Browse Our Articles & Podcasts

Ep. 43 – Eric Sammons on “The Old Evangelization”

Guest: Eric Sammons, Catholic writer and author of six books, including The Old Evangelization: How to Spread the Faith Like Jesus Did.

Description: What is evangelization? What does it mean to evangelize? What are the goals and means to be successful in carrying out the Great Commission? In this epsiode, Steve talks to Eric Sammons, who has been involved in evangelization efforts for 25 years to get answers on how to be apostles seeking conversion in the modern world.


Related Links:

Please remember to stop by and give us a positive review on iTunes so that more people can find our podcast!

36 thoughts on “Ep. 43 – Eric Sammons on “The Old Evangelization””

  1. This is a technical issue, but evangelization is directed towards the first and fundamental conversion to Jesus Christ.

    Catechesis is directed toward conversion to the fullness of faith and morals as deposited within the Catholic Church.

    Unfortunately, Eric Sammons doesn’t understand this, he thinks that evangelization is about trying to get people to become Catholic. As a result, he seems to have fallen into the error of thinking that evangelization is apologetics. It isn’t.

    What is conspicuously absent in this discussion is any mention of the kerygma, or the initial proclamation.

    • I agree with you there. What bothered me most though about the talk was the absence of the Holy Virgin’s role in leading souls to Jesus. Get a fallen away Catholic to say 3 Ave Marias a day and they will come home. I have seen miracles happen with just 3 Hail Marys. Give out the Miraculous medal at every chance. I am no extrovert but have given away hundreds of them and only ever had 2 refusals.
      Devotion to the Virgin is the key to saving the lost. It really is that sinple.

    • If I have misunderstood you, MIchael, I’m sorry – but evangelization is all about showing others the Catholic Church in all her glory, and inviting them to join. There is no other way for the salvation of souls. I don’t understand what you mean by the ‘initial proclamation’ – conversion to Catholicism is necessary for all Christians who are not Catholic even if they have declared Jesus as their Lord and Saviour – that is not enough.

      There is no gradual entrance into the Catholic Church. You are either in or out. We must convince as many people as we are able to come IN.

      • Barbara,

        There are seven steps to full initiation into the New Covenant with Jesus. Evangelization focuses on the first two steps: the initial proclamation of the Gospel (or Kerygma) and personal acceptance of that proposal. (All 7 steps are: 1) initial proclamation of the word; 2) personal acceptance; 3) submission to orthodoxy; 4) actual baptism; 5) out pouring of the Holy Spirit; 6) first communion; 7) evangelization of others – giving personal testimony and leading another to Christ.)

        Evangelization isn’t focused on “becoming Catholic.” Rather, it is focused on introducing a person to Jesus and leading that person to give their lives to Christ in a “verba solemnia.” This is the “first and fundamental conversion.”

        That is what evangelization is directed towards.

        This is why Evangelicals and other Christians are in communion (albeit not FULL communion) with us. They have given their lives to Christ in response to the initial proposal of faith in the Gospel, they just haven’t been catechized.

        The journey into the fullness of the Catholic faith is a process of catechesis, not evangelization.

        I’m not surprised that you don’t know this.

        The first seminaries in America had all evangelization courses removed from the curriculum because the church didn’t want to stir up anti-catholicism.

        The Church is just beginning to fully grasp what evangelization is and what it isn’t.

        Hope that helps.

        • Thank you for illuminating this for me. As a convert myself (2008), I appreciate this perspective. I’ve had fellow Catholics say that there is no received graces outside the Catholic Church. This struck me as false, since I did receive certain graces as a Protestant, not however, from the Eucharist and other graces obtained solely through Holy Mother Church.

          Also, this points to the need for ongoing sanctification, conversion for all Catholics.

          Again, thanks.

          • I think perhaps that although it’s true that you received graces while still a Protestant, it’s also true that the Protestant denominations owe those graces to the Catholic Church from whence they came.

