Testimony: Cardinal Dolan Calls Penance the Sacrament of the New Evangelization and How I Know He is Right
The New Evangelization reminds us that the very agents of evangelization must first be evangelized themselves
Like priming a pump I began to speak and the words flowed forth in a cathartic experience, complete with tears- a torrent of repentance. This wonderful priest of Jesus Christ looked at me with the compassion of His Lord and simply listened. I expressed my remorse and I asked the Lord for forgiveness. Then I heard those words I had not heard since I was a child: "I absolve you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit". So certain. So firm. So personal. So liberating!
VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - In his intervention at the Synod on the New Evangelization on Tuesday, October 9, 2012, the Cardinal Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, called the Sacrament of Penance the Sacrament of the new Evangelization. He is absolutely right. It is the Sacrament of the Encounter, the Sacrament of New Beginnings. His words can be read in full on his wonderful blog "The Gospel in the Digital Age". Here is an excerpt:
"The great American evangelist, The Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, commented, "The first word of Jesus in the Gospel was 'come'; the last word of Jesus was 'go'."The New Evangelization reminds us that the very agents of evangelization must first be evangelized themselves. We must first come to Jesus ourselves before we can go out to others in His Holy Name. But, the sacrament of reconciliation evangelizes the evangelizers, as it brings us sacramentally into contact with Jesus, who calls us to conversion of heart, and inspires us to answer His invitation to repentance. As we learned in philosophy, nemo dat qoud non habet ("no one gives what he does not have")."
This wonderful Sacrament of freedom and new beginning was so instrumental in my return to the Church as a young man. I still remember the day as if it were yesterday. The sun drenched retreat grounds stretched out before my young eyes. I was eighteen years old, a new "revert" to the Catholic faith and living in Florida. I had registered to attend a spiritual retreat featuring a Benedictine Monk speaking on how to develop an intimate relationship with the Lord through prayer. I was ready.
Though I never "officially" left the Catholic Church, I had certainly lost my commitment to the faith and the Church into which I had been baptized. My return to a personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ- and my knowing, mature decision to embrace the full teaching of the Catholic Church -was an extraordinary event - a type of conversion story. It is a journey being played out in the lives of thousands in our day. It was my own experience of a new Evangelization because it was an encounter with the One who makes us new creations. (2 Cor. 5:17)
The ancient Catholic Church is coming alive with the sons and daughters who are either rediscovering her beauty and depth or discovering both for the first time. Her sons and daughters coming home are founding new movements, ecclesial communities, ministries and works. Everything old is new again! An experience of a return home, a personal conversion to the Church often characterizes the journey home of so many Catholic Christians.
I had wandered far from the faith of my childhood during my adolescence and my teenage years. I was caught up, as were so many of my generation, in a passionate search for truth and meaning. Through what many would have seen as a misspent youth I was actually reaching out to answer the existential questions that were burning in my soul. I was sincere in my search for truth and the Lord knew it. The search eventually led me back to the One whom Himself claimed to be the Truth.
At the encouragement of a Jewish friend, who had become a Christian while traveling in Jerusalem, I re-examined the claims of Jesus Christ. This friend and I had wandered the pilgrim road of a spiritual journey for years together. Eventually, at the ripe age of seventeen, I set out hitchhiking across America on a pilgrimage of sorts and he did the same, choosing to backpack across Europe. He ended in Israel and I in California.
He wrote me from the Mount of Olives and told me--his Catholic friend---about an encounter with "Yeshua", Jesus. He had dedicated the rest of his life to following Him. He quoted the Psalmist David: "how can a young man keep his way pure." in the opening paragraph of a letter that lasted for pages. We began our journey together. He, raised in a nominally Jewish home, had hungered to find truth. He set out with a backpack and journeyed across Europe. He ended his search in the Holy Land, where he accepted the claims of Jesus Christ. Because of our friendship, he knew that he had to give this wonderful gift to me.
I realized as I read his powerful letter that I was that "young man" of whom the Psalmist's timeless words spoke. I longed to be made new again. I began to reflect on my life. I had been baptized a Catholic. In fact my family had a devout and real faith when I was very young. However, a family tragedy shook our world when I was only ten years old and our practice of the faith grew nearly non-existent. That day I did not fully realize that my journey, like Dorothy in of the Wizard of Oz, would lead me all the way home to the Catholic Church because there truly is "no place like home." I only knew I was no longer close to God. The letter made me remember former days.
I had fond memories of a time when I was very close to Him as a boy. Like when I served ...
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