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Bishop Robert Barron to speak to Australia
Bishop Robert Barron will speak to Australian Catholics – and all those who are interested – in November. Photo: CNS, courtesy Word on Fire

Bishop Robert Barron launches Sydney’s Reclaiming Evangelisation Series

Saturday 13 November 2021, 11 AM – 12:30 PM

Register for Bishop Barron’s live online address to the faithful of Sydney as he launches Reclaiming Evangelisation: How Jesus’ Great Commission Will Renew Our Parishes. The series will continue in 2022 with Dr Mary Healy (12 February), Fr Jacques Philippe (23 March) and other inspiring speakers leading a conversation about why and how our parishes can be renewed through living more fully Christ’s evangelising mission.
Register at gomakedisciples.org.au
Enquiries: [email protected]

On meeting Bishop Robert Barron in 2015, Pope Francis welcomed the newly ordained auxiliary bishop with open arms, exclaiming, “Ah, the great preacher, who makes the airwaves tremble!” This prodigious reputation has been the result of Bishop Barron’s ability to cast the clear and illuminating light of Catholic faith on an array of contemporary questions and concerns, in a way that engages not only believers but anyone seeking to navigate their way through the universe of ideas that comprise post-modern culture. As attested by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the gift of Bishop Barron’s priestly and episcopal ministry has been that “[he] reaches many people… through his ability to connect what they know about the culture around them with what he knows about the saving message of Jesus Christ”.

It is an honour, then, that Bishop Barron will be speaking at an online event of the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation on 13 November, in support of the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Mission Plan Go Make Disciples. In addressing the question, “Why Make Disciples? The Case for the Evangelising Mission of the Church” Bishop Barron will offer to Sydney Catholics and many beyond his rich pastoral insight, deep intelligence and passionate conviction that the Christian faith has yet much to offer to the people and issues of our time.

Harnessing the power of the new media

The cover of “Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith” by Robert Barron. The book is the text of the groundbreaking 2011 documentary series created by Bishop Barron. Photo: CNS

Currently serving as auxiliary in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Bishop Barron was ordained to the priesthood in 1986 and served as associate pastor at St Paul of the Cross Parish in Park Ridge in Chicago. He later became rector and president of Mundelein Seminary and University of St Mary of the Lake in that same archdiocese, before founding ‘Word on Fire’ in the year 2000. Through this publishing apostolate, Bishop Barron has harnessed the power of social media to reach millions through formative resources, homilies, and podcasts and he can frequently be found sharing the insights of Catholic theology and philosophy on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and even Reddit.

In addition to the renowned Catholicism series, Bishop Barron has published works through his media ministry on Scriptural exegesis, apologetics, transcendental beauty, and the deep resources of Catholic Social Teaching, the latter which he offers as a sure guide through the various social and culture injustices and crises being contested not only in America but in much of the West. Whether taking on the underpinning philosophies of the ‘new atheism’, addressing the call to evangelise the ‘nones’, or holding court with the controversialist Jordan Peterson, Bishop Barron has become the ‘face’ of the new evangelisation for many in the Church, a leading figure in the project of re-proposing the Catholic faith to those both near and far.

Diagnosis

However, it is not merely the voluminous range of his work that has set Bishop Barron apart in the field of evangelisation but also the particular way in which he diagnoses and engages cultural issues from the perspective of faith.

In reflecting on the arc of his work, it can be seen that Bishop Barron approaches the task of entering into dialogue with the broader culture not as a capitulation or as opposed to clear Catholic teaching, exegesis and proclamation. Rather, he views this dialogue as part of that very same commission of faith that Christ gives us, to make disciples by speaking into the questions that people hold, identifying the fundamental issues these interrogations raise, and removing perceived barriers to discipleship. I note here ‘perceived barriers’ because Barron points out that many Catholics and others beside have not had due access to the treasures of the Christian tradition, specifically to the goodness, rationality and beauty of Catholic faith.

Adept at harnessing the power of contemporary media to the needs of the Church and the new evangelisation, Bishop Barron had produced several series for broadcast or viewing at home, among them a series exploring the origins, history and meaning of the Mass.

