The Essentiality of the Kerygma in Preaching the Gospel (Part 1)

Marc De Leyritz of Alpha Course-France Speaks on the New Evangelization

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By Junno Arocho

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 22, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Throughout the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, particular emphasis has been given to the movements and ecclesial realities within the Church as a way of evangelizing within the parish community. Several of the founders and heads of these realities were given the opportunity to address the participating cardinals and bishops. Among them were the representatives of the Alpha Course-France.

Developed in the late 1970s in an Anglican parish in England by Reverend Nicky Gumbel, the Alpha Course was later brought into a Catholic context in the 90s upon the invitation of the late Cardinal Basil Hume, Archbishop of Westminster.

Since then, the Alpha Course has spread throughout the world in over 160 countries with over 20 million people who have participated in the ten week course. Archbishop Octavio Ruiz, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization described the course as "a tool that God has been put into our hands to do this New Evangelization." ZENIT had an opportunity to sit down with Marc de Leyritz, who along with his wife Florence addressed the Synod of Bishops last Wednesday.

Part 2 of this interview will be published on Tuesday.

ZENIT: What is Alpha?

Marc de Leyritz: Alpha is a ten week introduction to the Christian faith. It really is a parish based tool which is used for people to take time to think about the meaning of life. And this is really a nice space which is created in every community, every Christian community that wants it. It helps people, should they want, to find a living relationship with God.

It's interesting to see that today about 20 million have followed Alpha around the world. And not everybody has met Jesus as a result of it, but a very big majority of people share afterwards that they are now reading the Bible regularly, praying regularly, and many are sharing that they have had a living and life-changing encounter with Jesus.

ZENIT: Why this emphasis on the "Kerygma"? What was the inspiration that the "Kerygma" is essential to preaching the Gospel?

Marc de Leyritz: Alpha was founded in England in an Anglican parish 30 years ago. Florence and I brought it back to France and we adapted it to a Catholic setting, which is a big challenge because when you're in France, anything that comes from England is really a bad start. But, this distinction between Kerygma and catechesis is really something key, since the beginning of the Church, since the very first day. You see on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2, Peter gives a very short speech, the nucleus of the faith, which is what Kerygma means, the proclamation of the nucleus. And, he speaks probably one minute or two minutes, and the Bible says that listening to this, people's hearts were pierced and they asked, "Brother, what shall we do?" And he said, "Repent," and then they were baptized. And on that day, the first day of the Church, 3000 people were baptized. And only then, the nascent Church started to help people to grow into full disciples of Jesus Christ.

So, Pope John Paul [II], in a very foundational text called "Redemptoris Missio" which is an encyclical and in another post-Synodal exhortation called "Catechesi Tradendae", he makes this distinction. He says you cannot give catechesis before Kerygma. And he defends Kerygma as the first announcement of the Gospel which is done in an enthusiastic and vivid and burning way, through which a man or woman decides to commit their life to Jesus and recognize him as Lord. And unless this moment has happened, you cannot grow in Christian life.

So, what really was striking for Florence and I 15 years ago, is we see many people in the Catholic Church trying to learn more or less well the catechism, which means less and less to them because we are living now in a secular society. And then they go away, because people are asking, "What's in it for me?"  And the catechism, without the love of Jesus, without the friendship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the catechism doesn't mean anything; it's just a big book. Now, once people have let the Holy Spirit in their heart, they need food, spiritual food and they go into the catechism and they eat it, they drink it.

That's why we emphasize so much on the Kerygma. One of the participants of the Synod was telling, I think it was reported on ZENIT, he said it's like a football match with two parts, a first part which is the Kerygma and a second part, which is the Catechesis. And he was begging saying "Please don't play the second part before playing the first part," and even worse, "don't play the second part instead of the first part. So Alpha is really helping to play the first part fully.

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On the NET:

For more information on the Alpha Course, go to http://www.alpha.org/catholics  or contact by email at catholics@alpha.org.