          • I’m not sure about that. Are you saying God only gives graces through the Catholic Church? Were there no graces before Christ incarnate? Are we talking about saving grace or God’s blessings? I am looking for theological precision here.

          • Sanctifying grace comes through the sacraments but actual grace is given to all. Mary is the mediatrix of grace for all time. How?

            Well, I’m no theologian but Taylor Marshall explains it pretty well:

            ” I insist that she is the mediatrix of every single grace ever given to humanity, from Adam to the last moment of time. It is true that she didn’t yet exist, but she is nevertheless the mediatrix of all these graces.

            The New Adam as Mediator. The New Eve as Mediatrix.

            How can one say such a thing? The argument depends on Our Lady’s ancient status as the New Eve and upon Christ’s status as the New Adam. All grace is absolutely mediated through Christ since he is fully God and fully man. He is the mediator of humanity necessarily and absolutely. Yet, He mediates this grace to humanity by virtue of His Incarnation, His Death, and through the Holy Spirit.

            Now then, Mary as the New Eve was the instrument of the Incarnation, and she held the primary role at the Crucifixion and at the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. So we discover that Scripture links her with these three moment of Christ’s absolute mediation.

            We also know that all the graces of the Old Testament were mediated in anticipation of Christ’s Incarnation and Death. Since Mary’s flesh and cooperation are necessary for the Incarnation and Death of Christ, these graces are also mediated with her role in mind. This is why Pope Pius IX says that the decree of Christ’s predestination is one and the same with that of Mary.

            So the graces of the Old Testament were mediated in light of her, though not actually dispensed by her. Here we distinguish the term “mediating” from the term “dispensing.” The Immaculate Mary has always been the Mediatrix of All Graces, but she became the Dispensatrix of All Graces at her glorious Assumption.”

            See his full article here:

          • I agree with your first sentence. TM’s article is one I will have to ponder and research further. Thanks for the explanation.

    • Thank you for your comment, Michael. And you are right – you are addressing a technical issue. A few points in response.

      I do not think “evangelization is apologetics or catechesis.” In fact, I’ve often argued that evangelization is quite different from both apologetics and catechesis in my many years of evangelizing and training others to evangelize. I’m not sure what I said in the podcast to make you think that, but you are mistaken.

      Also, evangelization is “trying to get people to become Catholic.” Yes, that means directing people to fundamental conversion to Jesus Christ. But of course true and full conversion to Christ means becoming a member of his Church, so evangelization, properly fulfilled, means helping another become Catholic. If I am evangelizing an atheist and he becomes Protestant, then full evangelization has not happened. Catholicism is not just “Protestantism plus some catechesis” (which you seem to imply in another comment).

      Honestly, I doubt we disagree too much and I think you are nitpicking technical issues, which tend to confuse and discourage people from actually sharing their faith. I try to speak to a broad audience (who have never heard of the word “kergyma” – and don’t need to), and so I want to keep it simple: Live your faith, pray, do penance, proclaim the Good News, and in doing so you help others become Catholic.

      • Thank you for your response, Eric, because this really is a profound problem in the Church.

        The problem is that when we use the term “evangelization” to mean “trying to get people to become Catholic” it obscures the actual work that evangelization seeks to accomplish as it is too broadly applied. The negative result is a poorly formed covenant that lacks intimacy and power. This is why our Church has been calling for a New Evangelization – it is because our people have all been sacramentalized, some have been catechized, but very few have been actually evangelized.

        According to your definition a group of people in the first two categories of just being sacramentalized and catechized would qualify as being evangelized when we know that most of the people in the pews are at a “pre-evangelization” stage in their faith despite “being Catholic.”

        Let me explain.

        As a Church, we need to recover a sense of “covenant realism” when we evangelize.

        Covenant formation is what we are aiming at in evangelization, not membership in a Church with all your sacrament boxes checked off. There are three structural elements to covenant formation and renewal: 1) the verba solemina, or oath/vow making, 2) the covenantal signs, 3) covenantal fidelity or renewal.

