By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY | Published October 11, 2012
The Marian Shrine of Loreto has held a revered status in the heart of the Church for more than seven centuries. Tradition says that its most important relic is the birth home of the Blessed Virgin Mary which is now sheltered in the famous basilica in this Italian town.
Fifty years ago Blessed Pope John XXIII made a special pilgrimage to Loreto in order to place the impending Second Vatican Council under the protection of the Mother of God. Pope Benedict XVI followed that same journey last week both to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Council and once again to ask the Blessed Mother to protect and guide the Church. Serious activities in the Church often call for the assistance and the protection of the one who is Mother of the Church, as she would be entitled by that very Council. Like children who are about to undertake some great new adventure, we often cry out, Mom watch us do this! And with a mother’s tender care, she watches in wonder and perhaps with a bit of trepidation as her children attempt something new and exciting.
As we enter the Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI, with him we call upon Mary to watch over us and to guide us throughout this coming year. Here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, we will speak frequently to her who has entered the lives of her children throughout the ages and in every culture comforting them, assuring them and identifying with them in ways that make us hers and she ours.
As the bishops gathered in deliberation and in designing the eventual 16 documents that were the product of the Second Vatican Council, they no doubt realized that they were preparing the Church to respond to a world that had changed drastically during their very own lifetimes and would only continue to change even more rapidly in the years that would follow the Council. The Second Vatican Council was the Church’s most important effort to bring the message of the Gospel to the world and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to call that same world to conversion—a process that we now refer to as evangelization.
The New Evangelization—a term introduced by Blessed Pope John Paul II and given even greater energy by Pope Benedict XVI—includes calling all those nations and cultures that were evangelized many centuries before to a new and deeper realization of their Christian roots and faith heritage.
The New Evangelization is the Church’s mission to ensure that the peoples and nations whom we might have once considered safely Catholic need to rediscover the Gospel and its values.
The New Evangelization is based upon the realization that faith is not passed on from one generation to the next like biological material that accounts for human traits is shared across generations. Our Catholic faith is a treasure that must be secured, valued and transmitted in each age. Our Catholic faith links us to our past and points toward our future. Our Catholic faith needs to embrace our tradition while offering hope for tomorrow—it must simultaneously link past and promise. Our Catholic faith needs its yesterdays in order to offer future generations direction.
The New Evangelization must make effective use of the means of social communication in order to engage our youth who depend so heavily on these resources.
Yet the New Evangelization must ultimately help all people to discover the very Person of Jesus Christ—present in his Church, in our Sacramental life, and in our community life together.
Thus we now begin a Year of Faith with Catholics throughout the world. We will reflect on the great gift that was the Second Vatican Council for the life of the Church, and we continue to pray together for its fulfillment.
Here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta we will also keep the Mother of God close in mind and heart since She was entrusted with the success of the Second Vatican Council by Blessed John XXIII, and like every mother, she always manages to do what her children ask of her.