Yesterday marked the beginning of the Catholic Press Association's Catholic Media Conference, a gathering of Catholic communications professionals from around the world. This year, the conference is in the Mile High City of Denver, Colo.
With the theme of "Riding into New Frontiers," we are exploring new methods, new expression and new ardor: the new evangelization.
After an exciting initial 24 hours at my first Catholic Media Conference, last night I was ready to call it a day. I had already lived through a tornado, been roughed up by the time change (I know, two hours shouldn't be that bad) by waking up at 4 a.m. and locking myself out of my room. I had also enjoyed a good refresher in digital media from Matt Warner and Josh Simmons, Mass with Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki, as well as mingling with wonderful people like Elizabeth Scalia, Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda, Rob DeFrancesco, Sally Oberski, and many others. But, I had one more event: "An Evening with Father Robert Barron: 'Media, Beauty and the New Evangelization.'"
It was a refreshing, reinvigorating encounter with the new evangelization. Through stories, laughter and zeal, Father Barron outlined six suggestions for a more effective new evangelization.
- Lead with beauty. In order to overcome the "whatever" culture of moral relativism, Father Barron recommends starting by simply asking people to look and see beauty in Catholicism. Not beginning by pointing out wrongs or showing people how to think or how to behave. Rather, engaging people in "the whimsical." From there, Father Barron explained how the beautiful leads to the good, and the good ultimately leads to the true.
- Don't dumb down the message. Father Barron regaled the tendency to simplify the message of the Gospel because we believe people either can’t handle it or it’s not entertaining enough. He said, "The minute the Church stops thinking, it starts to can."
- Preach with ardor. If we are not excited and passionate about our faith, how can we expect others to want the same? Father Barron stressed we need to go back to having the hearts of missionaries, with that grab-someone-by-the-shoulder kind of excitement harbored by the apostles. He said, "What saps us of ardor is getting wishy-washy about the Resurrection."
- Tell the great story of salvation history. Father Barron emphasized the importance of the entire story. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. The story begins with creation, then the fall and the formation of people after God’s own heart. It is a story of "temple, covenant, law and prophecy." It climaxes with the coming of Christ.
- Stress the Augustinian anthropology. The oft-quoted line from St. Augustine's "Confessions" is, Father Barron noted, the single greatest expression of Christianity: "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you." We live in a world of restless people that are addicted to the false gods of the world: wealth, honor, pleasure and power (from St. Thomas Aquinas). Father Barron said we need to remind people how to call upon the true God and fill that infinite hunger.
- Use Iraneaus' doctrine of God. Father Barron said we need to be clear about who God is. As St. Iraneaus said, "The glory of God is a human being fully alive." We are not in competition with God, and he did not need us. Rather, God loved us into being. He is thus not destructive of mankind. Father Barron said, "God makes the world luminous and radiant – not consumed … he doesn't destroy the humanity he becomes."