Launch of book
The New Evangelisation, Priests and Laity,
the Great Challenge of the New Millennium
Jury’s Hotel, Croke Park
5 December 2008
Cardinal Seán Brady
On 7 September 1921 a small group of people met in the Parish of St Nicholas of Myra, in this City. They were motivated by their awareness of the Christian Vocation to bear witness to Christ in the World. Under the leadership of the great Frank Duff, the Legion of Mary was founded. During the next 40 years the Legion had grown into 60,000 active units over 5 continents. I don’t know the current figures but I do know that within 40 years there were already1 million active members and 9 million auxiliary members. They were acclaimed for their marvellous work of Evangelisation and specifically for the work of helping people back to the Church. The mustard seed had indeed grown into a huge tree. By their fruits you shall know them.
In Ireland this has been announced as the Year of Vocation. The great challenge of this decade is to hear again the Good News, brought by Jesus, the Good News about Jesus and to ask ourselves: What is that Good News asking us to do?
I am delighted to be here to launch this book. It is of course the text of the talks given at a Conference, on that same topic, held in Emmaus in May 2007. Once again, I congratulate the Legion of Mary on organising that Conference. They did so with typical alertness to the signs of the times. The New Evangelisation was a favourite phrase of the late Pope John Paul II. He used to emphasise that evangelisation means, making known the Good News about Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ who came to offer to each one of us, the possibility of entering into a relationship of deep friendship with the Father. It is a new evangelisation, not in the sense that there is anything new being said, but it is being said in a new way to a new generation with new ardour and new methods.
To speak to us about Evangelisation, the organisers invited along the Holy Father’s Church Minister for Evangelisation, Cardinal Ivan Dias, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of People.
Of course, once people hear the good of Jesus Christ, they realise that they themselves are called to share the love of God by means of Sacraments and to worship and praise God. Hence they invited along Cardinal Arinze, the Church’s Minister of Divine Worship and the Sacraments to speak on that all important issue.
I came away from that Conference filled up with joy at the achievement of the Legion of Mary and with hope for the future, built on the devotion and dedication of those who attended. My hope is that people will take up this book, read it, and think about what they find there. In a time of recession and of doom and gloom, good news is a treasure. That is what Evangelisation is all about, bringing good news.
I came away from the recent Synod of Bishops filled with the same sort of hope. The hope that we will experience a new energy in the Church, a new enthusiasm for announcing the Good News about Jesus Christ – the same yesterday, today and forever – alive in His Church – source of hope for the world.
I suppose you could say that one thesis of this Book is that Christianity is the only way to the true and authentic joy. I love the article by Fionnuala O’Kennedy focusing on examples of how the laity have been encouraged and mobilised by priests. It is a great morale booster for us priests to read, I can tell you. In her article, Fionnuala Kennedy ventured to suggest that the Legion remains largely untried here in Ireland. What difference has association with members of the Legion meant to Fionnuala Kennedy? She says, “It has given me an awareness of my responsibility to share in the Mission of the Church.” She said, “In Ireland today the Church has been in the grips of winter, at times frozen, some have turned away, while others have lost heart.” But she asks, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” This is the question in the hearts of many, as they await the call from their priests for mobilisation and encouragement to welcome the inevitable spring.
This Book reminds us that St Vincent de Paul was one of the most formative influences in the life of Frank Duff. The St Vincent de Paul Society always comes into the news at this time of the year and I think it is particularly urgent that we listen to their appeals this year when so many vulnerable people are in danger of suffering because of poverty.
The work of evangelisation is a task for the whole Church. The recent Synod of Bishops repeated the same thing, when it said. “The mission to announce the Word of God is the responsibility of all disciples of Jesus Christ, as a consequence of their baptism.” This awareness must be deepened in every parish, every community and Catholic organisation; initiatives must be proposed that allow the Word of God to reach everyone, especially to those brothers and sisters who are baptised but not sufficiently evangelised. Since the Word of God became flesh, in order to communicate itself to all people, a privileged way of coming to know it is through encounter with witnesses who render it present and alive.
Brendan Leahy says, “To evangelise means to show this path towards happiness, to teach the art of living.” Pope John Paul said we need an evangelisation that is new in ardour, in methods and in modes of expression. On the one hand there are the Word, the Sacraments and Ministry, Pillars of the Church, the Rock, but the Church is only fully realised when there is a knack of response on our part to the gifts communicated. Mary is the model of that response, with her, “Yes”, which she spoke at the annunciation and repeated at the crucifixion. So we too must say “Yes”. We need to have a deep and personal experience of God. We need to put God in the first place in our lives and do the ‘good’ God wants. The new ardour for the New Evangelisation is to see God, who is love, as our ideal.
Cardinal Ó Fiaich described Frank Duff as the greatest Irish man of the century, when speaking at his funeral. He deserves that accolade because of the graces that were conferred on him to mobilise lay people from all walks of life, in all parts of the world, based on a realisation of the consequences of the reception of the sacrament of Baptism. Recently the Synod says the same thing. Today he is an Argentinean candidate for Beatification.
Fr John Hogan tells the story of Edel Quinn and her acquaintance with Sr Magdalene, one of Mother Mary Martin’s first companions, who died in recent weeks. This book contains three models of faith, Edel Quinn, Alfie Lamb and Frank Duff.. It is suggested that we, priests, have a duty to present it to our people, models of holiness, to inspire them in their day-to-day living of the Catholic faith.
Cardinal Suenans observed, as nuns lived their vocation of prayer in the cloister, Edel would live hers at the typewriter.
Cardinal Dias told about how he was a junior member of the Legion of Mary. He says, “There are three pillars of priestly vocation, sanctity, service and spiritual combat.” Dias spoke about the Miraculous Medal. “A lot depends,” Paul Churchill says, “on the spirit that a priest and local legionaries build up between themselves and the Legion is often the place where the priest can feel and be at home.”
EWTN doesn’t stand for elderly women talking nonsense, as some WAG put it. “Mary is the cause of our joy, Jesus Christ is our joy and the source of our joy.” says Fr Deighan. I like that. Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure but it has great difficulty in generating joy.
300 AD in pagan Rome or 2008 AD in an ever more pagan Dublin, people grow tired of pleasures that disappoint and turn to bitterness, man-made pleasures where we assert our greatness and will have our way, pleasures that give no joy. The Church holds the secret of that joy. It is the secret which Mary teaches us of allowing God to be great. It is the secret of humility and the sacrifice of our will.
The motto of Cardinal Dias is ‘Service’, one word, interesting! The organisers assembled a very competent and learned group of speakers who not only knew about Frank Duff and the Legion of Mary but they understood the spirituality that lies behind the priesthood, the evangelisation. So, I really do hope that people will take up this book and read it and pray it.
In Ireland we don’t really appreciate the contribution we have made to the Catholic Church in various eras. Last Saturday evening in St Patrick’s College, Carlow, they celebrated the final day of their commemoration of the 175th anniversary of their Cathedral. The College next door gave more than 3,000 priests to the missionary life of the Church. The Legion of Mary has given so much to the world. I think we should really reflect on it and say, “My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, He who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is His name.”
So, I congratulate Tommy McCabe and the Concilium and Fr Bede, the Spiritual Director, who planned and carried out this Conference. I really do hope that people will take this messaage on board, especially the spirituality as true of St Louis de Montford.