Posted by: Fr Chris | February 16, 2019

Byzantine Catholic Evangelization 1

Image result for byzantine catholic seminary pittsburgh pa

Seminary Chapel, Pittsburgh 

The goal is to empower both the clergy and laity of the Byzantine Catholic Churches to reach out to the unchurched and the fallen away Catholics and bring them to salvation through the power of the Holy Spirit, by discovering (or re-discovering) our Lord Jesus Christ, and being enclosed in the embrace of God the Father.

The Catholic Church dates from the mission given by Jesus Christ to the Apostles at His Ascension into heaven: Go forth and baptize all nations (Matthew 28:19). The Church has kept an unbroken history ever since!

The Byzantine Church is descended from the first Greek  converts of Saint Paul in Asia Minor. Gradually the Byzantine Rite evolved, using Greek, and it became the dominant Rite for Christians across modern Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Israel.

Image result for st cyril & methodius

In the ninth century, two brothers, Saints Cyril and Methodius, were invited to bring the Gospel to the Slavs of Central Europe. They translated Scriptures, Liturgies, and Sacraments into Old Slavonic, the mother tongue of most modern Slavs. Their disciples carried the Faith across most of Eastern Europe and the Balkans.  Most Byzantine Christians became Orthodox after the splits in 1054-1204. In 1646 and 1652, a large section in modern Slovakia, Transcarpathian Oblast (Ukraine), and Hungary reunited with the Holy See of Rome in what is called the Union(s) of Uzhhorod. Based at the ancient eparchy (diocese) of Mukachevo, this the foundation of what we now know as the Byzantine Catholic Church (also called Greek Catholic).

This Church was then carried to the United States and Canada through immigration, beginning in the 1880s. The Church in America experienced the movement out of ethnic neighborhoods in the 1950s-1960s, and a growing rate of intermarriage with non-Byzantine Catholics, internal migration to the American West and South

In the Vatican II document Orientalium Ecclesiarum, the Eastern Churches regained the right to be missionary Churches:

they enjoy the same rights and are under the same obligations, also in respect of preaching the Gospel to the whole world (cf. Mark 16, 15) under the guidance of the Roman Pontiff.¹

Means should be taken therefore in every part of the world for the protection and advancement of all the individual Churches and, to this end, there should be established parishes and a special hierarchy where the spiritual good of the faithful demands it.²

Both the Church in North America and the Churches in Europe face challenges of preaching the Gospel in rapidly changing societies. The spread of secularism (avoiding or even forbidding religious input), relativism (denying that there is any objective truth) and migration away from home territories (in central Europe and the United States alike) challenge both the sense of belonging to the Byzantine Catholic Church and personal religious practice. Even the transmission of the Gospel is weakened.³

The New Evangelization is needed for the Byzantine Catholics of North America.

At the heart of every culture, whether perceived or not, is a consensus about the nature of reality and the moral good, and thus about the conditions for human flourishing. In America, that consensus, as enshrined in your nation’s founding documents, was grounded in a worldview shaped not only by faith but a commitment to certain ethical principles deriving from nature and nature’s God.

Today that consensus has eroded significantly in the face of powerful new cultural currents which are not only directly opposed to core moral teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but increasingly hostile to Christianity as such.5

The key for all Catholic Evangelization is the liturgical life of the Church. With this, believers are nurtured in their faith. Should preaching be inadequate, or limited by a hostile state, the prayers of the liturgical year ring out the fullness of Catholic truth!

Our own Byzantine Catholic Father David Petras writes of our current situation that “the recovery of the Divine Liturgy as evangelization is crucial to the life and health of the Church.”6He goes on to write that we must be able to respond to the hostile evangelization of the new atheism, and achieve Christian union, and the Liturgy teaches us how to do so. Only the Church has “good news” to proclaim to the world.

The new atheism, in the end, has little to offer, since, quoting Bertrand Russell, a true apostle of atheism, that all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins.7

Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Church He established, has much to offer that will endure after the universe has ended: true union with God, the fulfillment of the individual soul in that union, and the glory of the unfading Beatific Vision.

In the end, Father Petras writes, “The one Body and one Cup of the Blood of our Lord in the Divine Liturgy is the source and goal of this union, to achieve it will be the perfect gift of evangelization.” May it be so! Lord Jesus, come!

1  Orientalium Ecclesiarium, Number 3.

2   Ibid, Number 4.

3 His Beatitude Lucian Muresan, Archbishop Major of the Romanian Greek Catholic Church, at the 14th Meeting of the Bishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches, November 3-6, 2011, “The Reflection of the Eastern Catholic Churches on the New Evangelization”, hereafter “Eastern Catholic Conference 2011
4 These “services” do everything to prevent both pregnancy and birth of a child, so how that can be “reproductive” boggles the ordinary person’s mind.
5 “Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Bishops of the United States of America on their “ad limina” visit, January 19, 2012.
6 Edited by Father Christopher Zugger from the section “Some Conclusions” at Encounter 2012
7 Ibid.

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