This week Greg WIllits and I chat about his book The New Evangelization and You : Be Not Afraid. Learn more about the book here.
PETE: In the early part of your book The New Evangelization and You : Be Not Afraid you use some pretty awesome imagery to describe the New Evangelization. You describe Pope John Paul II gathering the kindling for a major bonfire and Pope Benedict XVI striking the match and bending forward to set the pile on fire. We have now had six months with Pope Francis. Do you see the fire blazing full tilt under his pontificate?
GREG WILLITS: After Pope Francis was elected, one of my favorite images being tossed around the Internet was a collage with an image of Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis. Under the image of Blessed John Paul II were the words, “This is what we believe.” Under Pope Benedict it said, “This is why we believe it.” Under Pope Francis it said, “Now go do it.”
I believe many of us are challenged by Pope Francis and his willingness to dive into the trenches. I know I certainly am. And while he hasn’t talked much about and specifically used the phrase “New Evangelization,” his “go do it” attitude is definitely in alignment with the “Know the Faith, Live the Faith, and Share the Faith” methodology I lay out in The New Evangelization and You: Be Not Afraid.
In regards to the “fire blazing full tilt under his pontificate,” I highly suspect that’s what we’re going to see. More people doing more things. But it is vitally important to also continue the example of his predecessors to know and live our faith to the fullest. The trick is to not just know the faith or just live the faith or just share the faith. As Catholics, we absolutely must take daily incremental steps to do all three of those things in tandem. If we just focus on one or two of those areas, the flames of the New Evangelization will sputter out. But if we actively and energetically do all three – Know, Live, and Share – and do it with the new methods and new enthusiasm required of the New Evangelization, we will indeed see an amazing bonfire of faith lighting up the world.
PETE: The one thing you point out in the book is that you can’t evangelize others until you evangelize yourself. For those who have not read the book yet, what personal challenges did each of you have on your own faith journeys to this point?
GREG WILLITS: Well, to clarify, you CAN evangelize others while you, too, are going through the process of being evangelized. One aspect of the New Evangelization is the clarion call that each of us must constantly — daily — be re-evangelized. If a major component of the New Evangelization is for us to grow in greater closeness with Jesus Christ, that requires daily effort – a daily evangelization. What I’ve found through the various ministries in which I’ve been blessed to be a part is that in many, many cases, I learn the most about my faith and I grow the closest to Christ in times when I am the least capable or knowledgeable. For example, through the years of learning how to do media production, I never knew how to do any of that stuff until I actually started to do it. When I ran into a technical challenge I didn’t know how to solve, I researched and poked around until I found solutions. In evangelizing others, you’ll run into people much smarter than you who will have questions you don’t know the answers to.
As Catholics, one of the most helpful lessons we can learn is to joyfully say, “I don’t know the answer to that, but I can find out and get back to you!” Then, dive into the Catechism and Scripture, find the answers, grow closer to Christ in the process, be evangelized, and then go share that newfound knowledge with others.
PETE: New media plays a huge role in the New Evangelization from your long running podcast to my less than one year old book review blog. I would also like to point out that you beat the Vatican by 6 months on the launch of your Rosary Army podcast all those years ago (sorry Jennifer!). How do you see new media continuing to push evangelization forward and what new things do you see coming in the years ahead?
GREG WILLITS: Actually, we only beat the Vatican by about 2 weeks 🙂 To answer your question, though, new media will constantly evolve. Some day podcasting and blogs will just be considered “media” as some other new technology comes on the stage. The key for us as Catholics is to not be so slow in adopting these technologies. History has proven that when Catholics use the latest and greatest tech, amazing things can happen. St. Francis de Sales used the printing press to re-evangelize Calvinized France. St. Maximilian Kolbe used short wave radio to preach far and wide. The world is always so rapidly evolving that we need to evolve our delivery methods to keep up. We’ll always have the greatest message the world has ever known, but the ways we get that message to the world will constantly change.
PETE: I personally have been a long time listener of your podcasts (The Rosary Army Podcast and now The Catholics Next Door) and I, and many others, consider you and your wife Jennifer, both trail blazers in new Catholic media. Would you like to take a moment to tell my readers who may not be familiar with your work, about Rosary Army and New Evangelizers?
GREG WILLITS: Rosary Army was our first apostolate that started back in 2002 and was officially incorporated in 2003. It’s been a huge blessing that has lead to an award-winning podcast and video series, that eventually lead to our hosting 3 hours of radio each day on satellite radio for several years. Over time, we kept coming up with other apostolates (such as That Catholic Show and TotalConsecration.com) and brought them all under the umbrella of New Evangelizers, which focuses on providing free tools and resources for the New Evangelization. Since our radio show ended in 2012, we’ve returned to our podcasting roots and now host a weekly TCND podcast while Jennifer runs the New Evangelizers apostolate (which includes Rosary Army), and I do my work for the Archdiocese of Denver as Director of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries.
PETE: This is your second book the first you co-authored with Jennifer and it is titled The Catholics Next Door : Adventures in Imperfect Living. Do you have plans for authoring any other books?
GREG WILLITS: I’ve always loved writing, and still have aspirations of being a paperback novelist in my old age. I’ve finished a novel manuscript nearly 13 years ago that I still go back and work on from time to time. I’d love to see that book in print in the next five years or so. As far as non-fiction books, I pray about that and the Holy Spirit hasn’t struck me with a clear-cut inspiration yet. I hope the work I’m currently doing for the Archdiocese of Denver may some day turn into a book of lessons for parishes and dioceses, and I’ve also muddled over the idea of writing about our adventures in apostolate work. As usual, I normally have more ideas than I know what to do with.
PETE: Time for my signature ending question. This is a blog about books. What is currently on your bookshelf to read?
GREG WILLITS: I just started reading Patrick Madrid’s new book about St. Francis de Sales called “On A Mission.” Loving it so far. I’m also working through Gene Yang’s latest epic graphic novel, “Boxers and Saints,” which is a 2-part story. Though some may say they’re “just” graphic novels, Gene is an amazing, amazing, amazing story teller.