New Evangelization

The New Evangelization: A Relational Revolution

"To this end, it is more necessary than ever for all the faithful to move from a faith of habit, sustained perhaps by social context alone, to a faith which is conscious and personally lived. The renewal of faith will always be the best way to lead others to the Truth that is Christ," said St. John Paul II, in a message to the bishops of the Americas in 1999. I often struggle with making my faith a personal one. The beauty of Church traditions can easily become rote and mundane when I lose focus on the meaning contained within these rich practices. Praying the rosary often becomes saying repeated words while my mind wanders in a daydream. Or, sitting in mass, I easily become distracted by the people sitting in front of me, or I entertain thoughts about whatever I have going on after mass. These prayers and Sacraments become more just like signs, instead of the actual active bestowals of blessing that they are. In these cases, we miss out on fully appreciating the grace that Christ gives us through these prayers and Sacraments.

The reality is that Christ came to the earth 2000 years ago to encounter his creation personally. He took on flesh and blood to experience his creation, and ultimately, to take on our sinfulness, to bring about our redemption. When we fail to realize this, it is much easier for our faith to become a habit, reduced to a social construct to bring emotional and spiritual pleasantries. But, that is not for what Christ came. God became man to encounter each and every one of us where we are at, and to call us out of our sinfulness, into new life in him. The Christian life is a personal encounter with Christ and a sharing of that encounter with others by joining them in their suffering, and showing them the one whose “yoke is easy,” and “burden light” (Matthew 11:30). So, if our faith is not based on that fact, we cannot truly call ourselves Christian.

And, this call is not just for priests and nuns, but for all who have found Christ and call themselves Christian (literally mean “belonging to, or originating from, Christ”). Lumen Gentium 40 tells us, “thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society.” Like the apostles in the Acts of the Apostles, we are all called to go out into the world to share Christ; we are modern day apostles, “messengers” of the Good News. Pope St. Pius X, told a group of cardinals, “ “the most necessary thing of all, at this time, is for every parish to possess a group of laymen who will be at the same time virtuous, enlightened, resolute, and truly apostolic.” It would take much longer to reach the whole world with the Gospel of Christ, if the work of evangelization was just for priests and religious. Christ calls each one of us in a unique way to share the Gospel with those around us, our family, friends, coworkers, and strangers.

The most genuine way to accomplish such a fulfilling feat is to live out an authentic relationship with Christ daily. He came to us to show us who we were truly made to be, and to redeem mankind to our pre-fallen state. By daily being reminded of who we are, we can then help others to realize the same. As St. Catherine of Sienna said, “be who you were made to be, and you will set the world on fire.” By turning to Christ, and mirroring toward others the love he has for us, we will show the world for what we were truly made.

Daily prayer is the soil in which is planted our relationship with Christ, and evangelization is the fruit born from such a lifestyle of daily divine encounter. The late-19th century Trappist priest Jean-Baptiste Chautard, in his book The Soul of the Apostolate, wrote, “only the interior life can sustain us in the hidden, backbreaking labor of planting the seed that seems to go so long without fruit.” Without a daily relationship with Christ, we will not be sustained to sew the seeds of evangelization. It is very difficult in the busy, modern world to form such a habit. But, we must only look to the countless number of saints who have struggled with, and succeeded in, encountering Christ every day in this way.

From daily prayer will grow a spirit of relational evangelization. St. Paul, addressing the Thessalonians said, “with such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us.” (1 Thessalonians 2:8). By sharing with others your daily struggles and victories, and sharing in their’s, we can direct people to realize that it is Christ who sustains us through both the consolations and the desolations. Our relationships must not plateau at the superficial level, they must go deeper into helping each other discover the root of who we are. Jean-Baptiste Chautard said, “as long as we have not made the mystery of the Cross sink deeply into the souls of men, we have, as yet, barely touched their surface.” We must be not afraid to cast out into the vulnerable deepness of relationships, to encounter others where they are at and show them that Christ waits, knocking at the door or their soul.

