His Archdiocese of Washington bio.
His Wikipedia page.
He can be found online at Twitter using @Cardinal_Wuerl and on his regular blog http://cardinalsblog.adw.org/
Thank you for your kind introduction. It is pleasant to be a part of Proclaim 2016. So much of the renewal and evangelisation is in the lived experience in our parishes. That's where every kind of action takes place. Our Pope speaks of his experience of parish in Evangelii Gaudium 28:
'The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community. While certainly not the only institution which evangelizes, if the parish proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity, it continues to be “the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters”. This presumes that it really is in contact with the homes and the lives of its people, and does not become a useless structure out of touch with people or a self-absorbed group made up of a chosen few. The parish is the presence of the Church in a given territory, an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration. In all its activities the parish encourages and trains its members to be evangelizers. It is a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a centre of constant missionary outreach.'
Amoris Laetitia 202: 'The main contribution to the pastoral care of families is offered by the parish, which is the family of families, where small communities, ecclesial movements and associations live in harmony'.
How do we see that each parish carries out these many missions?
There is a new spirit of welcome evident today. Pope Francis is reaching people. We can see the development of his thought through Evangelii Gaudium, the Synod, Laudato Si and Amoris Laetitia. He writes from the perspective of a pastor of souls, so they are not theological treatises but words from a pastor of souls.
So what does the Church/Christ offer us today? What do we bring to the world of today? A while back I was giving a keynote address at Harvard University on the topic of the Role of religion and faith in a pluralistic society. Following the address there was time for questions. A lawyer, in full garb, named Albert had his hand up. 'What do you people, and religion in general, think you bring to our society?' My answer was a return question, 'What do you think the world would be like without the voices of the religious traditions in our world – reminding us You Shall Not Kill, You Shall Not Steal etc, - reminding us that someday we must answer to God for our actions. How much more harsh would this culture be? 'His answer, 'It would be a mess.'
The Christian Gospel teaching us about right and wrong and about God's love may seem to being eclipsed by secular voices. At the Synod for the New Evangelisation one of the speakers described secularism as a cultural tsunami that has washed across our world, taking with it so many cultural markers and frames of reference: on marriage and family, on right and wrong.
The present energy and focus in the Church is towards openness and outreach. That level of energy has increased with Pope Francis' smiling face of welcome to the world. What is the New Evangelisation? St John Paul II spoke of the need for a New Evangelisation, new in ardour, new in method and new in expression. Pope Benedict renewed this call for a new evangelisation, seeing it as a prophetic task of love to evangelise the whole world. Pope Francis calls us all to the work of the new evangelisation. It is a hallmark of his ministry and preaching. 'Go Out, Go Out', he says, 'Go Out and share the beauty of the Gospel and the amazement of the encounter with Jesus.'
Outreach is especially involved in parish ministry. Blessed Paul VI taught us that we have to do more than just speak the words, we have to be modern examples of them: we only listen to teachers if they are witnesses.
How do we invite people? Sometimes it is just a matter of actually doing it. As I went down the street yesterday a Church of Scientology brochure was offered to me. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have run into a Catholic lady handing out parish bulletins? On a plane recently I had an aisle seat, and the person sitting next to me asked,
'Have you been born again?'
'Oh, you're a Catholic'.
She had a lot of bags, so I asked her whether she had a bible. She didn't, but she did have some 3"x5" cards with scriptural texts on them. One had the passage from Matthew 16 where Jesus tells Peter that he is the rock on which He will build His Church. She asked me, 'Tell me about this church thing'. So I did. But I was struck by how much we take for granted. So many people have no idea about anything about the Church, the sacraments and the Eucharist. Afterward the man across the aisle leaned over and said, 'Hey Father, I'm a Catholic, and I didn't know that.'
Renewal requires these elements:
•Renewal of personal faith. Not just the assent of the mind, but prayer asking the Holy Spirit to fill us.
•To stand confident in the truth. We don't have to apologise for our Risen Lord.
•The desire to share it.
The evangelising disciple has to know and be confident in the message.
In 1962 Vatican II began with the goal of preparing the Catholic faith and mission to shine forth to bring people to receive the Church's love. The purpose was to present better the precious deposit of Christian doctrine, and to make it more accessible to Christian people and people of goodwill and to show the strength and beauty of the doctrine of the faith.
