Questions Answered

  • What is the New Evangelization?
  • What to do when a chalice of consecrated wine spills before communion?


What is the New Evangelization?
Question: I have heard much about the New Evangelization to which Pope John Paul II so eloquently called the Church. Can you explain what it is and why it differs from former evangelical efforts on the part of the Church?

Answer: The New Evangelization was a constant preoccupation of Pope John Paul II, and his concerns and recommendations are still necessary today. John Paul II recognized that the secularization of Europe and America, which began in the 19th century, had come to fruition with full force in the latter part of the 20th century.  The two most important trends which began in the beginning of the 20th century, moral relativism and abdication of personal responsibility, were tragically becoming more and more prevalent even with ordinary Catholics in countries which had traditionally been considered bastions of Catholicism.  As a result, every country, even those with Catholic cultures going back more than a millennium, could now be considered missionary territory. One did not have to go to the foreign missions any longer for the missionary experience. There were almost no social supports in the larger society for Catholic thought.  Coupled with this, many recognized a great malaise in catechesis after the Second Vatican Council, which resulted in at least three generations of uncatechized adults who were officially baptized and communicants.

John Paul II was very specific in his solution to this problem. He named it the “New Evangelization.” First, he called for a rediscovery of the true doctrine concerning Christ and redemption. The New Evangelization must be centered on Jesus Christ. This includes a renewed understanding of the Church, the liturgy, and sacraments. Since Vatican II, Christ has been reduced to merely a moral teacher or political liberator—and this cannot stand. He must be considered to be the one and unique Redeemer and Mediator between God and man.

Since the New Evangelization is no longer just reserved to the foreign missions, Catholics must get used to the idea that cultures and countries, which were always considered safely or overwhelmingly Catholic, are now places where urgent and thorough education in the faith is vital.  “Business as usual” does not suffice any longer.

As all countries, and every town, are now missionary territory, the New Evangelization can no longer rely solely on the traditional means of the clergy and religious in Catholic schools. Such evangelization is now the responsibility of the whole Church, and should be localized primarily in the family. This is a new emphasis, for though the Church had always maintained that the primary catechists were parents, for many centuries, Catholics (including parents) had tended to leave this to priests and religious.

Such an undertaking assumes that all, but especially the laity, are imbued with the contemplative life, which is characteristic of their vocation. As a result, education in prayer is central to realizing this mission. Such an education must avoid the strange singularity of the more unusual movements of popular piety, and be founded on doctrine, morals, and religious practice. Only then will the New Evangelization be truly effective. This calls for a reformation of the spiritual life in both the whole Church, and her individual members. This must lead to a social practice in which the social teachings of the Church are so implemented as to lead to a “civilization of love.” (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, 51)

Not only has Pope Benedict XVI not repudiated or changed this emphasis of John Paul II, but he has encouraged concrete pastoral initiatives to implement it. It remains both a promise and a challenge for all Catholics. Pastors should be especially solicitous to preach it.

What to do when a chalice of consecrated wine spills before communion?
Question: If a priest should accidentally overturn the chalice after the consecration but before receiving communion, how should and how would one finish the Mass?

Answer: This question has never been specifically dealt with by Church authority to my knowledge, but it would seem it can be solved by reference to several principles. The most important is that the Mass makes present, in an unbloody way, the priestly offering of Christ on Calvary. As a result, the primary celebrant and priest is always Christ who is continually offering himself in loving obedience to his Father and interceding for mankind.

The human priest acts as the minster of this eternal sacrifice, accomplished once and for all on the altar of the cross in a bloody way 2,000 years ago.  This sacrifice is made present to us in our time anew in the Mass. The traditional interpretation of when the unbloody presence of the sacrifice occurs is the double consecration of the body and blood.  They are separated in sign, and so they truly make present the effects of the loving obedience of Christ in the one bloody sacrifice. Since both of the elements are involved for the fullness of the sacrifice to be complete by the consumption of the Victim, only the priest needs to receive both the body and precious blood of Christ. Though the Church has now encouraged the offering of the blood to the laity, their communion in both forms is not necessary, as they receive the blood with the body when they receive one form because of the mystery of transubstantiation by accompanying presence.

In the case presented, the priest has consecrated the precious blood, but he spills the chalice before he can communicate both elements. There must be some precious blood consumed by him during the actual ritual of the Mass, otherwise the unbloody sacrifice will not be complete in sign. This is because of its connection to the eternal sacrifice offered by Christ.

It would seem, then, that there are two choices. Since only a very small amount of the precious blood must be consumed, he can examine the chalice to see if there is even a drop left.  This will suffice for the completion of the sacrifice. Should this not be the case in this entirely exceptional situation, he can consecrate another chalice of the precious blood since neither the ritual nor the communion has been completed.

Sometimes, when people run out of hosts at communion, priests have just consecrated more. This would be a serious sin, and never indicated, as it is not within the context of the uncompleted sacrifice. The consecration must take place within the offertory-consecration-communion nexus. In such an unusual situation, the priest would be justified in offering communion only under the form of the remaining precious blood. He would not be justified in just consecrating more hosts.

Fr. Brian Mullady, OP About Fr. Brian Mullady, OP

Fr. Brian T. Mullady, OP, entered the Dominican Order in 1966 and was ordained in 1972. He has been a parish priest, high school teacher, retreat master, mission preacher, and university professor. He has had seven series on EWTN and is the author of two books and numerous articles, including his regular column in HPR, “Questions Answered.”

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Fr. Brian T. Mullady, O.P.
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Portland, OR 97232
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  1. […] So I was glad to see this article by Fr. Brian Mullady, OP who answers the question “What is the New Evangelization.” […]