It is baffling to me sometimes to think about how contrary to our true identity our modern culture is. What it professes is the polar opposite of what Christ reveals to us as our true essence - children of God destined for the kingdom of heaven. But, St. Paul writes, “for creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:19-21). The world, although blind to the answer, is searching for an solution to the eternal search for meaning. It is our duty, as Christians, to encounter those who are “groaning in labor pains,” and show them the one who alleviates their existential aches unlike anything or anyone else on the earth can (Romans 8:22).

Pope Francis calls us to be revolutionaries against this modern culture. He says, “I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love." He shows how contrary the modern culture is - based on temporality, irresponsibility, and superficial gratification. His words are clearly reminiscent of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s adage: “the world offers you comfort; but, you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” Both church leaders remind us that our home is not here. Our revolution is not a temporal one; it is eternal. Jesus tells us, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance” and, “the harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest” (Luke 15:7). We are the laborers, the instruments in his hands, that bring about his work by empathetically and genuinely encountering our brothers and sisters in their chaos, and walking with them, as Christ does with us.
St. Josemaría Escrivá, a 20th-century Spanish priest, and founder of Opus Dei, gave many practical recommendations for the modern apostolate. In his book, The Way, he reflects,

“Those well-timed words, whispered into the ear of your wavering friend; the helpful conversation that you managed to start at the right moment; the ready professional advice that improves his university work; the discreet indiscretion by which you open up unexpected horizons for his zeal. This all forms part of the ‘apostolate of friendship’” (The Way 973).

All these examples of daily virtue are ways in which we can stir within our neighbor a desire to accept the call of Christ to follow him. St Josemaría Escrivá shows how simple evangelization can be; and, how similar it can be to the accounts in the Gospel. He says, “‘the dinner-table apostolate’: it is the old hospitality of the Patriarchs, together with the fraternal warmth of Bethany. When we practise it, we seem to glimpse Jesus there, presiding, as in the house of Lazarus” (The Way 974). This “dinner-table apostolate” can be any form of encountering and getting to know others in the day-to-day, for example at meals. In the same way that Christ encountered his family, friends, and neighbor, so too can we form genuine relationships with those around us. These relationships must not be focused on us, or solely on trying to convert the other, they must be relations of compassion (meaning “to suffer with”), walking with the other, as Christ walks with us.

 

https://focusoncampus.org/content/what-is-the-new-evangelization-the-answer-might-surprise-you


 

How an Infatuation with Evangelism Led Me Away From God.

This past Christmas season at a young adult event, I made the sly move of “stealing” a C.S. Lewis book during the white elephant gift exchange. The rules had been set, after two steals the gift was locked and could no longer be stolen. At first, I found myself with slight guilt for having secured the second steal from the young adult minster, but my conscience quickly moved on. The C.S. Lewis book was The Great Divorce, one of several C.S. Lewis books I had been wanting to read.  

Sometime after the first of the New Year, I found time to sit down with the book. Surprised the book was only slightly over 100 pages, I anticipated a short read. At first, the reading was brisk as a majority of the story seemed anecdotal - void of any “ah ha” moments. In all fairness, there may have been “ah ha” moments but my heart was too guarded to be receptive. However, around page 70 my heart of stone came to life. Unsure if I was encountering a moment of grace or an onset of sheer terror, my reading stopped. I saw myself in the story. I was caught between the touches of grace and the blunders of hell.

Without ruining too much of the book, The Great Divorce is a theological fiction in which C.S. Lewis writes about a bus traveling between heaven and hell. Citizens of hell can choose to travel to the valleys of heaven to “test the waters”. Spirits in heaven try to convince the citizens of hell to stay. While intrigued, most citizens of hell freely choose to return to hell having convinced themselves out of eternal joy.

