As we have prepared for the launch of the Office of Evangelical Charity with our transition to Families of Parishes, we have been asked one question pretty consistently: “Why are you using the word ‘evangelical’? Isn’t that a protestant word?” No, it’s not. It’s a fully Catholic term, but we understand where some of the confusion lies. Let’s dive deeper.
“After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Peter was filled with an unshakable inner conviction of the truth of the Gospel and a love that compelled him to share that good news with all who would listen. Even under persecution, his evangelical boldness and joy were uncontainable. It was because of such a transformation in Peter and all the members of the Church that ‘The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly’.” - Unleash the Gospel, Guidepost 1
The word evangelical as a noun denotes a member of the Evangelical Protestant Tradition. Evangelical Christians are not a single denomination, but rather members of a wider theological current within classical Protestantism. Some of the evangelical denominations trace their histories back to the 1700s. The adoption of the adjective ‘evangelical’ has caused us to associate the noun form of the word with these groups of Christians.
But before these Christians could use the term to describe their religious traditions the word had meaning in its adjective form. ‘Evangelical’ as an adjective means, “according to the Gospel.” In choosing to use the term ‘Evangelical Christian’ the evangelical movement was stating that they believed they were living out Christianity according to the Gospel.
Being evangelical is an essential part of being Catholic and is the foundation of our living out the Unleash the Gospel movement. In Marker 8.1 of the letter, Archbishop Vigneron wrote, “Every Catholic charitable work must also be an authentic expression of Catholic faith.” From where does the Catholic faith flow? From the Gospel! It would be easy to surrender the word ‘evangelical’ to other groups of Christians, but it is an essential part of what it means to be a Catholic. We look forward to using this as an opportunity to catechize!
The word charity also has some dual definitions. A charity — as a noun — is a non-profit or other organization that raises money to support the poor. Sometimes charity is also defined as “donating money to support the poor.” However, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, charity is “the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God."
So you see, surrendering the term ‘evangelical’ to another Christian Church and the word ‘charity’ to secular philanthropists would rob the Church of two of her most beautiful characteristics. So remember that when we use the term Evangelical Charity, we mean that our love for God will overflow through a love for our neighbors as the Gospel has called for us to do.