WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - On his blog, "The Gospel in the Digital Age," last week Archbishop Timothy Dolan revisited a posting he had made in August commenting on the external markers of our faith and whether we should return to some of the more traditional markers, such as meatless Fridays, fasting on Ember Days, enforcing parish boundaries, etc.

Many of these observances had been relaxed over the years since Vatican II. As the archbishop wrote, "I'm just wondering if we leaders in the Church are trying to attract people by making things easier.  As one of my friends tells me, we're too much into 'Catholic lite.'  And it's backfiring, I'm afraid.  I hear our Catholics tell me, 'We don't want Catholic lite; we want to be "lights to the world!"'"

His blog post last week came in the afterglow of World Youth Sunday in Madrid, Spain, where 1.5 million young people from around the world gathered the enrich their lives and embrace their faith. As Archbishop observed over there, those young people were definitely fueled for high-octane Christianity.

In light of his observation I began thinking about my own journey of faith, which was powerfully ignited during the "Jesus Movement" of the late 60's and early 70's.

Growing up in the Episcopal Church, I was a part of a denomination that was going through a major identity crisis. They wanted to remain relevant to the current culture. Our local parish priest, for example, would celebrate Holy Communion in a tie-died chasuble in order to "relate" and be more "hip" with the young people. In my case, it just didn't work!

I found myself drawn into a world of fervent faith, through Evangelical Christians who lived what they believed out loud on a daily basis and loved the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. For them, and for me, this involved developing an ever-deepening personal relationship with the Lord built on a commitment of reading the Scriptures and praying daily.

We were full-time Christians and knew that this devotion came with a cost. It was a joy to serve Christ and a blessing to dig deeper into His Word - the Bible.

This approach to faith is contagious, but not because of any demands for robotic obedience. You can sense life-change in the people. Their walk with the Lord began as a work of grace that brought about a desire to spend time with their God through the Scriptures and prayer.

This same spirit is alive in the Catholic Church and, in fact, made even more powerful as we possess the grace of the Sacraments, the strength of the liturgy and the teachings of the Magisterium. This evangelical Catholicism is especially prominent at events such as World Youth Day, where a fervency for Christ and His Church is embraced wholeheartedly by the young.

Author and theologian George Weigel recently published an article in the National Review that spotlighted the strengthening of Evangelical Catholicism among the bishops who are emerging as today's leaders.

Weigel writes, "Archbishop Chaput put it best himself in an exclusive interview with Catholic News Agency: 'The biggest challenge, not just in Philadelphia but everywhere, is to preach the Gospel. . . . We need to have confidence in the Gospel, we have to live it faithfully, and to live it without compromise and with great joy.'

"That formulation - the Gospel without compromise, joyfully lived - captures the essence of the Evangelical Catholicism that is slowly but steadily replacing Counter-Reformation Catholicism in the United States.

"Archbishop Chaput, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, and other rising leaders of the Catholic Church in the United States are operating out of a very different paradigm - and in doing so, they're the true heirs of both the Second Vatican Council and Pope John Paul II."

At the very heart of this paradigm is the Gospel, which not only lived but also shared. The Great Commission of our Lord is taken as a true call for today, not just a slogan from the first century.

"Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Matt. 28:19)

The good news of Jesus Christ answers the cry of the human heart for meaning and fulfillment. As the One by whom we are "fearfully and wonderfully made," He knows best how what we need - to find salvation through His death on the cross and new life through the power of His resurrection.

Catholics who embrace this evangelical spirit are not interested in living as Catholic lite but being Catholic light. The light of the Gospel, when lived out through the lives of those who are His disciples, offers the world an authentic expression of Christian faith and it's not merely for the young.

I came into the Church at a time when reports of abuse were occurring on an almost daily basis. I didn't come in because the Church was cool, "with it" or culturally relevant.

I came in because the Church taught the Truth and was spiritually relevant, maintaining a commitment to the Lord, the culture notwithstanding. Abuse can easily happen when a person or persons let down their guard and devalue the Church - making it less relevant and less important than fleshly appetites.

When taken seriously, Christ and His Gospel are transforming not deforming. We become a better humanity, living it as it is supposed to be living, in union with Him.

As Weigel states toward the end of his article, "The usual suspects' answer to clerical sexual abuse has been, is, and seems likely to remain the transformation of Catholicism into Catholic Lite.

"But in situation after situation - Phoenix and Denver being two prime examples - it's been the Gospel without compromise, joyfully lived, that has turned abuse disaster areas into vibrant Catholic centers where public confidence in the Church's credibility has been restored. Where Catholic Lite has been adopted as the solution to the problems Catholic Lite helped cause - as in Boston - the meltdown that began in 2002 continues."

When we live for Christ, His Gospel and His Church, life - real life - happens.