I have always struggled with the concept of the ‘new evangelisation’ and how it might be implemented in the life of the average Catholic parish in any average Catholic Diocese. For many people – including myself – this ‘new evangelisation’ should be about wonderful initiatives and programs designed to ensure the Christian message is proclaimed anew and freshly in the contemporary world. It required years and years of planning, of reviewing plans made, of task forces and committees, each task with their own way of contributing to this ‘new’ activity of the Church.
And now, having read this book by Timothy O’Malley, I’ve come to realise that many people – including myself – were way off the mark!
The New Evangelisation called for in the life of the Church doesn’t require the development of new programs and initiatives. At the very heart of the new evangelisation is a return to the very fundamentals of who we are as Church, a return to the very basics – and a renewal of the way we do those very basics in order to ensure that the message of the Good News of the Kingdom is able to flourish in the life of the Church so that the Church itself, with all its faults and foibles, is able to be the new evangelisation in the world.
In the context of this book, O’Malley look sat the place of liturgy in the task of the new evangelisation. More importantly, I think, is the very clear assertion right throughout this book that liturgy is at the very foundation of the new evangelisation because engagement in the liturgical life of the Church – liturgy well planned and executed at least – is the means by which participants are formed in the very life of God which is found in self-giving love. Formation, constant and lifelong, in self-giving love through mystagogical participation in the liturgical life of the Church, then permits, encourages and impels the individual Christian – and the Church as the Body of Christ – to move outside the walls of the church building and into the world, transformed and empowered to take the Good News with them.
For anyone interested in the new evangelisation this book is a ‘must read’. For those who are interested in the study of the liturgical life of the Church, this book is a ‘must read’ in order that the liturgy and its celebration is seen not as a means unto itself but as the foundation for the evangelical and kerygmatic life of the Church.
From the back cover:
In Liturgy and the New Evangelization, Timothy O’Malley provides a liturgical foundation for the church’s New Evangelization. He examines questions pastoral ministers must treat in order to foster the renewal of humanity that the New Evangelization seeks to promote. Drawing on narrative, as well as theological concepts in biblical, patristic, and systematic theology, O’Malley invites readers into a renewed experience of the liturgical life of the church, learning to practice the art of self-giving love for the renewal of the world.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to other priests, pastoral ministers, and anyone interesting in church life and ministry.