Looking back over the time from the mid-1960s until now, we can see the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Pathways of renewal began, some consistent with the Gospel, some not and they introduced confusion into the liturgy and catechesis. Even before becoming Benedict XVI, Cardinal Ratzinger began to work on the hermeneutic of renewal and against the hermeneutic of discontinuity. This need for a deeper appreciation of our faith - so that we can be prepared to speak it - has been verified by a whole line of pontiffs.
Paul VI stood up for the truth despite the times of turmoil around him. John Paul II's task was to implement Vatican II and he spent 27 years doing that. Benedict XVI's writings renewed our appreciation of scripture and patristics – the profound roots going back to the revelation of Jesus Christ. With Pope Francis we are the beneficiaries of 50 years of preparation for this time of fresh perspective. Pope Francis brings his own emphasis to this renewal – that the role of the laity in the renewal is absolutely essential. 'Go out, encounter people, accompany them on the journey so that more people may experience Jesus Christ.'
Collegiality – working together collaboratively and co-operatively- is also for parish, reinforcing the message of the college of bishops. Amoris Laetitia gives us a perspective on renewal and its content shows us how to do what Pope Francis invites us to do – to listen. The Synod on the Family, in its two parts, was a time to listen, to talk, to dialogue. Out of that experience, and consensus, came the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. In it is a focus on the human person as the object of an invitation to faith, speaking more about grace and less about law and obligation. The shallow happiness with which many are content falls short of the joy that should be the sustenance of every believer.
We can now actually hear, understand and be willing to share our faith, as a result of these post Vatican II years. We need to hear that God is a loving forgiving God. While we might get tired of asking for forgiveness, He never gets tired of granting it. At the same time we have to be aware of these words of Jesus, and do them: 'You will be My witnesses; go out, and make them disciples'. God's mercy and our conscience leads us to focus on living our lives as an expression of mercy and love.
The principle attributes of a missionary disciples are:
The Synod on the Family was preceded by extensive consultation. Pope Francis understands this process of listening to the faithful. This synodality, this journeying together is essential for the Church today. Not just listening, but accompanying. We are going at this together. This involves a change of style and intensity which has implications for parish life and personal outreach. Pastors need to do more than just teach Church doctrine, they must take on the smell of the sheep and realise that we are here to serve. Our liturgy does not have to be so complex that it is off-putting.
Not too long ago I was in a cab in Rome. The traffic was chaotic and the cabbie was the type to drive while looking at you. 'Have you met this Pope?' 'Yes!' 'You can understand him when he speaks, not like you people.'
We need to present the faith, the kerygma, in all its clarity. In Pope Francis' morning homilies at Mass we see a continuous renewal of the kerygma of faith made simple.
We have to help our people discern what does it mean to say Christ is Risen.
Amoris Laetitia 37: 'We have long thought that simply by stressing doctrinal, bioethical and moral issues, without encouraging openness to grace, we were providing sufficient support to families, strengthening the marriage bond and giving meaning to marital life. We find it difficult to present marriage more as a dynamic path to personal development and fulfilment than as a lifelong burden. We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations. We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them.'
People respond as best they can to God's call within their limitations. We are called to help form their consciences. We need to do this so that we can all grow closer together to Christ. As we do this, we all draw closer to Christ.
What kind of qualities do our new evangelisers need to have?
It is a moment of grace. Calling parish a neighbourhood of grace is a beautiful description. We are living in a new moment – given the history of the Church and the special emphasis that Pope Francis brings.
Courage & Boldness
In the Acts of the Apostles, before Pentecost we see the apostles timid. Afterwards we see them bold. Peter and Paul both boldly preached Jesus, and this boldness was born of the confidence in the truth of the message.
Connectedness to the Church
We are not individuals, we are members of the Church. Renew this revelation, recognise it. Our membership of the community that passes on the good news of Jesus is our authentication. Children get to the heart of things much better than we do. For 30 years I have kept a letter I received from a child called Dominic who was then in Year 4: 'Dear Bishop, I find it amazing that you knew somebody, who knew somebody, who knew somebody, who knew somebody…..who knew Jesus.' It is our living continuity with the disciples who knew Jesus that matters.