        Evangelization is specifically directed towards the first element: verbal oath making. It is akin to the marital proposal a young man makes to a woman and the complimentary acceptance of that proposal by the woman. It is a Word act of covenantal vow making. There is a specific content to that proposal and a set of interior terms or conditions for that proposal to be accepted. When it is, there is effected a spiritual regeneration in the person that is life changing and memorable. If the person is already baptised, this is what the Church calls moving from ‘virtus fide’ to ‘actus fide’ so that the fruits of baptism are fully released in the person.

        Most Catholics (even orthodox Catholics) have not been evangelized.

        This is why it is critical that as a Church we get this straight. Otherwise, we will continue to bleed the folks that are still going to Chruch.

          • Steve, I’m not the author of the Catholic Faith, I’m just a believer.

            Our Faith is full of distinctions (e.g., moral and venal sin; sanctifying and actual grace; partial and plenary indulgences, etc.), so if you have a problem with distinctions and definitions, then take it up with Jesus.

            I have no quarrel with you that becoming Catholic means becoming fully Catholic. The question rather is what is evangelization and what it is specifically directed towards as distinguished from catechesis and apologetics, or sacramental preparation, etc..

            The problem today is that “evangelization” is being used to mean anything and everything from sacramental prep to talking about global warming and social justice. A term that stands for everything ends up meaning nothing, just as the salt that losses its savor.

            As a Church we have neglected evangelization, not just catechesis. We created sacramentalization mills in our parishes. In the last several years our catechetical materials have vastly improved. Generally speaking people want orthodox materials today. But this doesn’t solve the problem of evangelization.

            We are losing about 70% of our young people who get sacramentalized and catechized. They get out of high school, they are Catholic, but they then leave the church. So, what was missing? Evangelization.

            If we don’t hold a magnifying glass over this issue and REALLY understand what evangelization is, this problem will not be remedied.

            The lens to understanding this issue is covenantal realism.

            Is the New Covenant unformed, partially formed, or fully formed in a person? That is the issue.

            Depending on the particular person, perhaps they need to be evangelized, or catechized or sacramentalized.

            But if as Catholics we don’t know the difference, then we won’t be effective in helping a person “become fully Catholic.”

            Perhaps I mentioned this earlier, but our first seminaries in this country removed evangelization from the course of study because they didn’t want to stoke anti-catholicism. So, it is no wonder that we are currently struggling with what this means and what it doesn’t mean.

            Hope that helps.

          • It’s funny, but I didn’t see any quotations from Jesus in the description of your 7-step program. It sounds a lot less like Him and a lot more like modern megachurch/self-actualization stuff.

            Evangelization, in the strictest terms, means bringing the euangelion (good news) to people who don’t have it so that they will convert. There is no purpose in converting people to a generic, non-salvific Christianity. If you seek to convert them but not bring them to the fullness of truth, I don’t see what the point is.

            The reason people are leaving the Church is because the Church has made a mockery of itself. Look at our liturgies. Look at the way we’ve watered down our beliefs until they are unpalatable. Look at the way we’ve incorporated the crass from pop culture into what should be sacred. You want to talk about global warming and social justice? The reason evangelization efforts may have deviated into areas like these is because it’s all the pope and bishops seem to care about. They’ve made these issues of immanentism synonymous with the Catholic Faith. They shouldn’t be, because that’s not what we’re about.

            Meanwhile, the world is way too alluring to accept a cheap, mediocre Jesus-ified version of what it already offers. If it’s not a faith worth dying for, it’s not a faith worth living for. Why put up with rules and the lame liturgies if it doesn’t matter what you believe and the Church tells you hell is empty and all religions are just parallel paths to God? If all you say over and over is that God is merciful and loving and desperate for our love and affection, then why can’t I have my hedonism and a vague numinous instinct too?

            And I have to be honest, when I hear “covenental realism” I hear jargon. You might as well be talking about “impactful synergies”. Why are we re-inventing terminology the saints didn’t need to get things done?