In one such instance, a famous painter is on the verge of committing to heaven, but quickly turns back upon learning he is no longer famous on earth. He chooses to abandon heaven in order to work towards his own gain. The narrative between the painter and the Spirit of Heaven goes as follows, starting with the Spirit of Heaven.

“’Why, if you are interested in the country only for the sake of painting it, you’ll never learn to see the country.’

‘But that’s just how a real artist is interested in the country.’

‘No. You’re forgetting’, said the Spirit. ‘That was not how you began. Light itself was your first love: you loved paint only as a means of telling about light.’

‘Oh, that’s ages ago.’ said the Ghost. ‘One grows out of that, of course, you haven’t seen my later works. One becomes more and more interested in paint for its own sake.’

‘One does, indeed. I also have had to recover from that. It was all a snare. Ink and catgut and paint were necessary down there, but they are also dangerous stimulants. Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from love of the thing he tells, to love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him. For it doesn’t stop at being interested in paint, you know. They sink lower – become interested in their own personalities and then in nothing but their own reputations.’”

A chord in me was struck and I sat reflecting on my own soul. For me to explain further, I need to share some background.

Several years ago, I found myself the sponsor of a close friend who had transitioned, first from an atheist to a Protestant, and eventually a Catholic. In becoming Catholic he secured my own conversion to Catholicism. While raised in the faith, I never took the time to learn what we believed. Once I began learning, my thirst for theology, Catholicism, and Christ became palpable and unrestrained. I started leading prayer groups and speaking on the nature of Christ and Catholicism. This enthusiasm was born of a genuine love for Christ.

Over the course of the next several years I dove deeper into what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. Sharing the Good News took root in my heart. I started a faith based blog and erected a routine prayer life. Eventually I was led to entertain the idea of the priesthood and left a good paying job to discern God’s will. As a precursor to seminary, I committed to doing a year of service at the same ministry where I sponsored my friend. The year of service started by attending an incredible retreat immersed in the mission of evangelization. It was life changing and I anticipated the remainder of my year of service to be just as enthralling. Long story short, it wasn’t. It was actually quite the opposite.

Upon returning from the retreat, I expected the idea of evangelism to be widely accepted and understood within my ministry. It wasn’t that the idea of evangelism wasn’t widely accepted, evangelism just looked a lot different in the ministry I was serving than it did on my retreat. I refused to accept that evangelism could look different to others than the way I experienced it. Armed with the right way to evangelize, I began a crusade to ensure hearts changed. A few months in to my year of service I grew tired and overwhelmed. Looking back, there were great people who loved Christ in the ministry and they had given the idea of a new way to evangelize much consideration. My heart was just expecting something different than what I got. I began to grow bitter, bitterness in the form of self-righteousness. “If only x, y and z happened… Catholicism would finally thrive”, became a popular narrative in my mind, heart, and prayer life.

It wasn’t long before I began to hurt those I loved and served. And even sooner, I fell into old habits of sin. This spiral continued until the end of my year of service. While a lot of good came out of this year and I saw hearts transformed by Christ, I could have composed myself more gracefully. My year of service ended but the bitter spiral in my heart did not.

No longer considering a vocation to the priesthood I headed to graduate school. Transplanted into a new community, I was no longer “the guy who is probably called to be a priest” or “the guy who knows theology”. I was just another guy in the pews - I preferred it this way. I wanted time to sort through my dissonance. Expecting my faith to heal without the formal responsibility of serving others, I was surprised when my faith actually suffered. It appeared I had fallen from grace and some of my choices were evidence of this. I felt I was hanging by a thread, but on the rare occasion I stopped to pray, I could see God holding me - refusing to let me fall. No matter how unfaithful I was to God, He was always faithful to me. Even knowing this reality, I still felt empty and my faith was dry. I could not figure out why.