Sense of Urgency
We are not passive bystanders. We have to be involved, and play our part in the New Evangelisation. It is our turn now. Others will take it up later. When we look at the visit of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth we see what urgency looks like in action – she went in haste on a long and difficult journey.
It is alright to smile. The Gospel is a glorious announcement. Christ is risen, truly risen. He is with us. 'You should see Me in the faces of the people you care for.'
We are called to reinvigorate our faith every day, to share it, and to be open to the movement and outpouring of the Holy Spirit as we try to bring the Good News to others: as we share the simple announcement: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
We were then given a discussion question: What is one thing that struck you about Pope Francis' vision of evangelisation for your parish?
Cardinal Wuerl is even more impressive in person than on paper. He went out of his way (just like Pope Francis) to greet and chat to as many non-dignitaries as possible. Even sitting still he still exuded the presence of the Holy Spirit.
There is a lot to unpack from this talk, and it bears reading and re-reading several times. However the part that stayed with me the longest was that we are living in a privileged time of grace, prepared by God during the last half-century and that we need to respond to God's call for us Now. When I think about all this the picture of a big wave of grace comes to mind, building and building - a bit like a tsunami-, and that we need to ride that wave as it begins to move. But the time is short, and if we are too slow to respond, then we will miss that wave of grace.
The call to 'Go Out' is one we need to hear and work out how to respond to. Frequently we put on programs and expect people to come to us, and to come to the parish buildings. As was recalled to me recently, Jesus did not sit in a synagogue and wait for people to come to Him. He went to every town and village He could get to. Somehow we need to get out of our parish building mindset and set up outreach in the community, where people go and gather. Granted, there is a significant amount of red tape (paperwork) and money that local Councils want these days for setting up a street stall – or to get a pop-up stall in a shopping centre – but our commitment to mission has to find ways through these obstacles.
On the good news side, it isn't necessary 'to reinvent the wheel'. St Paul Street Evangelisation is doing great work, and training people too. Their Twitter feed is worth following @spstreetevan . Faith on Tap @FaithOnTap, Theology on Tap and Spirituality in the Pub are all doing their outreach in venues where schooners and middies available. The very good work 40 Days For Life does as a public witness against the evils of abortion cannot be underestimated from an evangelical perspective either.
Anyone who has listened to Pope Francis over the past few years has heard that we need to do more to truly listen to people and accompany them where they are at. The next step, of helping them discern how best to respond to God in the concrete circumstances of their lives, hasn't had much 'air-play' up until now. But we do need to plan for it, otherwise it won't happen. Maybe we will hear more about that when we start getting the listening and accompanying going.
That Roman cab driver sure issued a challenge! It is all too easy to forget that we speak in what to the ears of others is 'unintelligible church-speak'. To get any traction with our listeners, we are going to have to learn the local patois, just like Our Lady did when she came to speak to St Bernadette at Lourdes.
I loved Cardinal Wuerl's description of the Church as a community of believers who have passed on their knowledge of Jesus from the first disciples to us today. Viewed that way, Church isn't an option extra but is the way we meet the living, breathing Jesus.
Urgency: I can't tell you how often my memory replays for me Warwick Neville saying 'The Gospel message is always urgent'. If it doesn't bother us that the things we have failed to do today may have stopped someone encountering Jesus, then it should. But for that encounter there is a chance he or she could be eternally lost. Hmmm, that parish Facebook page that I started pushing for over a year ago, just think how many people might have been reached or at least have had a thought about God cross their brains if it had happened back then.
For myself, I am making a point of trying to get into conversation with anyone who crosses my path whether it be waiting at the chemist, sitting on a train or bus, or trying to make sure that the stranger who came to church this morning was acknowledged as a person. So far the openings haven't come to speak directly of faith in Jesus, but hopefully these 'practice runs' will eventually produce that kind of fruit. On the plus side, every person has been memorable and in quieter moments prayed for afterwards.
In the next issue will have the homily from the opening Mass of the conference with Archbishop Coleridge presiding. I often find that the conference homilies contain the true keynotes of conferences like these.
A reminder that these notes are indeed rough. Many times I may not have caught Cardinal Wuerl's thought correctly or have mis-decoded my hasty scrawls. Apologies for any errors.