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Paul sheds light on today’s challenges

Ronald D. Witherup; Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota 2013

Reviewed by Barbara Flynn

bookSUPERIOR general of the Sulpician priests Fr Ronald Witherup, a highly respected Pauline scholar, invites readers to consider the work St Paul expresses through his letters, as offering “a biblically based conception of evangelisation as suited to present times”.

During the pontificate of Pope St John Paul II the Church had been urged “to move in the power of God to usher in a new springtime of evangelisation requiring new fervour, new clarity in expression of Christian beliefs and fresh dynamism”.

During 2012, the Synod of Bishops convened by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in Rome subsequently explored in detail the concept, “The New Evangelisation for Transmission of the Christian Faith”.

Witherup recognised in the early material published from the synod that particular themes could be linked to perspectives on evangelisations occurring in the New Testament and specifically in the work of St Paul.

Compelled by what he saw as the universal need for “the average person in the pews” to be able to grasp the implications of the concept, “New Evangelisation” for the Church and for them personally, Witherup has prepared his material as an educative resource with explanations accessible to a wide audience.

The history of “New Evangelisation”, followed by a broad description of intended key elements within the process, is given the second chapter.

Features of the mission and evangelising work of St Paul are discussed in depth in the third chapter, supported by biblical references and accompanied by a synopsis of Paul’s life with a timeline.

Among factors which Witherup notes as particularly significant in Paul’s mission are his teachings on the Eucharist, the Trinity, the Cross and Resurrection, the demands of Christian ethics, justification by faith and sustained hope.

All these concepts receive attention in the material that has emerged from the Synod on the New Evangelisation and the transmission of the Christian Faith.

The detailed index to Scriptures used throughout this informative book is particularly helpful.

Within the development of each chapter, material is carefully organised and well suited to study and discuss by groups in parishes.

Essential information on certain characteristics of St Paul’s evangelising mission is inter-linked and inter-related with principles derived from the synod deliberations thus affording a biblically enriching experience.

Of particular significance is the content of chapters where St Paul’s teachings illustrate among other things: authentic faith is personal and Christ-centered; the individual and communal dimension of faith must be equally respected; evangelisation and the transmission of faith and responsibilities of all the baptised; the mission of the Church is sustained through prayer, Sacred Scripture, sacraments, and justice and peace ethics.

Witherup writes in a conversational style devoid of obscure vocabulary.

The final chapter summarises the key issues explored in the content, followed by the glossary of terms.

While Witherup offers 100 pages of actual teaching, he provides Appendixes A to E which importantly include “Propositions from the Synod on the New Evangelisation” and “Major Church Resource Documents for the New Evangelisation” as well as a “Summary Chart of the Final Message” which is one of hope, optimism and encouragement.

Finally he lists resources including three web references, a DVD and a CD to guide parish-level ministry.

This book has inestimable value as a resource for parish communities concerned with the Church of the present and of the future.

“Gold tested in Fire: A new Pentecost of the Catholic Priesthood” (2012), by Witherup, is recommended also in relation to the New Evangelisation.

Saint Paul and the New Evangelisation is available from St Paulís Book Centre, Elizabeth Street, Brisbane.

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