I attended a new outreach event that the Archdiocese put on at Frankford Hall in Fishtown the other week. Food and beer galore, a packed house, unique music, young priests — it ended up being the place to be for a younger Catholic in the area. It was kicked off by Archbishop with an opening grace and the cacophony erupted from then until around 11pm.
When I was invited as a seminarian, I was told that it would be the place to bring a non-church goer to in order for them to “hear the good news” because, he said, “Everyone deserves to hear the good news!” So, I went to the event to go hear this “good news” and despite the food, beer, and atmosphere—really everything being top notch—I left deeply disappointed.
The reason for my disappointment started at about 10:30pm when I went up to a veteran seminarian wearing clerics and asked him if he shared the “good news” with anyone. I can’t tell if his answer is more comical or telling, because he said, “Well, I was talking to this one girl about the goat cheese and, well, you never know where that’s going to go!”
Talk about missing the boat. I understand what he’s saying and where he’s coming from (he happens to be a good friend of mine), but there seems to be a disconnect between what is heralded as “good news” and “evangelization” and what those things actually mean.
I remember a couple of years ago on apostolate where I was giving my well-rehearsed vocation story at a high school. Suddenly, Fr. DeLacy handed me the mic he asked me to tell them about my relationship with Jesus first. Tell them why Jesus is important, he indicated, before going into my vocation story. I was speechless. I thought about the last spiritual direction I had and the commentary that blew me away that I read the previous week, but I just couldn’t put that into an answer to the question “Who is Jesus to you?”
Just hearing that question is uncomfortable sometimes because Catholics just don’t do that. We don’t talk that way. We don’t have a lexicon to express why Jesus matters to us. And this is my point—what people my age (even at the seminary) are being told is the New Evangelization is definitely new, lively, attractive, but where’s the actual good news? At Frankford Hall no one got up and shared how Jesus helped them turn away from sin in their life, or talked in small groups about why Jesus rising from the dead mattered to them, or a testimonial about how their new life with Christ is worth living even with the sacrifice.
It’s not that Anthem’s was a bad event. Don’t get me wrong. But it’s just another example of how the “New Evangelization” never even gets to the evangelization part. Evangelization comes from the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον—the prefix “eu” meaning good, like how eulogy really means “good word” (eu-logos), and “ἄγγελος” meaning “messenger.” If we create a bridge for people to come into the Church, the beer and goat cheese is great, but it means nothing without the Good News.
I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the event, but isn’t something substantial missing when we speak of evangelization without actually evangelizing? Share the beer and goat cheese, but don’t think you’re evangelizing until you actually are — that is, until you share the Good News.