A new springtime
In a recent letter to the German people (June 29) Pope Francis commented that we are living in hard times – “times of the cross”, he said. He speaks of his own anguish “to see the growing erosion and decay of the faith with all that this entails not only on the spiritual level but also socially and culturally”. What he describes of the experience of the Church in Germany is also largely the experience in the western world.
In the face of this the Pope has a simple solution. He calls the German people to discover the beauty of evangelisation. He says, “Evangelisation leads us to recover the joy of the Gospel, the joy of being Christian.”
He comments, “Nothing can destroy the supernatural joy, which adapts, transforms and always remains, at least as an outbreak of light that arises from the personal certainty of being infinitely loved, beyond all.” He is convinced that when one engages in evangelisation an inner security is generated and “a hopeful serenity that provides their spiritual satisfaction incomprehensible to human parameters”.
It is natural for us to feel overwhelmed by trends that are undermining the Christian heritage of our society. However, there are also clear signs of new spiritual life recognisable in the Church, a new springtime for evangelisation.
A Catholic renaissance can be seen in the work of Bishop Robert Barron and his Word on Fire ministry. Many in the Cathedral Parish are finding their faith enriched by a new media platform called Formed; Shalom World Catholic media now stands alongside EWTN as providing rich Catholic content available on TV; while the Australian-based Parousia Media is generating inspiring materials which nourish the faith.
Across Australia there are a plethora of Catholic initiatives for young people – the Ignite Conference, Young Men of God conference, Stronger with Fr Rob Galea, Jesus Youth, the Culture Project, Frassati houses, to name just a few. In December some 5,000 young people will gather in Perth for the ACYF (Australian Catholic Youth Festival). Among the young there are many signs of hope for the future.
There are many reasons to have confidence that the Church will be renewed in spiritual and evangelical vitality. It could be likened to the new green shoots that we see at springtime.
At the heart of this renaissance in faith is the joyful proclamation of the faith by Catholics who have experienced an encounter with God in one way or another. This personal encounter with Christ has led thousands of Catholics to want to spread the joy of being Christian. Now in many and varied ways the Church is coming alive with a desire to live the faith and to share the faith.
On Friday and Saturday, August 30 & 31, the first Evangelium conference was held in Tasmania. Its aim was to foster a spirit of evangelisation among ordinary Catholics, with a special focus on parish communities. Robert Falzon, founder of MenALIVE, inspired those attending in his two keynote addresses. His contribution was further strengthened by two plenary talks and ten workshops all provided by Tasmanian speakers.
There was a palpable joy evident among the participants and a united desire to advance the spread of the Gospel in Tasmania. We can have confidence that amid the challenges we face new lights are shining, we are on the verge of a new springtime.
Archbishop Julian Porteous
September 8, 2019