I recently had an e-mail discussion with a couple of friends about how some bishops seem enamored with the idea of "education" (as in "educating the laity"), to the point of obscuring and even discouraging a vibrant witness to the gospel. One friend, who has worked in a chancellery and for parishes (and has witnessed the good, the bad, and the heretical), wrote:
I think the emphasis on education ... betrays a gnostic tendency I encountered all too often in working for the church, to wit: the goal of the Church's work is to impart "enlightenment/gnosis/awareness," not salvation from sin and death. It also shows an unwillingness to get down and dirty and into the nitty-gritty of people's lives. Rather than confront suffering and sin head on, it is much more comfortable to sit in a well-apportioned room and have high-minded dialogues about "process," "renewal," and (you know it's coming) "collaboration." Sts. Peter and Paul would puke.
And the other friend mentioned this passage from Pope Paul VI's 1975 apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi ("On Evangelization In The Modern World"):
Without repeating everything that we have already mentioned, it is appropriate first of all to emphasize the following point: for the Church, the first means of evangelization is the witness of an authentically Christian life, given over to God in a communion that nothing should destroy and at the same time given to one's neighbor with limitless zeal. As we said recently to a group of lay people, "Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses." St. Peter expressed this well when he held up the example of a reverent and chaste life that wins over even without a word those who refuse to obey the word. It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus- the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity. (par. 41)
If you've never read Evangelii Nuntiandi, consider doing so sometime as it is a really excellent and helpful document, an often overlooked and underappreciated precursor to the "new evangelization" emphasized by Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
On Ignatius Insight:
• Can Catholics Be Evangelists? An interview with Russell Shaw
• We Are All Called To Be Evangelizers | by Fr. C. John McCloskey, III, and Russell Shaw
• Evangelization 101: A Short Guide to Sharing the Gospel | Carl E. Olson
• Evangelization & Imperialism | Carl E. Olson
• Evangelizing With Love, Beauty and Reason | Joseph Pearce
• The History and Purpose of Apologetics | An Interview with Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J.
• Love Alone is Believable: Hans Urs von Balthasar's Apologetics | Fr. John R. Cihak
• "Be A Catholic Apologist--Without Apology" | Carl E. Olson