Archbishop’s pastoral letter consecrating the work of the New Evangelisation to Mary, Mother of the Church
My dear brothers and sisters
The thrust of the Universal Church in this century is that of the New Evangelisation. This is critical if the Church is to arrest the disturbing trends in the world caused by secularisation and relativism. These have resulted not only in the loss of the Sacred and amorality but consumerism and materialism as well. Even our Faithful are not spared.
Hence, the New Evangelisation is needed to counter these challenges. This consists of a two-pronged approach, which is essentially a renewal of the Church from within and a more evangelistic and missionary outreach to the world, using all available resources.
Instrumentum Laboris from the Synod of Bishops delineates, “The Christian faith is not simply teachings, wise sayings, and a code of morality or a tradition. The Christian faith is a true encounter and relationship with Jesus Christ. Transmitting the faith means to create in every place and time, the conditions which lead to this encounter between the person and Jesus Christ.
“The goal of all evangelisation is to create the possibility for this encounter, which is, at one and the same time, intimate, personal, public and communal. Evangelising is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. Jesus himself, the Good News of God, was the very first and the greatest evangeliser.
“For Jesus, the purpose of evangelisation is drawing people into his intimate relationship with the Father and the Spirit. The Church exists in the world to continue Jesus’ evangelising mission, knowing well that in doing so she continues to share in divine life. The Church is an evangeliser, but she begins by being evangelised herself.”
Hence, I have since my inauguration as the Archbishop of Singapore, shared with priests, Religious and lay leaders, my ten-year plan for the renewal of the Archdiocese through the building of a vibrant, evangelistic and missionary Church.
This calls for the establishment of new offices like the Office for the New Evangelisation, Catholic Theological Institute, Office for Young People, Family Life Commission, a restructured Archdiocesan Commission for Migrants and Itinerants, and Archdiocesan Commission for Catholic Schools.
However, offices without anointed and faith-filled leaders and good staff cannot bring the Church forward; nor can the building of big and beautiful churches. We need, more than anything else, a spiritual renewal within the Church, amongst priests, Religious and laity.
The urgency is not to be taken lightly. If we are not pre-emptive, the speed of globalisation and the effects of secularisation will erode the faith, including the religious and cultural values of our people. We need to strengthen the spiritual, doctrinal and pastoral formation of leaders; priests, Religious and laity alike. All of us need conversion of life and a deepening of our
Where can we find inspiration to undertake the work of spiritual renewal if not in Mary, Mother of the Church? Indeed, the work of the New Evangelisation cannot be conceived without turning to Mary, the Star of the New Evangelisation, for inspiration and prayer because it is through Mary that God rebuilt the House of David. This explains why I included Mary as the Star of the New Evangelisation, symbolised by the star on the sail, on my Archbishop’s Crest.
However, calling Mary the Star of the New Evangelisation cannot be mere lip service. We must, as Church, turn intentionally to her for direction. We are called to make a place for Mary in our home, communities and churches. We cannot speak of the New Evangelisation without at the same time cultivating a Marian Spirituality. We need to re-ignite our love for our Blessed Mother and ensure that she has a place in our spiritual life.
A Catholic spirituality that is without a Marian flavour would be a deficient spirituality, because we would have deprived ourselves of the possibility of deepening our love and knowledge of the Lord through Mary; including her powerful intercession. From her, we also learn the meaning of son-ship and discipleship.
Being the true daughter of God, the daughter of Zion, she is truly our mother in faith and love. Indeed, she conceived Jesus in her heart before she conceived Him in her womb. We, too, must imbibe her virtues of faith, hope, charity, poverty and obedience.
From Mary, we also learn that the New Evangelisation is urgent. Upon receiving the call to be the Mother of the Saviour, she immediately brought our Lord to Elizabeth and John the Baptist. We see the sense of urgency in the way she undertook this mission of proclaiming the Good News. She did not keep the Good News for herself but gave away what she received. As the Good News is free, it must be freely given, since it is freely received.
We also learn from Mary that New Evangelisation is principally a witness of love. This was evident when she risked travelling over the hills to visit her cousin in need despite being pregnant. She showed sensitivity to the desperate wedding couple who ran short of wine. She also forgave the enemies of her son at the foot of the cross and stayed with the disciples after the death of Jesus. We, too, must imitate her missionary spirit of charity and mercy. As St Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel and if necessary, use words.” No amount of words can replace works of mercy.
However, we must avoid superficial activity, unless it comes from a deep contemplative prayer life, motivated by the Spirit of God’s love; for “doing” must flow from “being”. As Pope St John Paul II says, “Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated his face”.
From Mary we learn that the New Evangelisation must begin from a contemplation of the Word of God. Mary is always presented throughout the Gospel as a contemplative person who always pondered quietly over the Word of God. This was evident at the birth of Jesus, at the Temple when she presented Jesus and when she found Jesus who was lost for three days. Her obedience to the Word of God moved our Lord to praise her as a woman who hears the Word of God and keeps it.
Finally, from her, we learn the spirit of poverty and the primacy of grace. She teaches us to be truly receptive of the grace of God by cooperating totally with His will; for it is the Lord who builds His House. As the angel said to her, “Do not fear, Mary, you have found favour with God.” Let us therefore learn from her humility, in relying not on our own strength but on God’s.
As Pope St John Paul II exhorted, “There is a temptation which perennially besets every spiritual journey and pastoral work: that of thinking that the results depend on our ability to act and to plan. God of course asks us really to cooperate with his grace, and therefore invites us to invest all our resources of intelligence and energy in serving the cause of the Kingdom.
“But it is fatal to forget that ‘without Christ we can do nothing’(Jn 15:5). It is prayer which roots us in this truth. It constantly reminds us of the primacy of Christ and, in union with him, the primacy of the interior life and of holiness. When this principle is not respected, is it any wonder that pastoral plans come to nothing and leave us with a disheartening sense of frustration? We then share the experience of the disciples in the Gospel story of the miraculous catch of fish: ‘We have toiled all night and caught nothing’’’ (NMI 38)
Let us thus begin this work for the New Evangelisation by consecrating the whole Archdiocese of Singapore to Mary, Star of the New Evangelisation; beginning on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary this year, on 7th October 2014 and ending next year on 7th October 2015.
I would like to encourage parishes, organizations, movements and individuals to consecrate the local Church and all activities (especially the work of the New Evangelisation, for the renewal of the Church) to Our Lady. I have asked the Office for the New Evangelisation to recommend some proposals to consecrate our parishes, groups and individuals to Mary. These may include Marian devotions, rosary sessions or votive Masses (in honour of Our Lady on Saturdays).
I have also composed a prayer of consecration to Our Lady, which I commend to you, to be prayed daily. Pray especially for our priests, Religious and lay leaders, that we may have the humility, courage and a deep love for the Church to undergo conversion, sacrifice and change, for the glory of God and the greater good of the Church.
Thank you, my dear People of God, for your prayers and support. We are living in challenging times and we are all co-responsible for the renewal of the Church and society. With hope, let us turn to Mary, Our Blessed Mother, to guide us in the work of the New Evangelisation. Let her teach us the spiritual meaning of virginity, which is total devotion and fidelity to the Word of God.
We also trust in her intercession, as she is full of grace. With her at our side, our own personal conversion and that of the Church and the World will be realized. May the Lord bless you abundantly and may Our Lady lead you to Him, more and more each day.
Archbishop William Goh