Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


June 27th, 2013, Promulgated by Dominick Anthony Zarcone

During his homily at the 10 AM Mass, this most recent Feast of Corpus Christi, Father John Riccardo quoted something Pope Francis had written long before he was elected pope.

“Knowing Jesus is the greatest gift anyone can receive. That we have encountered him is the best thing that has ever happened in our lives; And making him known by our deeds and our words is our greatest joy.”

Father Riccardo calls that statement the very best summary of Christianity he has ever heard. I imagine that George Weigel, author of “EVANGELICAL CATHOLICISM Deep Reform in the 21st Century Church”, would heartily agree.

Why might our celebrated author agree knowing the Savior (an intimacy initially dependent upon a real encounter in contrast to merely knowing about him) and making the one we have encountered known by our very lives are essential to Christianity? Because the deep reform which the Catholic Church needs courageously to implement must be based upon ‘Friendship with Jesus Christ and the ability to invite others into the same Friendship’.

At the heart of Weigel’s Evangelical Catholicism is deliberate discipleship to Christ; an impossibility without a life transforming encounter with Jesus. In Weigel’s vision of Evangelical Catholicism, this Christian discipleship and its fruitfulness (indicating the reform) is measured by adherence to both the truth and the evangelical mission given the Church by her Lord and Savior, the Son of God himself.

What are some necessary characteristics of this Evangelical Catholicism?

  1. A living (New Testament like) experience of the Gospel which is dependent upon an interior conversion to Christ accompanied by acknowledgment of sin and repentance; (In a radio broadcast Weigel described this as the “embrace of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and the centrality to one’s life of that embrace”)
  2. A Christocentric Catholicism;
  3. A vibrancy based upon both Word and Sacrament;
  4. Worship that manifests the dignity and nobility of God in Christ;

None of this is possible without the fire of the Holy Spirit; ‘Pentecost’s tongues of fire’.

Weigel writes, “Radically converted Christians have become men and women marked by tongues of fire, animated by the Spirit……Joseph Ratzinger issued a challenge that captures the drama of Evangelical Catholicism: ‘Faith is a tongue of fire that burns us and melts us so that ever more it is true: I am no longer I….” (Page 19)

I love Weigel’s line that reads, “Evangelical Catholicism does not seek to ‘get along’; it seeks to convert.” To convert!

Imagine a Catholicism that does not apologize, syncretize, deny itself or cave in; imagine a Catholicism that evangelizes rather than compromises! Imagine a Catholicism that seeks to convert to Christ.

Sounds like Evangelical Catholicism.

Weigel concludes his section entitled Pentecost, Again by asserting,

“Evangelical Catholicism builds up the community of the faithful not for the sake of the community but for the sake of a common reception of the mysteries of faith, which in turn become the fonts of grace from which the community sets about the conversion of the world. The tongues of fire from which the Church is formed thus become the fire of mission by which the world is set ablaze.”

To what does Evangelical Catholicism call the entire Church? Weigel gives the correct answer: to holiness for the sake of mission.

How can we not help but be attracted to this mode of Catholicism?



  1. DanielKane says:

    The most evangelical Catholics I have ever met anywhere are two brothers – huge guys 300+ pound mechanics. They live lives of simplicity and are very devout. They bring anywhere from 6 to 12 converts to RCIA per year for at least the last five years that I have taught RCIA. These fellows, humble and decent men bring people to Christ by the simple expression “come and see” followed by the excellent witness of their lives.

    At the end, evangelization is what it always was – a person to person encounter ending with come and see. One does not need to be a scholar to be an evangelist.

  2. Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    “At the end, evangelization is what it always was – a
    person to person encounter ending with come and see.”

    Tell us, DanielKane, how is it we lost
    the urgency to evangelize with conversion
    to Christ and incorporation into his Catholic Church
    as the goal?

    Could it be related to our loss
    of the sense of sin, disregard of hell’s reality
    and no desire for holiness?

  3. Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    From the Foreword to Scott Hahn’s
    “Consuming the Word”, one reads in part,
    “Catholics cannot find fulfillment if they
    are not witnessing to the truth…..The New
    Evangelization is not a program. It is a mode
    of thinking, seeing, and acting. It is a lens through
    which we see the opportunities to proclaim
    the Gospel anew. It is the work of the Holy
    Spirit in the Church.”

    I imagine George Weigel would agree.

  4. DanielKane says:

    DAZ – The short answer yes, exactly.

    A crisis of catechesis and Catholic Education is high on my list. Not so much a loss but a disdain for the Sacraments – no Confession, contraception the norm, “CCD” meaning Communion, Confirmation – Done. Parishes acting like Confession costs $1000 per session – you could not possibly schedule it at a more inconvenient time than Saturday afternoon at 3:30 PM.

    All this leads to a culture of perpetual sin. If one confesses once per year you are in the top 5% once per decade, top 25%; once since high school – the norm. This perpetual state of sin leads to three things (1) a dark intellect (2) a weak will (3) a slavery to vice. This makes Catholicism a nice cultural option – glorious Christmas liturgies, Confirmation marking the end and not the beginning, do-it yourself weddings. We are no more than the Sons of Italy, the Shriners or some other very nice cultural group and because the flicker of holiness is still operative, greatly hesitate to invite someone to “come and see”. BECAUSE WE CAN NOT EXPLAIN WHAT THEY SEE.

    This is HUGE, we can not explain however superficially, what may be seen. Can a married couple selected at random be expected to offer a minimum defense of marriage v cohabitation v same sex marriage? Nope. How about Baptism or Confirmation? How about explaining anything? What are those boxes in the back for? Why does not the congregation do wine “shots” for communion? The few that seek the answers get junk or nothing at all, still seeking (because the soul seeks holiness) they turn to a knowledgeable Protestant friend who is all to happy to fill in the gaps. Utterly uneducated they take it hook, line and altar call.

    I am privileged to teach RCIA in several locations (DoR, Nashville & Atlanta) because of my travel. I echo a comment from Catinlap1 earlier this week – converts seek to embrace a muscular Catholicism no matter how difficult, natives seek to embrace a watered down version. I teach Moral Theology, Confession & Reconciliation, Marriage and Life in the Church. The sponsors and spouses mostly squirm and attempt to restate my lectures. The candidates and catechumens come back for seconds, email me with sophisticated questions and rush to embrace the whole of Catholicism.

    A personal turning point for me was this – on spiritual exercises in 2001 the director asked me how much I study professionally – trade shows and conventions, journals, courses, etc. Made me write is all down, including the cost. Then he asked me to do the same with the subject being my faith. The latter answer was nearly zero. That was my first gut check. How could I invest so much in physics and so little in Christ?

  5. Richard Thomas says:

    I think the key is the laity. Once individuals like youth ministers are really trained in the faith, then they could convey the real truths of the Catholic faith concerning these topics.

    And we need for parishes to have trained individuals who might offer lectures and courses on these topics.

    It would require training, either on a diocesan level or the parish level. Having experts on subjects like birth control, homosexuality, pornography, etc, come into the diocese and parishes would do much for our education.

    The DOR had the right idea but, unfortunately, they taught all the wrong stuff and, thankfully, few were interested.

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