The Church Evangelizes When…

One of my personal hopes for the Synod is that the Church would communicate a clearer understanding of what evangelization is and what evangelization is not. I think there is a lot of confusion in this regard. I’ve heard some good people say that everything the Church does is evangelization. I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I think it can be true but we shouldn’t presume that everything the Church does is evangelization because the Church is the doer.

Pope Paul IV wrote some very insightful words that help bring some clarity, he said, “the Church evangelizes when she seeks to convert” (EN#49).  This principle was later affirmed by Blessed John Paul II in his Encyclical letter, Mission of the Redeemer. The key factor determining whether an activity of the Church is evangelization or not is the intention behind it. If the purpose behind the activity is anything but conversion, it isn’t evangelization. The desire to convert must fully animate the activity in order for it to be considered evangelization.

This idea seems to be affirmed within the propositions that were unofficially published this afternoon in Rome. “The ‘first proclamation’ is where the kerygma, the message of salvation of the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ, is proclaimed with great spiritual power to the point of bringing about repentance of sin, conversion of hearts and a decision of faith.”

When we seek by our activity to help people repent of their sin, convert their hearts to the Lord and make the decision to accept the saving sovereignty of Christ and become his disciple, we are in the business of evangelization. Anything other than that might be good to do and still a valid contribution from the Church towards the temporal order, it’s just not evangelization. As Fr. Bob Bedard, founder of the Companions of the Cross often said, “Only evangelization is evangelization.”

You can the full list of propositions here:

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