Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

If this is the New Evangelization, why isn't the general public invited?

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jun 04, 2013

Since last Sunday, when Pope Francis led a worldwide hour of Eucharistic adoration, several readers have contacted me to complain that in their own parishes, no plans had been made to join in the initiative. This negligence, my friend said, showed that their pastors were not in tune with the Vatican, not thinking along with the universal Church.

Ordinarily I would be inclined to agree with such criticisms: to say that pastors should inform their people about statements from the Vatican, and ensure that their churches are following the Pope’s pastoral plans. But pastors aren't clairvoyant. If you want them to cooperate with the Vatican's plans, you need to tell them what the Vatican plans are. In this case I’m going to side with the pastors, and lay the blame on the Vatican. You can’t blame pastors for failing to make advance plans, if the Vatican didn’t provide advance notice. What we have here is a failure to communicate.

I first became aware of the plans for a worldwide hour of Eucharistic adoration—led by the Pope in Rome, but observed simultaneously in cathedrals all around the world—on Tuesday, May 28, when the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization held a press conference to announce the event. Now keep in mind that it’s my job to stay current on the latest announcements from Rome. A pastor has other duties. Even if he followed Church news carefully—that is, even if he did try his best to follow the Pope’s lead, even if he read all the CWN headlines--a typical American pastor didn’t learn about the planned hour of Eucharistic adoration until Tuesday night or, more likely, Wednesday morning.

Wednesday, for many American pastors, is the deadline day for the parish bulletin. If he learned about the Vatican plan within 24 hours after it was announced at that Tuesday press conference, the pastor still had time to put a notice in the bulletin. So he should have informed his parishioners, right?

Wrong. Think about it. When do parishioners pick up the parish bulletin? On Sunday, when they come to Mass. Since the hour of Eucharistic adoration was scheduled for that very Sunday, there was no efficient way for the unfortunate pastor to give his people advance notice in the parish bulletin. Oh, I suppose the notice could have been given in time to the people who attended an anticipatory Mass on Saturday evening. But then there’s another major complication.

Let’s just suppose that the pastor saw the Vatican announcement on Tuesday, put a notice in the bulletin on Wednesday, and arranged for Eucharistic adoration on Sunday, June 2. To coordinate perfectly with the Vatican event, a pastor on the east coast of the US would have scheduled the hour of adoration for 11 am. At any normal parish, that hour would have conflicted with the regular weekly Mass schedule. Since Sunday was observed as the feast of Corpus Christi in the US, many parishes had already scheduled Eucharistic processions, Benediction, and/or their own hours of adoration as well. To coordinate perfectly with the Vatican plans, the pastor would have needed to rearrange the parish schedule entirely, and then somehow to alert all his parishioners to both the revised schedule and the new event. Could it have been done? No doubt. But not easily.

Maybe I’m entirely wrong here. Maybe pastors had been contacted weeks or even months ago, and asked to begin planning for the hour of Eucharistic adoration. But at his May 28 press conference, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the president of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, made no mention of such advance planning. Instead he emphasized that his office had made arrangements with many cathedrals around the world, coordinating plans for simultaneous adoration. These cathedral parishes were notified well in advance, I gather, and other parishes were not, because their participation was not deemed essential to the success of the event.

But if that is the case, how is the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization measuring its success? If the Church plans an event in which the faithful worldwide join in simultaneous prayer with the Roman Pontiff, why not notify all the faithful? An hour of Eucharistic adoration is a powerful form of prayer; why not include all Catholics in that initiative?

At that same May 28 press conference, Archbishop Fisichella announced plans for another event: an Evangelium Vitae Day, to be observed June 15-16. For those who are involved, the plans sound wonderful: a series of catechetical talks, a candelight procession to St. Peter’s Square, a prayer vigil, Confession and Eucharistic adoration, and Sunday Mass with Pope Francis presiding. But again only a tiny fraction of the worldwide Catholic population will participate; the vast majority of the faithful will probably never hear about the initiative.

These events are good things. Eucharistic adoration, Confession, catechesis, visits to the tomb of St. Peter: how could any faithful Catholic object? The problem is not with the events themselves, but with the approach taken by the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization. By staging these events without furnishing an invitation for all the world to participate, this Vatican dicastery is hiding a light under a bushel. In effect these events have been organized for a relatively small number of invited participants, chosen from among the ranks of Catholics who are already actively involved with cathedral parishes or pro-life ministries. That’s an odd approach, for a dicastery that should be devoted to reaching Catholics who have drifted away from the faith. 

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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Show 6 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Jun. 16, 2013 11:26 AM ET USA

    I still don't know what the New Evangelization is. Nor is it clear who we are to evangelize. Are protestants still in the mix?

  • Posted by: family-man - Jun. 09, 2013 11:09 PM ET USA

    You aren't entirely wrong, Phil, just inattentive. Zenit's article on Aug. 3, 2102, listed the event: "June 2, feast of Corpus Christi: Benedict XVI will lead the solemn adoration of the Eucharist and is asking every cathedral and parish to have an hour of silent contemplation before the Blessed Sacrament at exactly the same hour." When I contacted my pastor in early May about a Corpus Christi procession, he knew about the holy hour with the pope. We had it at 11:00 ET, before the procession.

  • Posted by: ElizabethD - Jun. 08, 2013 12:10 AM ET USA

    The bishops were informed ahead. I belong to the Cathedral Parish in Madison, WI and it was announced the preceding Sunday that there would be an hour of adoration before Mass to coincide (very conveniently) with the worldwide adoration hour, and then we would have a Eucharistic Procession to the State Capitol after. In fact Bp Morlino said Pope Francis had asked all bishops to send a report and wanted to know how many parishes joined in, and how many bishops joined in the worldwide adoration.

  • Posted by: lak321 - Jun. 07, 2013 11:37 PM ET USA

    I did see this long ago on a .va main web site. But how many people watch that page?

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Jun. 05, 2013 4:41 PM ET USA

    This is the Information Age. We could have an internet-based service from the Vatican directly to parishes for things like this that do not require the approval of bishops. I am crazy about Pope Francis, and his off-the-cuff style would be very suited to this.

  • Posted by: balynn7667 - Jun. 05, 2013 10:29 AM ET USA

    For the past 15 yrs our parish always has a Procession & Adoration on Corpus Christi and I recall when all parishes used to have Procession and Adoration on this Sun. Granted the Vatican could have sent a message to all parishes about this 3-4 wks prior.