Friday, January 17, 2014

The New Evangelization is Rooted in . . . Vatican II

Contrary to popular lore, the new evangelization is not something that began with Pope Blessed John Paul II.  Often sited as the origin of the new evangelization is Bl. JPII's 1979 Poland visit when he said, "A new evangelization has begun, as if it were a new proclamation, even if in reality it is the same as ever."  However this is not the origin of the new evangelization.

The new evangelization movement began when Pope John XXIII prayed for a “New Pentecost” (novo Pentecustes) in his apostolic constitution Humanae Salutis that ushered in the start of Vatican II (§23).  For Pope John XXIII to call for a new Pentecost is to call for a church in the modern age that is as convicted in their faith as deeply as the apostles were on the day of Pentecost and the years following.  Moreover, there cannot be a new Pentecost without there also being a new evangelization – something Pope Paul VI understood when he expressed the desire the Synod Fathers had for a “new period of evangelization” at the close of Vatican II (§2 Evangelii Nuntiandi). 

Though the new evangelization was a theme present in the ministry and writing of Pope John Paul II --  and he was one of the Synod Fathers; therefore, it naturally follows that the new evangelization would be emphasized in his teachings -- it is dificult to credit him as the sole instigator of the movement.  However, the roots and origins of the new evangelization are in Vatican II, and not in the Polish address of 1979.  So if you want to understand the new evangelization, first read Humanae Salutis, then the Documents of Vatican II and finally read Evangelii Nuntiandi.  Pay close attention in Evangelii Nuntiandi, as some form of "Evangelize" is used about 195 times in the document.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Batman v. Superman: Helping High Schoolers Understand the Summa

In the Church History Class I teach, we have finally arrived at the Scholastic period.  I simply did not want to gloss over the scholastics without having my students at least try and read St. Thomas Aquinas (we were going to look at the existence of God questions, primarily Book 1, Question 2, Article 3); yet, I was wrestling for a way to try explain Thomas, the scholastic method in a way that they would understand -- I mean an argument free from most technical terms for which the average high school Senior would be familiar.  I wanted the students to first see how the arguments were structured and worked.  After all, Aquinas' Summa is a very foreign style of writing when contrasted to the other books high school seniors read.   Solution:  Batman v. Superman Summa Style.

Book 1 Question 1.  On Victories in Battle

 Article 1:  Whether Superman would win a fight over the Batman.

Objection1: It seems that Superman would defeat the Batman in a fight based solely on his superior superhuman abilities.

Objection 2:  Further Superman gains his strength from the sun and as we know the sun always shines.

Objection 3:  Superman cannot be killed by any means known of today.

On the Contrary, if Superman and the Batman were to face off for a battle of epic proportions, one in which the bards will sing down through the ages, that the victor in deed would be the Batman, for as the saying goes, “The Pen is mightier than the sword.”

I answer that the Batman would have the distinct advantage and easily defeat Superman due to his constant struggle against superior opponents in size, speed, and strength.  As the Apostle says, “In my weakness I am strong.” Furthermore, the Batman has defeated other alien races even after the end of him seems inevitable.  Lastly, the Batman, having been trained in the best universities of the world and having mastered several fighting styles has the tactical and intellectual advantage.

Reply to Objection 1:  It is not might alone that wins battles but also wisdom and strategy, for it is the tortoise that wins the race.

Reply to Objection 2:  As we know, there are places the sun don’t shine, has never shinned, nor will ever shine.

Reply to Objection 3:  The easiest way to defeat Superman is by means of the utilization of kryptonite.  Victory does not necessitate the death o f our opponent.


Friday, January 03, 2014

Victor Hugo Saved Notre Dame of Paris

In July of 1801 the Notre Dame of Paris Cathedral was returned to the Catholic Church in a state of disarray.  Seven months later, the savior of this now glorious building would be born: Victor Hugo.  Hugo was able to save the Cathedral by means of his popular book Notre Dame de Paris or as known to most English speakers The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  One might even argue that Hugo’s main purpose of writing the text was the save the church, for it was set for demolition and or possible sale in the early 19th century.

However, the church about which Hugo wrote, the church that attracted
thousands of visitors in the 19th century after the book’s publication in January of 1831, the church that when fans of Hugo’s book arrived in Paris and sought out the beautiful building that was described in text they did not find for what they hoped.  Instead, they found an eyesore ready for destruction.  This is not to say that Hugo lied in his book or to his audience.  He does spend chapters describing the dilapidated condition of the church as he knew it; however, he compares it to what it was in the 15th century and how he envisioned it in its greatest grandeur. The tourists wanted the 15th century version and not the blight upon the city of Paris that it had become.

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Paris has a tumultuous history of alteration often for the worse.  In the 16th century the Huguenots, French protestants inspired by the writing of the reformer John Calvin, rioted and purged Notre Dame of all things they considered pagan or idolatrous.  During the 18th century the church underwent a “modernization,” which some might call vandalism.  The gothic style had fallen out of fashion and was deemed to be barbaric, very ironic indeed, so several architects worked to make the church into a more modern building.  Stain glasses were dismantled and replaced with clear glass in order to let in more light, and the stunning gothic style choir screens were replaced by a more plain style of screen. Also occurring during the 18th century was the famous French Revolution.  Much damage was done to Notre Dame in the name of reason: the bell tower and spire from the 13th century was removed, some of the bells were melted down and repurposed, 28 statues in the Gallery of Kings were destroyed, the church itself was made into a Temple of Reason, and finally the church was made into a storage hall and stable.

The Restoration of Notre Dame began in 1844 with a decree from King Louis-Philippe I.  It took some 20 years for restoration to be completed and the church rededication by Archbishop Darboy of Parish.  However, the lead-restoring architect, Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, lamented the restoration process.  He said, “to restore is not to maintain it, repair it or remake it, it is to re-establish it in a complete state that my never have existed at a given moment” (  In other words, the Notre Dame of past beauty is not the Notre Dame of today’s beauty.

Today Notre Dame is still undergoing renovations and preservations, the last completed in 2010.  It houses several relics of Christ (the crown of thorns, a fragment of the true cross, and others) and play host to some 12 million visitors a year.  After centuries of mistreatment, additions, vandalism, and purgings, the visitors find a beautiful Cathedral that was not as it is today.  Fortunately, this is not a bad thing, for Hugo was able to bring about the salvation of a most magnificent building because he was able to capture the once forgotten and lost beauty of a church with his prose.  In other words, he inspired in the heart of his reader the eternal longing for beauty.  When the readers could not find the beauty in the way Hugo described, they set about trying to reestablish what once was, not for the sake of preservation or posterity, but because beauty and majesty speaks to the human heart in a way that no other things can.
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