            So to return to the point: evangelization leads to conversion. Conversion means coming to a willingness to sincerely say, “credo” to the essential truths of the faith, then receiving sacraments and catechesis as appropriate.

            If all you’re arguing is that people need to be convicted of the faith they’re converting to (or are practicing from childhood), who could disagree? But it sounds like you’re trying to shoehorn other things in there, or somehow reduce the Great Commission to “nonspecific onboarding”.

            Look at the missionary saints. They went out, they taught the Gospel, they made new Catholics, and many shed their blood in the process. It always seemed both incredibly straightforward and staggeringly difficult. The kind of thing one could only do with massive amounts of grace.

          • Steve,

            The seven steps I’m referring to are paraphrased from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on evangelization, and John Paul’s Catechesi Tradendae (among others). Further elaboration on the nature of covenants comes from Hugenberger’s magisterial work in the field – “Marriage as a Covenant: Biblical Law and Ethics as Developed from Malachi.” ( He was Scott Hahn’s mentor).

            If you think that “covenantal realism” is just jargon, then you will also think that communion for the divorced and remarried is no big deal, because after all there is nothing substantial or real about the marital covenant.
            Further, you will think that the New Covenant is also not a substantial or real bond between God and man, and so it really doesn’t matter who receives the most Holy Eucharist, because if the New Covenant is not real, then neither is the sacrament. So, no, it is not empty jargon. It refers to the substantial reality of covenants and how they are formed.

            Although I sympathize with elements of your analysis, I still don’t think that your understanding of evangelization is complete as you have articulated. For example, I don’t see a distinction evident in your comments between the first and fundamental conversion, and on-going conversion. I submit to you that evangelization is aimed specifically at the first and fundamental conversion, not generalized conversion, or moral conversion for that matter.

            Further, people talk about the Gospel or the Good News, but rarely when asked, can they speak to the essential elements of what that message is, or when they were personally given that news and it changed their life forever.

            That’s a problem.

            If you met a couple who are purportedly married and yet they couldn’t tell you when the man proposed marriage and she accepted, then you would suspect they are not actually married at all.

            Yet, when it comes to the New Covenant, which is a nuptial covenant, we don’t care as long as they are going to mass, are frequenting the sacraments and ascribe to the contours of orthodoxy. This is not covenantal realism, it is covenantal indifferentism.

            Does that help?

  2. Thank you Steve for this podcast and thank you to your guest, Mr. Sammons.

    So much of bringing Christ to others is governed by the supernatural.
    Any good we do, or hope to do, starts with Him and for Him; and that means a good bit of prayer and ‘listening’.

    For me, this was a timely podcast for many reasons.

    I would only add that there is great truth in Penance. At times, and there are far too many of them, I wonder,
    what good can I do or be for the Lord in Evangelization and hopefully catechesis?
    That is where Penance comes in, I think, so as to offer those daily little crosses for a loved one’s conversion, or for
    one you are working with in a Catholic ministry. It helps set the mind on God and obedience to His will, not mine.
    It is also very humbling.

    I suppose, we shall never know what will become of the seeds we plant.
    As long as we plant the seed in love for Christ and all His children, He so loves; one’s work is good.

    • Yes, we will know what becomes of the seeds we plant. But probably not here. On the other hand, we will get a God’s eye view of what we did.

    • We may or may not – but at least we can say to The Lord on our own personal Judgement Day that we at least tried to do the best we could do for Him, with the help and assistance of His Mother Mary – Our Mother, whom we graciously and humbly accept into our lives every day.

      • So true, so true.

        When one contemplates the Mysteries of the Rosaries, Mary’s beautiful Fiat becomes crystal clear in all she did, all she said and what she did not say.

        The Assumption of our Lord: Was Mary present with the apostles when our Lord ascended into Heaven? I think perhaps. Whether she was or not is irrelevant. How she must have felt to have seen her Son now, after the Resurrection, only to “lose” Him again to heaven!
        Yet, she remained trusting to our Lord, staying strong for His will to mother His apostles and provide great comfort to them and stamina in her Fiat.