Upon reading the quote I shared from C.S Lewis’s book The Great Divorce, I understood the reason my faith was faltering. I had become infatuated with the “paint” instead of the “light I was painting”. I was infatuated with the details of evangelism, rather than the God who was behind it all. So much of my faith depended on “being the guy who is probably called to be a priest” or “the guy with the theological answers”.  In the words of C.S. Lewis, I had become… “drawn away from love of the thing he tells, to love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him”.

While doing all the evangelizing I failed to realize I too need to be evangelized. While evangelization may be the act of sharing the Good News, it is sustained by entering into relationship. Relationship with each other and relationship with God. Without this relationship, the Good News becomes empty air, something to be said rather than lived. Pope Francis recently shared this sentiment saying, “Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people.”

It is cleaner and easier to serve ideas. Ideas are void of the emotions they evoke in people. Though not true, I tend to believe my ideas have never betrayed me, only the people I have shared them with. I may not like it, but those people hold the key to my salvation. For they instructed my heart more about faith, hope and love, than my ideas ever did. For my ideas were just a pallet and some paint, but those people were showered in reality and light. People give me the opportunity to act like a Christian and not just think like one. Lord lead me back to your love. Lord lead me back to you.

 

The West, Christian Culture, and the "New Evangelization": Part 1

Anybody familiar with the Catholosphere is also familiar with the concept of the “New Evangelization.” Usually what comes to mind with the term is a sometimes more or less foggy sense of reintroducing society to Christ, the Gospel, and the Church in such a way that will transform lives individually and, by extension, the wider culture. You might even know that this dynamic has some connection to the use of new “ardor, methods, and expression,” in order to communicate the Gospel in a way which is resonant with the experience and interests of contemporary men and women, without watering-down or changing its essential content.

All of this is accurate (as far as it goes), but vagueness in theory always begets confusion in praxis, and sometimes I wonder if our enthusiasm and labors in this area are not misspent because we haven’t considered sufficiently the factors in play. So, I thought it might be helpful to make a little foray into history, cultural anthropology, and theology to help clarify some concepts in our efforts to “restore all things in Christ.” Incidentally, this won’t be an article about the New Evangelization per se, but a meditation on our present cultural milieu with reflections on how this should inform our ambitions and approach. To do this, our dialogue partner will be a master of Christian cultural anthropology - Christopher Dawson, with contributions from some other authors. I’m breaking this essay up into smaller, more easily readable parts.

Here is our basic thesis: we live in “western civilization,” which is considered to be post-Christian insofar as it has largely, in effect, abandoned the intrinsically Christian principles and social structures which were at one time so characteristic of it as to be its heartbeat. To understand what a “New Evangelization” must entail, we must understand where the “old” one has come off the rails.

I. The Cult and Culture

Let’s define terms: what does it mean to speak of a “culture” anyway (let alone a Christian one)? Dawson is pleasantly straight-forward in his introduction of these concepts.

I use the word ‘culture’ as the social anthropologists do, to describe any social way of life which possesses a permanent institutional or organized form...I use the word ‘civilization’ of any culture that is sufficiently complex to have developed cities and states.
— Christopher Dawson (1)

So, a “culture” is any social organism with some basically stable form, while a “civilization” is what happens when a culture develops in socio-political complexity. Useful enough. What is the soul, or elemental animating principle of a culture though? Dawson comments:  “No culture is so low as to be devoid of some principle of moral order. Indeed, I think we may go further than that and say that a culture is essentially a moral order..." (2). By “moral,” he refers to the Latin sense of mores, or what might be called “habits of relating.”

Dawson explains that what is characteristic of every form of culture (until recently), is a fundamental synergy between the legal, religious, and personal dimension of life such that one’s relation to the established social authority, to God, and to neighbor, overlapped, informed, and augmented one another. A culture is internally consistent because its application of its most basic principles (what we might call a “worldview” today) is also consistent across the board. This can be seen easily by a glance at societies like the Jews -where the Torah legislates nearly every aspect of personal, communal, and ritual life; the ancient Chinese and the pervasive influence of Confucianism; the Japanese and Zen, and others. Every area of life carries with it an established set of customs or rituals which manifest the application of the most basic worldview to a particular situation. Because of this fundamental unity, to transgress a custom in one area reflects badly on the others, such that one who is rude, or refuses to pay his taxes, or lacks piety, is in some respect not just an unpleasant acquaintance or a bad citizen, but a bad person.

