Chapter II: What is Evangelization?
No. 24, A New Apostolate
This number connects the two preceding chapters to the rest of the document. It sums up chapter I and II with one sentence: “Finally, the person who has been evangelized in turn evangelizes others.” Genuine evangelization will produce new evangelizers to the extent that its addresses “receive God’s word and commit themselves to God’s reign.” It is inconceivable, the document says, that such people would “not bear witness to and proclaim the Gospel.”
The rest of the encyclical is a description of evangelization in four parts: the content of evangelization (Chapter III), the methods of evangelization (Chapter IV), the addressees of evangelization (Chapter V), and the agents of evangelization (Chapter VI).
Before beginning, however, Pope St. Paul VI wanted to make one final observation. Evangelization is a process whose various elements can seem quite different at various historical periods and in diverse places and cultures. In fact, some aspects can seem to be totally different from one time or place to another. The methods of St. Peter Damian, for example, in his efforts to re-evangelize the clergy of the eleventh century were quite different from those of St. John Bosco in his apostolate among the poor young apprentices of Turin in the nineteenth century.
Another example is the conversions after our Lady appeared to St. Juan Diego in Mexico City, Mexico, in 1531. According to the records, “In the seven years from the time our Lady appeared [1531-1539], eight million Indians [were] converted, as a direct result of her appearance and of her sacred picture (“Handbook on Guadalupe,” Park Press, p.218). The contemporary paintings of the miracle never show the Franciscan friars, who made up the secular clergy at the time, preaching to the people or explaining the faith to them before baptizing them. They probably relied solely on showing them a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe and explaining it to them. That was enough to bring the local people to a degree of knowledge of the faith that was sufficient for baptism.
On the other hand, we know what role instruction in the faith played in the conversion of Bl. Cardinal John Newman. He spent years in studying Catholic theology, Holy Scripture and Church history before he was convinced that the Catholic Church was the Church founded by Jesus Christ.
“These various elements may seem to conflict or even to be mutually excusive,” the document says. “For this reason, each element must be seen in conjunction with the others.” The pope then compliments the 1974 Synod of Bishops on evangelization for insisting on that very thing, so that “the total work of evangelization, as carried on by the Church, might be fully understood.”
Pope St. Paul VI promises at the end of the number to give just such a comprehensive view of evangelization in the paragraphs that follow.
Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, protectors of the Church, watch over our missionaries and keep them from harm to soul and body. Amen.