From a Chapter Talk by Abbot Robert
When St. John Paul II announced the Jubilee of the Third Millennium in 2000, he proclaimed a new evangelization. His diminishing health slowed down the thrust of his promulgation which he had hoped to promote. Just a year and a half ago, Pope Benedict XVI called the Synod of Bishops to re-inaugurate the new evangelization. He invited the then Archbishop of Canterbury of the Church of England, Rowan Williams to give the opening address to the Catholic Bishops. That gesture was certainly a statement in itself! Dr. Rowan, a gifted and insightful theologian, gave so powerful an address that our Bishops quoted him extensively in their concluding document promoting the new evangelization.
They were, in fact, celebrating the Fiftieth Anniversary of the opening of Vatican Council II, called by St. John XXIII which was, in fact, a new evangelization. On our website we’ve introduced our readers to Bishop Loverde’s own Pastoral Letter on the New Evangelization in the Diocese of Arlington, which we read in the refectory. We had a case of extra copies in the Retreat House and Gift Shop that disappeared in just a couple of weeks and Bishop Loverde enjoyed a positive response from his readers. He invited not just the clergy and religious to participate but all Catholics of the diocese, suggesting concrete ways to bring the faith to others, to witness to our belief and to support the growth of the Gospel by on-going study and prayer.
About a month later, this significant contribution was gloriously overshadowed by Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel. Drawing on the aim of the above mentioned Synod, Pope Francis also outlined the “program,” so to speak, of his pontificate. Among other topics, he discussed concrete points for the Church’s renewal, her outreach to other Christians, support for her own marginal members and to the entire wounded and aching human family. Significantly, he reminds us of the JOY of the Gospel, reflecting our awareness of the work of the Holy Spirit through us today, but also that powerful inrush of the Spirit from fifty years ago.
We here at Holy Cross Abbey should never discount, never underestimate that our present personal and communal efforts to re-found our monastery, is in perfect harmony with the new evangelization of the Church at large. Our life together, the quality of that life together, is our primary way of proclaiming the Gospel to one another, to our neighbors, to the Dioceses of Arlington, to any one who encounters us or reads about us. The work required by our re-founding is exactly the sort of focus capable of assisting the re-vitalization of the entire Church. Our respect for one another and our interdependence as a cenobitic community is the image of early Church in Jerusalem described in the Acts of the Apostles. Our numbers may be few but even the widow’s mite, as Jesus observed, is not insignificant in doing God’s work. God does not judge as the world judges. What we are doing here at Berryville for ourselves and our future is not just about ourselves and our future. It’s about our vocation which the Church gives us to build up the Church (that’s what “edify” really means: to build) and to serve the human family. It’s hard work, yes, but let us look to our goal! There we could find the motivation to strive, to sacrifice to respond as completely as is humanly possible, to our call from God.