You’ll notice also that each “worldview” cited above is a religious, as well as a moral and legal code, which is to say implicitly that all ordering of social life is in one way or another derived from some given perspective on the cosmic order, to such a degree that one cannot make reference to a civilization without at least an implicit reference to its religion - they are fundamentally linked at their most rudimentary level.  In other words, the “cult” is the basic genetic code of the “culture.” If this is true, then it is not surprising to see that Dawson is of the persuasion that the basic “worldview” of western civilization has been (until recently) the Gospel.

Dawson goes on to explain that one can distinguish between a society’s operative worldview (that is, its religion) and its moral/ethical institutions, but it is impossible to separate them from one another altogether. This was the project of the “Enlightenment” (though which was largely started by the Protestant Reformation, the ensuing religious wars of Europe, and the birth of Renaissance humanism)  where the attempt was made to maintain the content of the social and philosophical fabric while jettisoning the apparently outmoded and irrelevant religious framework that undergirded it. Kant’s relegating the existence of God to the status of a simple postulate of “pure reason” and the reduction of the Church simply to a vehicle ensuring moral/ethical homogeneity; Hume’s dumping of metaphysics altogether; Hegel and the preeminence of the purely social organism... What must inevitably happen is the gradual disintegration of the form of society because the soul (Christianity) has left the body. Nietzsche understood this and raged at such naive cultural and philosophical puppeteering no less than at the nominal, bourgeois Christianity of his time, and thus did he lament the death of western civilization and begin the construction of an entirely new one. Dawson summarizes the basic stages:        

To state the problem in a simplified form, if one century has destroyed the unity of Christendom by religious divisions, and a second century has confined the Christian way of life to the sphere of individual conduct and allowed the outer world of society and politics to go its own way, then a third century will find that the average man will accept the inner world of faith and religion as subjective, unreal and illusory. Thus, the process of secularization arises not from the loss of faith, but from the loss of social interest in the world of faith. It begins the moment men feel that religion is irrelevant to the common way of life and that society as such has nothing to do with the truths of faith.
— Christopher Dawson (3)

This phenomenon is, as mentioned, what is known today as “secularization.” In the next sections, we’ll look closer at the peculiarly Christian quality of western civilization, as well as the nature and causes of secularization, and sketch some reflections for recovering Christendom.

 

1.Dawson, Christopher. “What is a Christian Civilization?” Found in Christianity and European Culture, edited by Gerald Russello. CUA Press. 1998. 21.

2. Ibid. Emphasis added.

3. Dawson, Christopher. “The Outlook for Christian Culture.” Ibid. 9.

 

 

 

 

 

Christianity and Environmentalism

With the recent release of Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si, the connection between Christian thought and Environmentalism is being thrown into the spotlight. The two, while compatible, haven’t always had the most symbiotic relationship. Environmentalism is often criticized as idolization of the planet, which is a valid fear when forgetting to recycle that cardboard cereal box is considered by some to be grounds for moral judgment. At the same time, discussion about faithful stewardship of creation can help us as Christians to view natural resources as a gift from God, and help us to be grateful in the small acts of daily life. There is a balance to be struck here. To really dig into what this balance might look like, and why it is so important, I highly recommend reading the encyclical.

Here, however, I want to take a minute to look at what Christian Environmentalism can teach us about living in cooperation, not only with God, but with our fellow human beings, especially those who do not have faith.

