The Legion and the New Evangelization
All legionaries should know that the Legion exists in order to evangelize. That means that the legionary is called to live the Gospel fully and to share the Gospel fully. Or in the language of the Legion family we are called above everything to be saints. That is the primary explicit focus of our lives and flowing from that our lives must be authentically apostolic. The Legion is a school for making saints and minting apostles.
But following the example of recent Popes the Legion is using the phrase ‘the new evangelization’ more and more. It is a phrase that has become part of the title of many of the Congresses and Conferences organized by the Legion in recent years. What exactly does it mean? Well, according to Pope John Paul II it cannot be new in its content, since its theme is the one Gospel given in Jesus Christ. If it arose from ourselves and our situation it would not be ‘gospel’ but mere human invention, and there would be no salvation in it. However, it can be new in its ardour, its methods, and its expression. It must be heralded with new energy and in a style and language adapted to the people of our day.
So the new evangelization is not identified with primary evangelization, that is, the evangelization of those people who have never heard the Gospel before. Nor is it identified with pastoral evangelization that is the process of deepening the faith of those who already possess it. It must also be distinguished from re-evangelization, which is the preaching of the Gospel to those who once possessed the faith but somewhere over the years have lost it. It simply means all evangelization must be done with a much greater ardour, new methods and new expressions.
Let us first take evangelization with a new ardour, a new fire, a new enthusiasm, a renewed commitment. It is obvious that this is much needed in our modern world. John Paul II says: ‘The new evangelization begins with the clear and emphatic proclamation of the gospel, which is directed to every person. Therefore it is necessary to awaken again in believers a full relationship with Christ, mankind’s only Saviour. Only from a personal relationship with Jesus can an effective evangelization develop.’ This is, of course, simple gospel spirituality. Abide in Me and you will bear much fruit. Without Me you can do absolutely nothing. It is an infallible principle. And the Holy Spirit together with Mary is the most effective way to a deeper and more personal relationship with Jesus. The Legion has known this well from its very beginnings. But we need to continually re-grasp and relive these principles if we are to engage in a more ardent and new evangelization.
Let us now turn to the new methods of evangelization. It has become a cliché to talk about the explosion of ever new technology. We can communicate with mobile phones that are also cameras and with internet facilities, with I-pods, emails and texts, CDs and DVDs. TV and videos are already becoming old hat. Anyhow we can communicate with the whole world in a matter of seconds. It is clear that all this must impact on the possibilities and methods of evangelization. And the Legion is already coming to grips with this new and exciting world. But new methods do not mean that old methods are automatically obsolete. Indeed, methods that are rooted in the methods of Jesus and Mary can never be out of date. In fact, they become even more urgent and necessary. Take for instance, the primordial method of the Legion: personal contact. This has become even more indispensable in a modern, secular, lonely, individualistic, and gadget dominated world.
Take Gods self-revelation in the Old Testament. God says: ‘Can a woman forget her infant so as not to have pity on the child of her womb? And if she should forget, yet will I never forget you.’ Again Isaiah reports God as saying: ‘I have written your name on the palm of my hand, and never can I forget you.’ God did not only give us a unique DNA or finger prints but our personal individuality, our very soul is directly created by God and held always in existence by Him. And God’s personal love for each one of us became incarnate in Jesus. He tells us he is the Good Shepherd who calls his sheep by name. One by one He leads them. And if it is necessary He leaves the ninety-nine and goes in search of the one.
But God has created another most beautiful way of showing us his personal love and presence to us. He gives us his own Mother as our Mother. Every one of us passes through the heart of Mary and we are always held in her heart. Every child is unique to its mother. That is the nature of her motherhood of the mystical Body of Christ. And this is where every legionary should learn the basic method of evangelization. Mary is fundamental not only to a new evangelization in the Legion but a true evangelization. We serve Our Lord in our neighbour with the attitude, heart and methods of Mary.
I stress this method of personal contact because I think it would be sad, if in all this search for new methods and techniques however valuable, urgent and important they may be, we lost sight of this indispensable method of the Legion. The spirit of the Legion is the spirit of Mary herself and her approach to us is always inescapably personal. Every person is important to her without exception. She cannot abandon anyone and neither can the Legion. Every soul is infinitely precious. So the new evangelization for the Legion means primarily going back to our original charism and spirit with a new fervour, a greater commitment, with greater joy, a new and deeper living of the spirituality of the Handbook and above all a renewal of a true devotion to Mary and the Holy Spirit.