An open approach

It is fresh access to the Gospel and tradition that Bishop Barron has sought to enable through his apostolate, opening the path to seeing the Catholic faith anew and ultimately to conversion to Christ for a not insignificant number of people.

Much like his theological hero Thomas Aquinas, Bishop Barron is willing to converse with a variety of philosophers, thinkers, classic and contemporary texts, responding to their ideas in order to reveal the great synthesis, the pervasive influence and even the splendour of Catholic faith. In this enterprise, he demonstrates a preparedness to acknowledge the positive dimensions of secular concerns and viewpoints, offer alternative scenarios, engage reason to analyse, and call these matters to a higher vision of life and humanity afforded by the eyes of faith. Thus he has shown throughout his ministry a well-practiced capacity to reveal issues of morality, justice, human happiness and the social economy as deeply and always tethered to the question of God.

Among his works is the book To Light A Fire, a reflection of how the Gospel can be proclaimed in an age dominated by secularism and indifference to the Christian faith and the Church.

Open to questions, confident in the Faith

It is a lesson we can learn well from Barron who is able to respect and even celebrate the questions of others as honest and well-intended while holding ultimate confidence in the unity and cohesiveness of Catholic faith in the face of those questions – Catholic faith not as an ethical program or a social project but fundamentally as the revelation of the new covenant embodied in Jesus Christ risen from the dead.

Echoing Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, it is no surprise then that Bishop Barron’s writings are consistently marked by a “Christocentric evangelism”. It is Christ who is the way, truth and life of the Church and its evangelising mission. It is the living Christ who gathers the disciples, instructs them in His ways, exhorts them to minister to all nations, and, following his death, founds the Church and sends the Holy Spirit to sustain and help it grow. It is Christ in Barron’s ecclesiology who continues to serve as the invisible head of the Church, ensures the continuity of the apostolic succession, and maintains the efficacy of the sacraments, which together enable the Church to produce saints and gain people to Himself.

Joy, liturgy, catechesis essential to evangelisation

In a time when division marks not only many aspects of society but also threatens the inner life of the Church, this Christ-centred and integrative approach resists the habitual tendency to compartmentalisation and separation. For example, Barron often lauds both the contemplative and active dimensions of Christian life, a dual commitment for which he draws personal inspiration from fellow Chicagoan Fr Reynold Hillenbrand and the Cistercian spiritual master Thomas Merton. It was the latter who opened the door for the young Barron to the Catholic spiritual tradition, the mystics and saints whom he often quotes, showing forth their illuminated writings and biographies as nourishment for so many today open to the spiritual, eager to act in the social sphere but perhaps wary of the religion which they have experienced to date (what Barron describes, regretfully, as “bad customer relations”).

Facing realities: In 2019 Bishop Barron has wrote “Letter to a Suffering Church” on the abuse crisis. The bishop, seen in an undated photo, says Catholics are understandably “demoralised and scandalised” by the abuse crisis but he urges them to “stay and fight for the body of Christ.” Photo: CNS, courtesy Word on Fire

Bishop Barron treats the project of personal accompaniment and evangelisation as at the heart of the identity of the Church, opposing the tendency to ‘bracket out’ this outreach as just one aspect of the Church’s life among others. Instead, he relates evangelisation intrinsically to other dimensions of Christian conversion such as the virtue of joy, the liturgy and catechesis. For Barron, the mission of the Church to evangelise springs from the mission of Jesus himself, and is intimately connected to the self-giving of Jesus on the Cross and the Eucharist. It is our friendship with Christ as our Lord that spills over to the joy of sharing the Gospel with others. For Barron, an effective evangelisation is the gift and task of the Church as the sacrament of Christ: “[W]e are not evangelised – and then brought into the Church; rather, we are evangelised by and into the Church. We are not saved first and then integrated into a church of our choosing; we are saved through the church that is an extension of Christ’s power.”

As the Archdiocese of Sydney commits itself to the renewal of our parishes, schools and families now and in the years ahead through the vision and work of Go Make Disciples, we are blessed to welcome Bishop Robert Barron to speak with us this November.

You can register for Bishop Barron’s address at gomakedisciples.com.au

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