The contingencies of world history create the present cultural moment for orthodox Christian believers. A new evangelization is in order, but its cultural ressourcement, not aggiornamento, must be broad and deep. Catholicism is an ocean with depths, dead spots, hurricanes and typhoons, rip tides, shallows and shoals, bays, maelstroms and calms, icebergs, polluted waters, and tides going out and coming in. Evangelization must occur from the depth of the ocean, a stillness centered on Christ. We should find that point and anchor over it. In God’s wisdom and grace, in this secular culture, this grace is not given. We must work where and when we are: in this culture and in this time. As preachers of the good news we can hope that the tide of Dover Beach returns. Regardless, we evangelize a culture that finds the good news implausible. In terms of Lonergan’s precepts; our task is to be as attentive, to be as intelligent, to be as reasonable, and to be as responsible as we possibly can in this culture. After that, it is in God’s hands and we watch.
Watching in faith may be the heart of the new evangelization. Newman affirmed this in his Advent sermon of December 3, 1837 on “Watching”:
Year passes after year silently; Christ’s coming is ever nearer than it was. O that, as He comes nearer earth, we may approach nearer heaven! O, my brethren, pray Him to give you the heart to seek Him in sincerity. Pray Him to make you in earnest. You have one work only, to bear your cross after Him. Resolve in His strength to do so. Resolve to be no longer beguiled by ‘shadows of religion,’ by words, or by disputing, or by notions, or by high professions, or by excuses, or by the world’s promises or threats. Pray Him to give you what Scripture calls ‘an honest and good heart,’ or ‘a perfect heart,’ and, without waiting, begin at once to obey Him with the best heart you have. . . May this be the portion of every one of us! It is hard to attain; but it is woeful to fail. Life is short; death is certain; and the world to come is everlasting.
Daniel Sheridan is Professor of Theology at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine and former Director of the Online Theology Program.