During the nearly twenty-seven years of his pontificate, Pope Saint John Paul II called the Church to the urgent mission of fulfilling the Great Commission in our time, a project he called the New Evangelization. This evangelical summons of John Paul continued the same call given to the Church by the Second Vatican Council, a call taken up in turn by Pope Benedict XVI and now by Pope Francis who asks us to bring the strongest commitment to announcing the timeless truths of the Gospel with new ardor, new methods, and new conviction.
Evangelical Catholicism is not meant to be a movement within the Church, still less a sect or sub-set of Catholicism; it is simply a way of understanding the vocation of every Christian to be a true disciple of and faithful witness to the Lord Jesus. Understanding and practicing the Eight Principles of Evangelical Catholicism can help any Catholic follow the Lord Jesus ever more faithfully in the Way of the Cross through radical conversion, deep fidelity, joyful discipleship, and courageous evangelism.
The Principles of Evangelical Catholicism
1. The Lord Jesus Christ is the crucified and risen Savior of all mankind, and no human person can fully understand his life or find his dignity and destiny apart from an authentic friendship with the Lord Jesus. It is not enough to know who Jesus is; we must know and love the Lord Jesus.
2. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is divine revelation, not human wisdom, and the Gospel is given to us in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition which together constitute a single divine deposit of faith transmitted authentically and authoritatively by the Bishops in full communion with the Bishop of Rome. We must surrender our private judgments in all matters of faith and morals to the sacred teaching authority of the Church’s Magisterium if we are to receive the whole Gospel.
3. The seven Sacraments of the New Covenant are divinely instituted instruments of grace given to the Church as the ordinary means of sanctification for believers. Receiving the Sacraments regularly and worthily is essential to the life of grace, and for this reason, faithful attendance at Sunday Mass every week and regular Confession of sins are absolutely required for a life of authentic discipleship.
4. Through Word and Sacrament we are drawn by grace into a transforming union with the Lord Jesus, and having been justified by faith we are called to sanctification and equipped by the Holy Spirit for the good works of the new creation. We must, therefore, learn to live as faithful disciples and to reject whatever is contrary to the Gospel, which is the Good News of the Father’s mercy and love revealed in the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
5. The sacred liturgy, through which the seven Sacraments are celebrated and the Hours of praise are prayed, makes present to us the saving mysteries of the Lord Jesus. The liturgy must therefore be celebrated in such a way that the truth of the Gospel, the beauty of sacred music, the dignity of ritual form, the solemnity of divine worship, and the fellowship of the baptized assembled to pray are kept together in organic unity.
6. Receiving the Sacraments without receiving the Gospel leads to superstition rather than living faith, and the Church must therefore take great care to insure that those who receive the Sacraments also receive the Gospel in its integrity and entirety. Consequently, before Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, and Marriage are administered, there must be in those who request these Sacraments clear evidence of knowledge of the Gospel and a serious intention to live the Christian life.
7. Being a follower of Christ requires moving from being a Church member by convention to a Christian disciple by conviction. This transformation demands that we consciously accept the Gospel as the measure of our entire lives, rather than attempting to measure the Gospel by our experience. Personal knowledge of and devotion to Sacred Scripture is necessary for this transformation to occur through the obedience of faith, and there is no substitute for personal knowledge of the Bible. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.
8. All the baptized are sent in the Great Commission to be witnesses of Christ to others and must be equipped by the Church to teach the Gospel in word and deed. An essential dimension of true discipleship is the willingness to invite others to follow the Lord Jesus and the readiness to explain His Gospel.