In anticipation of his Nov. 6 presentation at the Saint John Paul II Lecture Series in Denver on his new book The Evangelizing Parish, Cardinal Francis Arinze, former Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, shared with the Denver Catholic some of the motives and highlights of his latest volume, in which he describes why and how a parish should be “permanently in a state of mission.”
Denver Catholic: What led you to focus on the parish as the primary agent of evangelization?
Cardinal Arinze: What led me to focus on the parish as a primary agent of evangelization is that many priests and lay people do not appreciate sufficiently the potential of the parish to evangelize.
Also, some priests may in their hearts think that the most intelligent priests are those who lecture in universities, while the remaining ones are sent to work in the parish. They may not appreciate enough that the basic assignment for a priest is parish work.
As for the lay faithful, when many hear the word “parish,” they may not immediately think of themselves but rather of the priest. The book is meant to help them realize that the parish is “they.”
DC: What fruits do you hope to see in priests and lay people from reading your book?
CA: The fruits which I hope will be reaped from reading the book are: a great esteem for the parish on the part of priests, greater readiness on the part of the lay faithful and the religious brothers and sisters in the parish to help spread the faith and more fervor on the part of all to do what is in their power to evangelize.
DC: What do you consider some of the greatest challenges that impede parishes from becoming “evangelizing parishes” in the West?
CA: Some of the challenges that may be impeding parishes from being fully evangelizing in the West are: stress on management and office work rather than on witness, not enough prayer on the part of all concerned, not being ready to be “disturbed” by the poor, not much being done to bring the Gospel to non-Christians in the parish, not much being done to contact lapsed Catholics or non-believers, and shyness to propose religion to others in a culture that presumes that “nobody is going to tell me what to do”; and even hesitation to make the Sign of the Cross in a restaurant or to say the Rosary in a bus, train or plane.
DC: How would you describe the ideal “parish priest” and the ideal “parishioner”?
CA: My ideal parish priest and parishioner is one who is restless in the desire to witness to Christ, to propose the Gospel, to help practicing Catholics and families to be even better, and one who is not afraid to be regarded as different from the majority.
DC: Is there anything else you would like readers to know regarding an evangelizing parish?
CA: I [want to] end by returning to the importance of prayer. Jesus has told us that without him we can do nothing. Holy Mass celebrated with faith, and also Eucharistic adoration, Marian veneration and fidelity to personal and family prayer will help to make the parish more on fire to evangelize.
John Paul II Lecture Series
Tuesday, Nov. 6, 7:30 p.m.
1300 S. Steele St., Denver
Space is limited; RSVP at archden.org/lecture