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‘Go forth with hearts on fire’
In his new pastoral letter, Bishop Loverde invites all Catholics to become evangelists.
“After 48 years as a priest, I have never been more convinced that each of us needs and desires a relationship with Jesus Christ in His Church,” Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde writes in his pastoral letter on the new evangelization.
“My foremost prayer is for the dawning of a New Evangelization here in the Diocese of Arlington,” he writes. “I pray that we might meet this hunger and thirst with an outpouring of love, mercy and an evangelization ‘new in its ardor, new in its methods and new in its means of expression.’ Simply put, it is a prayer that we might fall more deeply in love with Jesus Christ and share that love with another.”
“Go Forth with Hearts on Fire: A Pastoral Letter on the New Evangelization” is dated Nov. 24, the solemnity of Christ the King and the last day of the Year of Faith called by Pope Benedict XVI. The letter is issued on the anniversary of the bishop’s consecration of the diocese to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Bishop Loverde, who has made evangelization a priority throughout his years of priestly and episcopal ministry, said he wanted to release the letter at the end of the Year of Faith because “this whole year has energized us and equipped us to embark with more enthusiasm and more fervor for the work of the new evangelization, which is forever.”
The bishop said he hopes that people who read the letter will become more deeply aware of how the Lord longs for their response to His invitation to be in union with Him within the church.
“Once you taste this relationship with the Lord and the inner peace it brings, the strength it brings, you not only have fire in yourself with a new purpose, but you certainly want to share that with others, which is part of the new evangelization,” he said.
“My hope is that reading the letter, praying over it and discussing it, will first of all set people on fire in a way that they will be moved to invite others to come to the Lord, not in any forceful way, not in any pushy way, but when you see goodness lived, you’re attracted to it.”
In the pastoral letter, Bishop Loverde says that unlike prior generations, we cannot be lukewarm, uninformed or casual about the gift of faith. “Today is a time of decision and commitment,” he writes, “and we are at the forefront.”
He prays that this letter will help Catholics to take specific and concrete steps in drawing closer to Jesus Christ and proclaiming Him to others.
Bishop Loverde writes that “evangelization” simply means sharing the good news about Jesus Christ.
“You may not know it, but as a baptized Catholic you already are an evangelist,” he writes. “You are a herald or messenger of this Good News. You have received a commission to ‘go out.’”
The best way to evangelize, the bishop says in the letter, is to attract people to God by the way we live our lives.
“By growing closer to Christ, you and I create the opportunity for one person from our circle of family, friends or community to see something different in our life, and ask, ‘Why do you live that way? What urges you on?’”
“Bringing the Good News to another is about offering the freedom and joy of Christ through His Church. It is one heart speaking to another with an invitation to life and joy. It is you and I bringing Jesus Christ, a living Person, into someone else’s life.”
Bishop Loverde writes that beneath the surface of our culture is a suffering that only Christ can heal. The symptoms are evident in our broken families, materialism, widespread practical atheism and rampant pornography.
“Our troubled world needs Christ and His teaching, along with the peace and forgiveness He brings into our lives,” the bishop writes.
As evangelists on a mission, the bishop identifies three practices that we all need for ongoing renewal: the Eucharist, confession and daily prayer.
“Prayer is far more than a thing or an activity to be worked into the calendar, as if it were soccer practice or a PTA meeting,” he writes. “It must take primacy over everything else.”
Among the forms of prayer Bishop Loverde suggests in the letter are the rosary, lectio divina (“divine reading”), fasting and mortification, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
“Even as we equip ourselves for evangelizing, we must also realistically acknowledge the obstacles that we will encounter,” Bishop Loverde writes.
He then identifies the five most significant obstacles that priests in the Arlington Diocese have encountered in their ministry: putting “busyness” before prayer; the culture’s “anti-evangelization” campaign; ignorance, misunderstanding and indifference; transience and anonymity; and a “maintenance mentality” that runs counter to mission.
“As we embark with new enthusiasm and with new tools to evangelize, we look to Mary, the Mother of God and our mother, to intercede for us,” the bishop writes. “We ask for strength and perseverance and the power of her example of how to evangelize as her Son Jesus wishes.
“We must begin today to search for the lost among our families, our friends, and, in fact in our own hearts. My prayer is that all of us will allow the Heart of Christ to speak to our hearts, so that we can share our heart with another.”
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