Download the Pastoral Letter The Preacher - Servant of the Word of God
The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron, Archbishop of Detroit
A pastoral letter to the priests and deacons
of the Archdiocese of Detroit
Dear brothers, beloved sons:
On the Vigil of Pentecost in this Year of Grace 2015, the Church in the Archdiocese solemnly began our immediate preparation for our archdiocesan Synod on the New Evangelization: Christ ordained five new priests to work in this part of His vineyard to carry forward the New Evangelization with new energy and youthful enthusiasm; and later in the evening at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, representatives from all the ranks of our local Church gathered with me to ask once again for the Holy Spirit, the promised Paraclete, to descend on us in power, so we may make disciples of all nations by proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.
As the New Evangelization Initiative unfolds, I expect to share a number of letters and other communications on this theme. To mark the launch of the Initiative last month, it seems most appropriate to begin with a letter to you, my closest coworkers in this sacred mission, and to consider with you the topic of preaching, a work of ours indispensable for advancing this mission.
I anticipate those other letters will often find, as this one does, inspiration and direction in Pope Francis’ recent letter The Joy of the Gospel – what some folks are calling the “playbook for the Church” for the task of the New Evangelization. I have built on The Joy of the Gospel in what follows. I take its wisdom and insights as givens. I have also resolved to avoid the temptation to try to cover everything that could be said. My aim is to simply to break open the topic, as a pledge of my communion with you in the service of the Gospel, a service for which we have sacrificed all and to which we dedicate ourselves completely.
As part of my Preface, let me share a point from the Pope’s letter that sets us on a sure path in the work of the New Evangelization. In The Joy of the Gospel, the Holy Father sets before us a vision about being a joyful community of evangelizing disciples, eager to engage in the work of the New Evangelization called for many years ago by St. John Paul II. This work, clearly, is not only daunting but truly beyond us; it is God’s work. And, yet, as with all things in the life of the disciple, it calls for our wholehearted response. God the Father is calling us “to be all in.” At the risk of being too pointed, I pose this question: Are we as bishops, priests, and deacons really “all in?” That is, are we operating in a maintenance mode or a missionary mode? Are we daily calling upon the outpouring of the Holy Spirit for ourselves and for our flocks, so the joy of the Gospel can be heard and responded to in a world that is longing for God, even though many of our contemporaries and parishioners either outright reject this claim or do not know it? “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless, and always will be restless until they rest in You” (St. Augustine). Like St. Paul, it would be worth our praying daily, sincerely, for an ever greater longing in our people to know Him and to see the God we love and the people we love in each other’s arms.
ON PREACHING THE GOOD NEWS
While Pope Francis’ letter received a fair amount of coverage in the press, both ecclesial and secular, especially those parts dealing with issues that touched on the economy, his discussion of preaching in particular has flown under the radar. In section II of chapter three (The Proclamation of the Gospel), Francis treats in no small detail the homily as the single moment in which most of us as bishops, priests, and deacons have the best opportunity to be God’s instruments on a daily, or at least weekly, basis and help our brothers and sisters to have an encounter with God. This section, which encompasses paragraphs 135-159, deserves our sitting with, thinking over and praying at length with, as ministers in the Lord’s service.
In part prompted by this section written by our Holy Father, the following paragraphs are also offered for our prayer as we think in particular about two topics: (1) preaching to evangelize, and (2) preaching the New Evangelization to our brothers and sisters. The following are short, perhaps too short, and are certainly not intended to be exhaustive on either topic. Rather, they are offered to help us reflect a bit more about the extraordinary gift God has given to us to proclaim His Word in the assembly.