        Fiat! Our Lady’s fiat is what we as Catholics must seek to emulate in mind, heart and soul.
        That is all that really means at the end of the day.

  3. Regarding not sending people to bad parishes, what does one do when all their is within a reasonable distance in any direction are bad parishes? I struggle with this constantly in regards to the people who go through RCIA in my area. They come through a decent RCIA (at least at my parish), but then the wider parish atmosphere is hardly Catholic at all. On a good day, it’s conservative protestant with a few Catholic saints and devotions sprinkled in. I have felt more and more uneasy (and more and more guilty) over the past several years as regards these people. Everyone worries and laments the fact that so many of the new Catholics stop practicing the Faith, but they don’t see what the bigger issue is.

    • I’m a convert who came into the church through such a parish. There was a good RCIA, but then the parish was more or less what you described. But now I’ve found the tradition and the Latin Mass. Trust the Lord and pray for these people. If they truly seek Him, they will find where He is.

      As a side note, over the last year or so that same parish has made great strides toward tradition, with the preferred reception of communion being kneeling at the altar rail (yes, the altar rail was never torn out, marvel of marvels!), new missals without Marty Haugen et al, Gregorian Chant, and a once a month TLM on First Fridays. I no longer go there and am now at an FSSP parish, but good things are happening.

      • Jafin, I have noticed about you over the last year or so (or maybe it’s just my imgaination) that you have changed from Novus Ordo apologist (sort of) to pretty much straight line Traditionalist which of course makes me happy. I don’t know if it’s just the Francis effect on you but I like the change.

        • It’s been a bit more than a year, but yes, that has happened. I became Catholic in 2010, my eyes started to open in March 2013 (I wonder why!) and the first synod on the family in 2014 really started the wheels turning. I started attending the TLM almost exclusively more than a year ago and that has transformed me. I’ve learned a LOT, by the grace of God, and, while I do hate titles among types of Catholics (traditional, progressive, charismatic, conservative, whatever), I acknowledge their usefulness and I think I am pretty much a traditionalist now. Man I hate those titles… I wish we didn’t need them! Anyways. I do still hold that while the Novus Ordo is a valid liturgy as far as it goes (the eucharist is confected and fulfills the Sunday Obligation), it is awful and potentially harmful to the faith of those attending. And by potentially I suppose I mean is always harmful. As far as I’ve been able to determine, most traditionalists feel the same way.

          • Agreed, I loathe the titles and labels. I’m just Catholic. I love the TLM and I don’t put myself above anyone because I attend the TLM. I go to confession at the Novus Ordo parish because it’s walking distance from my house but attend the TLM at several places including the hour drive to the FSSP. Wish it weren’t an hour away.

          • I love labels – I am an out and proud Traditionalist – the sooner we acknowledge that the Mass of the Ages is the way back to true Catholicism the better off we will be 🙂

          • I’m known to family as one of those weird traditionalists, but I wish there were only the mass of all times then I would just be Catholic. I have a large family and some of them are pretty well off in life, I tell them “hey, they’re a ICK parrish just minutes from your office, why don’t you head over there.” Or a Catholic co-worker in Cleveland says “oh wow, I’d like to go to a mass in Latin” when he hears that I do and so I send him the address of a TLM in that city. Just trying little things to get people over to the TLM.

  4. Once again this was awesome to listen to and truly did not want it to end. I am in the midst of nonbelievers, fall away Catholics in new denominations or none at all, and even a few SSPX. I honestly don’t know where to start except for those under my roof at this time. I constantly worry about how much I am directly responsible for outside of that.

    Thank you again for this wonderful podcast 🙂

  5. I thought Pope Francis said we were not supposed to proselytize. That most everyone will go to heaven. That all religions are mostly the same. This sort of takes the steam out of the “new evangelization”. Should we disobey the Pope?


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Popular on OnePeterFive

Share to...