In examining George Weigel’s book, Evangelical Catholicism, we find a challenge to return to a countercultural position, that is, an evangelical position enflamed by the Holy Spirit that seeks to transform the status quo. However, particularly in recent decades, every time Church leadership has asked Catholics to be countercultural, that is, asking the “cultural” Catholics of the mid-twentieth century to change at a “cultural” level, the conditioned “cultural” response is to defy authority. As we often see, the way many defy authority is to protest and demonstrate against it, particularly resisting the direction in which the authority attempts to lead. The irony is that, when asked to change, many resist by demanding that the authority change. In many cases, it is not a conscious process but the effect of many years of living in a culture that views authority with suspicion and absolutes with skepticism.
For Evangelical Catholicism to have impact, it means there will have to be a cultural revolution within the Church, a revolution that will eventually change the culture around us. In this regard, Weigel notes, “Evangelical Catholicism… is a counterculture that seeks to convert the ambient public culture by proclaiming certain truths, by worshipping in spirit and in truth, and by modeling a more humane way of life. Evangelical Catholicism does not seek to ‘get along’; it seeks to convert.” This model, in many ways, is completely foreign to the Catholicism many Catholics are steeped in today, and will require even “bishops to reimagine their roles as instruments of unity in the Church.” In this regard, recall that the tongues of fire that descended on the first “bishops” of the Church united the people gathered. The Evangelical Catholicism he proposes is a call to the entire Church to once again unite for the sake of mission.
I believe it is very important to understand what he is saying about the Church today. As I noted at the beginning of these reflections, he is not presenting a different or new model for the Church. In reading his book, it is very clear he stands with the Tradition of the Church in proposing Evangelical Catholicism for the present and future of the Church. In this regard, what he is saying is that we need to recapture the zeal of the early Christians, which manifested itself in Faith and Kerygma first, not doctrine or formulae. The latter is important and has its place, but due to the catechetical illiteracy we are facing today, we need to once again place a priority on relationship with Jesus Christ, and the power He imparts through the Holy Spirit to the Faithful. It is only after a person undergoes a radical conversion that he or she will want to understand what that means more fully. While doctrine is important and has its place, Faith come before understanding.
It is with these thoughts in mind that we as a parish must move forward. The future of the Catholic Faith demands that each and every Catholic be burned by the fire of the Holy Spirit. As I have said many times during my priesthood, if we do not do something soon, we will soon have many empty churches. If you want to see the future of the Church in America, just look at what is happening to the Catholic Church in Europe. Weigel, as well as many other authors, admit the needed change is going to be hard, but is no longer optional. To this end, I invite you to attend a Live Christ Share Christ seminar. For the next few months they will be offered on the third weekend of each month. Just so you know, Live Christ Share Christ is not a “method” or “program” but a call to total conversion. In this regard, we must all unite in the common Mission given us by Christ, that is, to Evangelize the world.