When it comes to living an environmentally friendly lifestyle, there are different ways of reducing your impact. Purchasing sustainable, biodegradable, and organic products is one. This option, while it often costs more, allows a consumer to reduce his negative effect on the environment, without having to sacrifice convenience. Choosing these products, if you can afford to, is good. I have no doubts that unprocessed lifestyles are healthier for many, if not all parties involved.  

Before Sprouts and Whole Foods became the backbone of green living, however, being environmentally friendly was a matter of applying a few simple principles to your daily life: reduce, reuse, and recycle. The idea was not to make the waste we produce safe for wildlife to ingest, but to actually reduce the amount of waste we produce.

This idea fits remarkably well with Christian teaching. When we use what we consume the planet doesn’t have to provide as much space for our waste, there is more to go around to those who need it, and we are not storing up treasures in this world that will be of no use to us in the next.


And he said to them, “Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he though to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?

            —Luke 12:15-20


When we consume intentionally we take the time to consider whether something is necessary or superfluous. We apply this question not only to products directly connected with environmentalism, such as gas, but to the amount of clothing we purchase (and the amount that spends years in the back of our closet). We think about the amount of food we buy (and the amount we scrape off our plates at the end of a meal). We think about how often we will really use the latest tech gadgets, or if we really need more décor to sit on our shelves. Let it be clear, the point here is not to live a drab life with white walls and 3 outfits for the sake of less waste, but to put thought into our intake of ‘stuff’ and to realize when we have enough.

This lifestyle in which enough is enough, not only helps us to reduce the amount of waste we contribute to the environment, but also puts us on common ground with those who are extraordinarily concerned about our planet. This lifestyle opens doors for companionship and recognition of a shared mission as we all try to live peacefully with one another. This lifestyle recognizes we all share a common home, and speaks to others, acknowledging your willingness to live simply with a reasonable share of resources. This lifestyle, lived with joy, shouts to the world the emptiness of things. As Thomas Dubay says in his book Happy Are You Poor, “We need people who in their way of life challenge the prevailing false ideologies bearing upon the production, distribution, and use of material goods” (85).

Even with the new encyclical (which, again, I highly recommend) Christianity and Environmentalism are likely to continue butting heads. And while there are still many conversations to be had, finding common ground to stand on will make the process a lot easier. I invite you to take a look at your life, and start taking the time to think before you buy, before you put more food on your plate, before you grab the paper plates, and make intentional choices. I invite you to live simply, and to be joyful. And I invite you to invite others, especially those who are working to protect the environment into that life. Perhaps, just as everything in nature is interconnected, we can start something small that just might help save the world.







The Art of Accompaniment

If there is a buzz word to the pontificate of Pope Francis, in my mind there is no doubt that that words would be “accompaniment.” This can be verified both through his writings and the frequency of the use of the word itself and also in the personal witness of the Pope that has caught the attention of the whole world. Who can forget him washing the feet of the youth in the Juvenile Detention Center on Holy Thursday of 2013? Or him embracing the leper and kissing his wounds? Or the little girl in the Philippines who asked him why God allowed her to suffer, and how Francis simply drew the little girl to himself in an embrace and not only held her but cried with her.

This principle of accompaniment is expounded in The Joy of the Gospel, the first apostolic exhortation issued by the Bishop of Rome, which he stated express his pastoral program for the governance of the Universal Church under his pontificate. And I believe that the fruitfulness of the New Evangelization, the renewal of Western Society in response to Postmodernity, largely rests on learning the art of accompaniment.

In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis writes:

In a culture paradoxically suffering from anonymity and at the same time obsessed with the details of other people’s lives, shamelessly given over to morbid curiosity, the Church must look more closely and sympathetically at others whenever necessary. In our world, ordained ministers and other pastoral workers can make present the fragrance of Christ’s closeness and his personal gaze. The Church will have to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity – into this “art of accompaniment” which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Ex 3:5). The pace of this accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting our closeness and our compassionate gaze which also heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life.

