Arts & Books Books

St Paul VI’s other earth-shaking encyclical

In 1975, Paul VI appealed for evangelisers 'whose lives glow with fervour' (CNS)

The pope's call to evangelise has lost none of its urgency, says Fr Denis Blackledge SJ

Sent to Proclaim the Gospels
By Jim McManus CSSR,
Redemptorist Publications, 164pp, £12.99/$15

Pope Paul VI’s great encyclical on evangelisation, Evangelii Nuntiandi, written in 1975, was the spark for this book, which is timely, coming soon after his canonisation.

In seven chapters, Fr Jim McManus spells out what the universal call to be an evangeliser means in today’s world. He uses a variety of resources culled from Vatican II documents, and the writings of all the recent Popes – from Paul VI to Francis. The keys which unlock the riches of this book are a couple of paragraphs from Evangelii Nuntiandi: “Evangelising is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists to evangelise …” and “May the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the Good News not from evangelisers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervour.”

The author teases out these two quotations in the rest of the book, asking where can we get the motivation to become evangelisers, and using a seminal quote from John Paul II as answer: “The burning desire to encounter the One whom we have encountered is the start of the evangelising mission to which the whole Church is called.” This is the task of every single member of the Church.

It is impossible to make Jesus known to others unless we grow daily into a deeper relationship with Him ourselvesas individuals called by Christ. But it is within each parish – which, as Pope Francis says, is called to be “an oasis of mercy” – that evangelisation needs to be grounded.

Paul VI’s legacy is well and truly explained in this clear and trenchant book, and the writer shows how the popes who followed Paul VI have enhanced the message of each member of the Church as a missionary disciple, called to become an ever better evangeliser in ordinary everyday living – a message that is both urgent and opportune.