CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (Catholic Online) - After returning from Madrid where Two  Million young people gathered with him to be instructed in the faith and enlisted into the mission of the Church, Pope  Benedict XVI gathered his former doctoral students together in Castel Gandolfo to reflect on the theme of the New Evangelization.

The first meeting of the "Schulerkreis" or "student circle" of doctoral candidates advised by Professor Joseph Ratzinger occurred in 1977. Back then, Fr. Joseph Ratzinger was still a professor in Regensburg. Once he was appointed Archbishop of Munich his students asked him to continue. The  Ratzinger Students' Circle includes many of the theologians and servant/leaders of the increasingly resurgent Catholic Church.

When Archbishop Ratzinger became the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome he continued the circle every year. The students were delighted when their Professor was elected to assume the Chair of Peter as Pope Benedict XVI in the spring of 2005. They were equally delighted, when the Pope continued the circle.

Forty students are meeting with Professor/Pope Benedict XVI at Castel Gandolfo through Sunday. The theme of all of the lectures and discussions will be the New Evangelization. This is being held in anticipation of an October meeting which the Pope will hold in Rome with the leaders of the New Evangelization in the West. That will be followed by an October Synod on the same theme. Clearly, the School of the new Evangelization is in session.

Throughout the pontificate of Blessed John Paul II he called for such a "New Evangelization." Pope Benedict XVI has made this New Evangelization a central pillar of his pontificate. He erected a Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization tasked with evangelizing countries where the Gospel was announced centuries ago, but where its presence in peoples' daily life seems to be all but lost.

The call to a New Evangelization invites each of us to live our baptismal vocation, no matter what our state in life, completely given over to the work of the Lord in this crucial hour. We do that when we choose to live at the heart of the Church for the sake of the world.

Since the Second Vatican Council in the Catholic Church we have been constantly reminded that the Church is by nature missionary and that every baptized Christian participates in her missionary activity. The New Evangelization means taking this truth to heart and living differently. It requires an authentic renewal of the Church so that she can undertake a new missionary outreach.

I believe that we are at the beginning of a great resurgence in the Catholic Church precisely for this mission. Just when her opponents are ready to count the Catholic Church out, the sleeping giant is rising. The Church is Christ's plan for the entire world.

The early Fathers called her the "world reconciled." There is no "plan B" through which He will save this world. She is a universal sign, sacrament and seed of the kingdom of God. The early Christians would have never understood the notion in some contemporary Christian circles that anyone could follow Jesus and not "need" the Church.

Saint Cyprian (A.D. 258) wrote, "He who has turned his back on the Church of Christ shall not come to the rewards of Christ; he is an alien, a worldling, an enemy. You cannot have God for your Father if you have not the Church for your mother. Our Lord warns us when He says: `he that is not with Me is against Me, and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth.' Whosoever breaks the peace and harmony of Christ acts against Christ; whoever gathers elsewhere than in the Church scatters the Church of Christ." (On The Unity of the Catholic Church)

We are called to love the Church with the affection of sons and daughters; she is our "mother." We were reborn in the fount of Baptism as through a second womb. We live our Christian life now always as a part of the Church. To belong to the Head means to be a member of His Body. The Church is not some-thing, but Some-One, in whom we now live and breathe and have our being.

As members of the Church we are passing through a time of purification and preparation. Hopefully, it is bringing us to our knees in repentance and leading us back to the heart of the Church. It is only there we will find what we truly need, the fullness of Jesus Christ. The Church has undergone similar purifications and reform many times over two thousand years. Her hull may be battered but she is still the Ark of Salvation.

Church history demonstrates that such seasons of purification are followed by times of great restoration and revival for the Church. So it will be in our day. This Church called Catholic is not a mere human institution. If it were, it would have shipwrecked long ago. The contemporary culture has lost its way, throwing off almost every

remnant of Christian influence. It has embraced a new paganism. What Pope Benedict calls the "Dictatorship of Relativism" is the bad fruit of a rejection of truth.

Given the current state of moral decline in Western Culture we need to view the entirety of the American continent as missionary territory, ripe for the New Evangelization. We also need to view the once Christian Nations of the European continent as mission territory.  Most importantly, we need to view ourselves as missionaries in a new missionary age. We are also students and disciples, called to the New Evangelization.

The Lord of the harvest is calling workers to the New Evangelization of His Church. Then, as loyal sons and daughters of that Church, He is calling us into the fields of contemporary culture which are ripe and ready for harvest. He is enlisting us in a new missionary age of His Church.

Through our Baptism the Church became the privileged place in which we live our lives in Christ. To perceive, receive and live this reality requires ongoing conversion and continual instruction in the Christian way of life. In its treatment of this "mystery" called the Church, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

"To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son's Church. The Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. The Church is "the world reconciled."

"She is that bark which "in the full sail of the Lord's cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world." According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah's ark, which alone saves from the flood." (CCC#845).

To belong to Christ means to belong to His Body, the Church and to stand with the successor of Peter in the New Evangelization. As a part of its mission, Catholic Online is committed to providing news, views and resources which can inform, inspire and ignite Catholics in order to enlist and equip them for this New Evangelization.