He goes on to say that:

We need to practice the art of listening, which is more than simply hearing. Listening, in communication, is an openness of heart which makes possible that closeness without which genuine spiritual encounter cannot occur. Listening helps us to find the right gesture and word which shows that we are more than simply bystanders.

If we can learn to walk with people, meeting them where they are at and sharing in their joys and sorrows and steadily witnessing to the power of Jesus Christ in our own lives, then we can make disciples. As we get close to the Paschal Triduum, we should prepare ourselves to receive the New Commandment of Love that Jesus’ gave us on Holy Thursday at the Last Supper. The art of accompanying others is grounded in this novo mandatum.

How can we cultivate this art of accompaniment in our Catholic Beer Club gatherings? Perhaps there is someone at the gathering just waiting for us to walk with them, if only we learn to open our eyes and see.

Epiphany and Evangelization; What the 3 Wiseman can Teach us.

As the feast of the Epiphany is technically today, I thought a reflection on that would be a great way to start the year. I love the feast of the Epiphany, The more I reflect on it and its importance, the more I am so thankful it is something we continue to celebrate. So many times, I feel like in the media, news, television, the Catholic faith is mocked. Recently, it’s been the ‘progressive Pope Francis’ who is finally allowing our Church to get outside of its narrow walls of brainwashing and see the truth about science and evolution. Ha, ok so that was a little dramatic, but you get my point.  

This is why the Epiphany is so fantastic. Think of it, three modern day Atheist or Agnostic scientists, or maybe even new age environmentalists. What-ever it is, three people who are seeking out something greater than themselves. They may be doing research on microscopic cells, or maybe they are trying to understand more about the purpose of life and people’s energies (I apologize for my lack of knowledge on the new age front, I mean no disrespect). The point is, that is exactly what the three wise men were doing, and Christ entered into it, and directed them to himself. How amazing that we have a God who was willing to become human, to become known and met, so that he could die for us and bring us to ultimate happiness, life with him.  

This past week, I found myself in Sedona, Arizona. A truly beautiful city, and it had just snowed making it even more beautiful. Anyways, a friend and I were inside a store we thought looked fun and once inside looking around, found out it was geared towards a Buddhist new-age religion crowd. A lady walked inside and was looking at these gold bowls, I learned were called singing bowls. The clerk was telling her more about them, and finally concluded telling her that she would ‘have this feeling and receive a calling when it was her time to get a bowl’. All I could think was, wow this lady is really searching, really looking for something, looking for someone, Christ.

Evangelization starts with an encounter with Christ. A relationship with Christ does not simply barge in on someone and completely alter their life, destroying the past “unknowledge” or whatever you choose to call it and fill it with a zealous über traditional conservative Catholic clone. When the three wise men encountered the ultimate truth, Christ, He didn’t destroy who they were or their interests. He spoke through that, entered into their astrology and science, and found them there. And most importantly, it made sense; it was reasonable, the Catholic Church is REASONABLE. Praise God!  

Pope Benedict discussed this saying, “The encounter with him [Christ] is not a barging in of a stranger that destroys their own culture and their own history. It is instead the entrance to something greater, towards which they are journeying. Consequently this encounter is always at the same time a purification and a maturation. Furthermore, the encounter is always reciprocal. Christ waits on their history, their wisdom, the way they see things.” [1]

Christ reaches each of us at our own time, in our way. He created the world, and everything in it, and so who are we to think he can’t enter into different cultures, jobs, ways of thinking, etc. This new year, let us be so thankful for the Christ we have, for our individual encounter and relationship with him, and carry that into the world. We believe in a God that can meet, understand, and love anyone, no matter where they are at. The question remains then, do we believe that? On January 3rd, Pope Francis  tweeted “Christianity spreads through the joy of disciples who know that they are loved and saved.” Here’s to 2015: Lets do this.

 

[1] Message of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI for the naming of the reformed Aula Magna of the Pontifical Urbaniana University