Cardinal-designate Dolan outlines ‘creative strategy’ for evangelization

Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan of New York
Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan of New York

.- In remarks to the Pope and the College of Cardinals, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan outlined a seven-point “creative strategy of evangelization” to counter secularism and bring people to Jesus.

“In many of the countries represented in this college, the ambient public culture once transmitted the Gospel, but does so no more. In those circumstances, the proclamation of the Gospel -- the deliberate invitation to enter into friendship with the Lord Jesus -- must be at the very center of the Catholic life of all of our people,” he said on Feb. 17.

The Archbishop of New York’s comments came during the College of Cardinal’s day of prayer and reflection, held at the Vatican’s New Synod Hall one day before the Feb. 18 consistory that will create 22 new cardinals.

New York’s cardinal-to-be delivered his speech in Italian in the presence of Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the college’s dean. He drew on the words of Pope Benedict, Pope John Paul II, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, and famous saints, urging the cardinals to remember the potential of all people for conversion.

“(W)e believe with the philosophers and poets of old, who never had the benefit of revelation, that even a person who brags about being secular and is dismissive of religion, has within an undeniable spark of interest in the beyond, and recognizes that humanity and creation is a dismal riddle without the concept of some kind of creator,” he said.

Cardinal-designate Dolan repeated the biblical exhortation “be not afraid,” stressing the need for confidence while also rejecting “triumphalism” in the Church. He said the recognition that the Church herself needs evangelization gives Catholics humility and awareness of the Church’s “deep need” for interior conversion.

“God does not satisfy the thirst of the human heart with a proposition, but with a Person, whose name is Jesus,” he stated. The New Evangelization invites people not to doctrine, but to know, love and serve him.

The cardinal-designate also said that the missionary and the evangelist must be “a person of joy.”

He recounted a story of a man dying of AIDS at the Gift of Peace Hospice in the Archdiocese of Washington who sought baptism because the Missionaries of Charity sisters who cared for him were so “very happy” because of Jesus.

“The New Evangelization is accomplished with a smile, not a frown,” Cardinal-designate Dolan summarized.

This evangelization is also about love incarnated in care for children, the sick, the elderly, the orphaned and the hungry.

“In New York, the heart of the most hardened secularist softens when visiting one of our inner-city Catholic schools,” he said.

“When one of our benefactors, who described himself as an agnostic, asked Sister Michelle why, at her age, with painful arthritic knees, she continued to serve at one of these struggling but excellent poor schools, she answered, ‘Because God loves me, and I love Him, and I want these children to discover this love.’”

The cardinal-designate’s most sobering words came with his seventh strategy for the new evangelization: the blood of the martyrs.

He cited the Pope’s speech for presenting the red biretta to new cardinals: “know that you must be willing to conduct yourselves with fortitude even to the shedding of your blood.”

Though Cardinal-designate Dolan jokingly asked the Pope to omit that passage from his presentation, he also said that cardinals must be aids for Christians called to be “ready to suffer and die for Jesus.”

The “supreme witness” is martyrdom, he noted.

“While we cry for today’s martyrs; while we love them, pray with and for them; while we vigorously advocate on their behalf; we are also very proud of them, brag about them, and trumpet their supreme witness to the world.”

Their stories still have an impact, he told his fellow bishops.

“A young man in New York tells me he returned to the Catholic faith of his childhood, which he had jettisoned as a teenager, because he read The Monks of Tibhirine, about Trappists martyred in Algeria fifteen years ago, and after viewing the drama about them, the French film, ‘Of Gods and Men.’”

“Tertullian would not be surprised,” concluded Cardinal-designate Dolan, citing the Church father who said the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.

As he closed his wide-ranging address to the College of Cardinals, he emphasized the need to communicate simply, as to a catechism class for children.

“We need to speak again as a child the eternal truth, beauty, and simplicity of Jesus and His Church,” he said.

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