God for humor!

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