Sunday, December 09, 2012

The New Evangelization: Presence.



Being...  Imitating the silent, loving action of Jesus in the Eucharist...

Hidden...

Amidst ordinary life...

A reader sent me this excerpt from Little Brother, Blessed Charles of Jesus:

"I am not the slightest interested in geography or exploration.  Neither am I interested in evangelization as such.  Of this I am neither worthy or capable; and the time for it has not yet come.  My work should be the preliminaries for evangelization, the cultivation of trust & friendship, for gentling, you might say, for fraternization... " - The Sands of Tamanrasset

 
I knew that, but I had forgotten it.  Rather, I lost track of that call.

The Church calls us to evangelize culture.  To be sure, there are many in the business of telling one how to do that too.  Yet evangelization means different things for different people.

I was watching "Journey Home" last Monday evening, a Baptist convert was on telling his story.  I love those stories of conversion - his faith was alive, and he spoke about how his faith was enlivened in and through reading the Catechism.  It was a powerful witness.  It was almost as if I could see the Holy Spirit at work in him as he spoke.  I looked the guy up online and found he had a website and what looks like a full-blown 'ministry' already.  I didn't notice if there was a donate button or not. 

It seems to me as if almost everyone converting-reverting to the Catholic Church feels they have to have a ministry or an apostolate.  And of course, not a few who decide they have one, seem to rely on the scripture which says the worker should be supported/paid in his ministry.  It seems to me rather Protestant - and indeed such methods are often based upon that model. It worked for them before 'coming home', I expect it will work for them as Catholics too.  However, I wonder if there is an over emphasis on apologetics and theology degrees?  And why is everything one does in the name of Christ suddenly called a ministry or an apostolate? 

It strikes me as rather odd.  Whatever happened to converts entering religious life or the priesthood after a significant conversion experience?  What happened to them living ordinary, yet faithful lives in the state of life wherein they were called in the secular world?  I know Opus Dei members do that, hence it is already an established custom in the Church.  They neither call attention to themselves nor seek financial support - they seem to have jobs.

Just imagine if Mary Magdalen, instead of doing penance, studied theology and wrote her own gospel account?  What if Francis of Assisi decided to live in palaces and associate with the rich and powerful, instead of doing as St. Paul instructed: "associate with the lowly"?  What if Thomas Aquinas decided to continue to write books and do the lecture circuit after his revelation before the crucifix, rejecting the notion his academic achievements were simply straw?  What if Dorothy Day ran for Congress instead of sitting in jail for peace?  Just imagine if the saints all wrote best selling books, charged fees for their speaking engagements and healing ministries, and asked for donations to go on exotic retreats and luxury pilgrimages? 

Today, it seems the trend is for people to convert/revert to Catholicism, get a book deal, television interview, and then hang up a shingle and expect people to support them in their "ministry".

God bless them!  They just might already have their reward.

9 comments:

  1. I've struggled with this question myself quite a bit. Many times, I've felt essentially what Blessed Charles of Jesus expresses, though then I think that I must be self-serving or ducking the call to evangelize - which has always been prominent in the Church and maybe especially so since V II - because the Church, as you say, calls us to evangelization. I really don't have much interest in formal evangelization as such - though I do often desire souls to find Christ - and I don't feel capable of it anyway. It often doesn't even dawn on me.

    I don't know how to settle questions like this, when the Church seems to be calling everyone in a certain direction though in my heart I'm drawn elsewhere.

    On my blog, some time ago, I posted a quote from a Jesuit, writing on the theology of the layman. It touched on this same type of question, I thought. Here is a part of it:

    "The problem of specifying the Christian's general obligation to bring the world to its perfection in Christ can only be solved in this way. The leaders of the Church can point to needs and exhort the laity to get into the work of the world, but no one can say to the individual: 'You must enter upon this way of life and you must fulfill this particular function now.' Such an imperative can only come from the Spirit of God who is at work in the world at all times....

    Finally, it must be remembered that the Holy Spirit inspires whom he will, when he will, and in the way he will. If movements do not arise to meet the tremendous needs of society as fast as we would like to have them arise, then one explanation might be that the Holy Spirit does not think the same zealous thoughts as we. Consequently, there must be room in the heart for the sincere prayer, "Come, Holy Spirit, and enlighten the hearts of Thy faithful; enkindle within them the fire of Thy Divine Love."

    I don't know the answer to any of this; just thinking out loud.

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  2. "They neither call attention to themselves nor seek financial support - they seem to have jobs."

    Another point I've been thinking about. I've sincerely wondered how laymen and women, especially if they are married and/or have children, are supposed to have a ministry or apostolate when they likely do have jobs and then a host of other vocational responsibilities (loving their spouses, raising their children lovingly and attentively). When/how are they supposed to have the time and energy for that? Shouldn't there primary focus be their spouses, their families - and then there is the question of being present to God Himself, or praying regularly, which requires time and some energy.

    If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do we labor, I think to myself. People are working hard during the day at their jobs, and then have their families and such when they come home. I imagine the strength they draw from the Lord is to be expended primarily there and not in other ministries or apostolates. If the Church believes that the family is the foundation of society - and if other vocations such as priests and religious often come from solid families - then perhaps much of the ministry work and apostolate work is a distraction, at least if one has responsibilities otherwise. Look to Mary and Joseph, I say.

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    1. Thanks very much Patrick for contributing here - good comments. I received another such comment in an email from another person - it is too long to post - but not unlike what you have contributed here.

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  3. Oh, how this needed to be said ;) Thanks Terry.

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  4. Patrick, living your faith is evangelization although of a different sort than you're thinking.

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  5. I've thought alot about this too. Recently, our parish hosted a religious celebrity author. Glossy color flyers handed out, advertising done. 800 people attended. Although the speaker seems genuinly religious, I was put off by the glossy ads. She swathed herself in scarves and wore sunglasses to the 6:30 am daily Mass to avoid recognition but it seemed to call more attention to her. She was rushed upon by devotees after Communion. "Being with" "Presence", the words of St. John of the Cross... "That is the gift: Jesus, the Word, who reavels by being given, and who speaks by being. John tells us the Father is saying, 'Set your eyes on Him alone, because in Him I have said it all to you... And you will find in Him even more than you are asking, more than you ever desire.". I skipped the "Evening with...religious celebrity", and went instead to Adoration and looked at Him... And prayed for the world.

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  6. It's not just the converts who feel the need to professionally 'evangelize'. I wish that priests, instead of having radio and TV 'shows' would just offer confession more often (and preach on it at Mass).

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  7. Well said Pat and Lynne. I know a certain celeb Catholic w/ a donate button. I have never onse seen her at Mass. Perhaps she attends Mass elsewhere. I have found her absence at Church rather striking given her never ending media hullabaloo.

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  8. Stepford ministries. There is great gain in religion LOL. You are hytsterical, Terry. People once converted without agents and bookings don't cha know ;O! They even repented and entered convents to repent for a life lived in sin, all without a blog or a PhD in theology or interviews on EWTN. Imagine that....

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