Carl Anderson speaks on challenge of witnessing in a post-Christian world

ZENIT has posted the address given at the International Congress “Ecclesia in America” by Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus. Here is the opening:

On December 12, 1531, the last day of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, when St. Juan Diego took a different path in order to find a priest for his dying uncle, Our Lady met him on his detour and posed these questions: “My youngest son, what is going on? Where are you going? Where are you headed?”

Today, during this Congress, we ask the very same questions: What is going on? Where are we going? Where are we headed?

Like New Spain in the early 16th century, we too face in many ways a great clash of civilizations—in our time made more troubling by the accelerating process of globalization.

From Chile to Canada, vast majorities still consider themselves Christian. And yet…the countries and cultures built upon Christian faith show great failures of charity, dignity and truth—failures inconsistent with being disciples of the God who is Love. There is simultaneously both a familiarity with Christ and an ignorance of Christ, which in many places has resulted in a mischaracterization of Christ and of the mission of the Church.

The land we are called to evangelize is in an important sense new:  it is neither pre-Christian nor Christian—it is for the first time in history a land facing a horizon that is post-Christian.

The people who once knew Christ and followed him on both a personal and a cultural level now in too many ways fail to recognize him, either in the face of his Church or in the face of the poor.

Where are we going?

As we reflect on the situation of the Church in America, something resonates with us in Juan Diego’s reply to Our Lady: “Though it grieves me, though I will cause anguish toyour face and your heart, I must tell you…that one of your servants…is very ill. A terrible sickness has taken hold of him; he will surely die from it soon.”

Juan Diego spoke of the plague killing his uncle.  We confront another illness—one just as deadly.  And like Juan Diego, it is the care for the human family which brings us here today.  Her intervention can come none too soon. The wisdom of Ecclesia in America is apparent.

Anderson emphasizes the role of Mary in the new evangelization:

What we need now, in this critical moment in history, is a radical return to the Source, who is the Lord, and this return cannot take place without something akin to what happened at the earliest beginnings of the proclamation of the Word and to what Our Lady of Guadalupe points.

In the many iconic representations of Pentecost, we see the Church as it was, is, and must continually become. We see the Church in its theological reality—the apostles are gathered around the Mother of God, awaiting the gift of the Spirit who will allow the Word of God to be perfectly inculturated not only in one tongue or on one continent, but in all cultures and for peoples of the earth.

Mary, the holy and immaculate core of the believing Church, teaches us what it means to receive the Word of God, to contemplate him, and to allow him to bear fruit in our lives. In her, we see what it means to beg for and to receive the “intelligent,” transforming and renewing fire that in the words of our Holy Father allows us to become “light in God.”

Mary is the “star of the new evangelization” because she is the contemplative, loving, compassionate, ever faithful presence that allowed the Church to come into being not as a work of man, but as the gift of the God who is Love.

Mary leads to Christ, not herself. Blessed John Paul II described the Wedding at Cana: “the Mother of Christ presents herself as the spokeswoman of her Son’s will, pointing out those things which must be done so that the salvific power of the Messiah may be manifested.” In this she walks in the spirit of the Jewish prophets, as it were, in that she, like John the Baptist, drew souls to “prepare the way of the Lord, [and to] make straight his paths.”

He also reflects on the essential role played by the laity:

This evangelization recognizes the vital contribution of the laity. This does not bestow on the laity a new mission, but rather awakens the laity to the mission of Baptism – the vocation of holiness and the vocation to evangelize.

It significant that Juan Diego and his uncle were laymen. Their dedication to the faith is apparent in Juan Diego going often to the far away chapel for instruction, as well as his insistence on putting the salvation of his dying uncle first.

The laity also had a greater role in evangelization after the apparitions of Our Lady. In spreading word of the apparition and of the faith which gave such a compassionate encounter with God, lay men and women helped account for the conversion of millions.

In our day, a central aspect of the work of the laity is their role as stewards of the Christian family and therefore of the domestic Church.

Because of the central important of the family not only to its individual members but also to society and culture, the new evangelization must contain at its core the recovery of a sacramental understanding of Christian marriage. If the new evangelization is to be an incarnate proclamation of the beauty of God, who is communion, and of the Church who is the sacrament of this communion, it cannot but have at its center the domestic church. This is so not only because the family is the “model place” where the faith is transmitted to new generations, or where Christian values are lived.

Our faith teaches us that God is a unity in communion, a Trinity, that he is love. God made an irrevocable gift of himself to us in his Son Jesus Christ, who is his covenant with his creation. And because man is made in the image of God, he “is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless” if he does not encounter this love.[7]

Millions of people who have yet to encounter God’s love need the Christian family to be an icon of the God who is communion. They need to see all the elements of human life finding fulfillment in the Son of God made man. They need to see families that are truly human communities, which can thus point their unbelieving brothers and sisters to the beauty of the God who is love.

Read the entire address on the ZENIT site.

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About Carl E. Olson 1207 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.