“I couldn’t refuse Archbishop Schnurr,” Archbishop Di Noia, OP, told the stand-room-only crowd at the Athenaeum of Ohio’s annual LeBlond Lecture.
Fr. Earl Fernandes, Dean of Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary of the West, introduced Archbishop Di Noia.
Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia, OP, speaking on the New Evangelization at the Athenaeum of Ohio/Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary of the West Wednesday night, said the Church today faces one over-arching problem and must combat it with one message.
The problem, he said, “internal secularization” — not a fight from without by the forces of secularization, but a fight from within the Church and indeed within each Catholic, as secular ideas become the unquestioned way of thinking about the world.
The many Catholics who live together before (or instead of) marriage, or who scatter the ashes of the dead or keep them on their mantles rather than burying them, exemplify this problem, he said. They don’t do these things in defiance of the Church, they do them without any comprehension that they are morally wrong. They have lost their underlying sense of what is sacred.
“It is a very big mistake to blame the culture,” he said. “The culture is inside.”
And though the New Evangelization called for by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI (and even by Paul VI) has many tasks, +Di Noia says its main task is to communicate the message “that the Triune God, for reasons utterly mysterious and unknowable, desires communion with creaturely beings — that God desires this more than anyone has ever desired anything” and that only Christ and His Church can bring about that communion.
“We have nothing else to say but that,” he said. “Nothing else to offer.”
This message is unique among the world’s religions, including other monotheistic religions, he said. Even Protestants fail to deliver it, focusing instead on rescue from sin. “Rescue for what?” he said. For communion with God through Christ by means of the Church. It is that communion, and that alone, that will restore people to their correct relationship with God.
+Di Noia delivered his address, the Athenaeum’s annual Le Blond Lecture and the kickoff to the seminary’s Year of Faith event series, before a packed house at the seminary’s Bartlett Pastoral Center. All 250 seats were filled and many seminarians, who came from Bishop Bruté seminary as well as from Mt.St. Mary’s, had to stand for the hour and a half talk.
Dominicans from the Priory at St. Gertrude came to hear one of their own, as did many laypeople and Athenaeum staff. Cincinnati’s Archbishop Dennis Schnurr and Auxiliary Bishop Joe Binzer were there, as was Bishop Christopher Coyne, Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis; Fr. Basil Cole, OP, Prior of the Dominican Priory at St. Gertrude Parish in Madiera (OH); and the rector and vice rector of Bishop Bruté. +Di Noia, who recently became vice president of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” which works with the Society of St. Pius X, and was recently secretary for the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome, said his message was not an academic or local one but a message that came out of years of experience with Catholics around the world.
Many Dominicans, including these Sisters chatting after the lecture, came to hear the noted Dominican theologian.
In his 10 years in Rome, the Archbishop said, he has sat in on many ad liminavisits between the Pope and bishops from every country. “Although there are vast cultural and economic differences between countries in Asia, in Africa, in Western Europe,” he said, “I can tell you, dear brothers and sisters, that many problems are universal in the Church. The impact of globalization means that everyone sees the same things and wants the same goods, and whether that’s good or bad indifferent is beside the point. It’s simply a fact. And these goods have not led people to affirm the Source of all Good, but have led them to think they can live a life without God — not just here, but everywhere.”
While the message of the New Evangelization must be directed at restoring people’s relationship with God, he said, it must be a comprehensive one that encompasses liturgy and the devotional life as well as talks and writings. “Catholicism is tangible, it is not an interior mental state,” he said. Catholicism is prayer and contemplation, the Sacraments, and devotion to the saints “who are already participating in a life we hope to share.”
He pointed to Eucharistic Adoration as a devotion that has grown with very little support from the clergy and that makes a direct and dramatic impact.
+Di Noia closed by saying that the Year of Faith is the ideal time for Catholics — clergy and laypeople alike — to take up the challenge of the New Evangelization. “We have to figure out why it is that people have stopped believing,” he said. “It’s not just an intellectual problem.” Hearts have changed as well as minds, and faith is not just an act of will, “it’s an act of love.”
For the Athenaeum’s Year of Faith Event schedule, click here.
Photos copyright The Catholic Beat.