Catholics today are being called to renew their own faith in order to share the Gospel with the modern world, said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl.
“The role of the church is primarily to be a witness to the great human values, to be a witness to Christ’s message in the midst of everything else that is going on,” the cardinal said.
“We have to be, in a way, a conscience for a nation that is caught up in so many directions.”
Cardinal Wuerl spoke at the Newseum in downtown Washington, D.C., on Sept. 10. He was interviewed by Fox News anchor Bret Baier for an annual lecture hosted by the John Carroll Society, an organization of professionals dedicating to strengthening the faith and serving the archdiocese.
The cardinal said that during his time leading the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., he has found hope “in watching the New Evangelization unfold, watching the new Pentecost unfold.”
He explained that the New Evangelization is not presenting a new message. Rather, it is a call to “renew our commitment to the faith,” while seeking new ways to introduce people to the unchanging Gospel message.
“The New Evangelization is renewing your own faith personally, being confident of it, just like the Pope is, and then sharing it,” Cardinal Wuerl explained.
He said that the fruits of such a renewal of faith can be seen throughout the archdiocese in the enthusiastic youth, the full seminaries and activities such as Theology on Tap.
Still, there are challenges, the cardinal said. He noted that modern society brings “voices speaking to us from sources other than the Gospel,” and there is a tendency “to bleach out the place of God, the place of faith publicly.”
“We need to listen,” he commented, “but we need to be critical. Not everything that we hear today should be taken without at least weighing it against ‘what does Jesus say?’”
“The task of the Church is to keep lifting up the values of the Gospel in a situation, a climate, a culture that is very preoccupied with something else,” he continued.
One of the areas in which the values of the Gospel differ significantly from those of the culture is in the realm of sexual morality, Cardinal Wuerl said.
“The Church has a very clear message that sexual activity is supposed to occur in marriage,” he explained.
There are people who do not always follow these teachings, he acknowledged, and for those people, the Church is “not here to criticize and critique, but we are here to say ‘this is the way’” and help them to follow the commandments.
The cardinal also emphasized the duty of Catholics to continue aiding those who are neglected by the rest of society.
“We cannot succeed without bringing forward our brothers and sisters, especially those that have no other way forward.”
He lauded Pope Francis for setting an example in this regard with his “quiet, persistent, consistent presentation of faith.”
There has been “no change in the teaching” or doctrine of the Church between Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, the cardinal clarified. However, the current Pope’s style of simplicity and listening are an example for the faithful to follow.
Cardinal Wuerl also encouraged those at the lecture to pray, saying that prayer is “our conversation with God” and an important foundation for building a relationship with the Lord.
“Prayer changes hearts, and if enough hearts are changed, the whole world can be changed,” he explained, suggesting that people pray numerous short prayers throughout the day.
“People who believe have a horizon so much larger,” the cardinal remarked, because faith allows us to “simply to know there’s a purpose to life, there is someone who will explain in my heart what it is all about and who will be with me on the journey.”
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