As I was signing up on Eventbrite for Mass on Sunday, this conference was suggested to me. Since it is Pentecost weekend, the topic of the conference is appropriately Evangelization. It is hosted by a Dominican order from Ireland, but they do have some international speakers, including Ralph Martin and Scott Hahn.
I came into the conference a little late, so there was a section with Fr. Mike Schmitz and a panel on Evangelization and Youth that I missed. But here are some of the things talked about in the other sessions along with a few of my thoughts.
Panel on Evangelization in the Family
One suggestion was to try to minimize your outward displays of anger or impatience with your spouse, particularly in front of your children. A practical way to do this could be to remind yourself frequently, “I freely chose this person and gave them my whole heart and my trust.”
It sounds simple and pretty obvious advice, right? Just don’t fight, kids! But in practice it can be very difficult. Any relationship between two flawed individuals is going to have some bumps along the way, and we are all flawed. The extent to which you are able to control your reactions can depend on a multitude of factors, including your base temperament (and your spouse’s), external stressors, and how far along you are in growing in virtue. You can help your relationship by committing every day to outdoing your spouse in honoring the other, by looking at situations from their perspective, and by praying and taking your struggles to the Lord.
One question that came up was, “In a mixed marriage, how can you evangelize without disrupting the marriage bond?” They stated that it’s very important to respect each other and love each other. Like Mother Teresa said, “Love until it hurts.” What you do have in common (regarding the faith), share as a family.
How essential is the call to holiness? It is what the Holy Spirit has been emphasizing since the second Vatican Council. It is the same holiness, the same conformation to Christ for all. This is why we need to learn to love each other more and more as brothers and sisters, and re-emphasize the power of Pentecost in evangelization.
What is a good definition of holiness? Jesus teaches us:
And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”Mark 13:32-33. RSV-SCE.
It’s not about increasing acts of piety (unless you are competing with Fr. Lee for Piety Points), but to grow in love and transform your heart. Hate what God hates; what God hates is sin.
In his book, “The Fulfillment of All Desire,” Therese remarks about saying Yes to our identity: holiness isn’t a burden, it’s a blessing. God is trying to give to us so that we can experience the fullness of His love. However, we are often the ones getting in our own way. We know we are called to holiness…
BUT I’m just a lay person. Every single one of us is called to holiness. We are created in the image and likeness of God. We reflect something of God Himself just by existing. If you are baptized, you have the Holy Spirit dwelling within you and are called to be preacher, prophet, and king.
BUT … later. We have the illusion that there will be some better time in our life that will allow us to become more serious about our faith life. There will not be a better time than right now. Why would you postpone a greater freedom/love/apostolic fruitfulness/blossoming of your vocation?
BUT there’s no way I can do what the saints have done. The lives of the saints can inspire us, but they can also discourage us. We can think that we don’t have what it takes and decide instead to aim for Purgatory. There are two problems with this. First, nowhere in the Bible does Jesus say to aim for Purgatory. What He does say is to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. And to pick up your cross every day and follow Him. Denying our disordered desires is the only way. Second, we don’t always hit the targets we are aiming for. If we aim for Heaven and miss, thanks be to God there is Purgatory, which can purify us of the sins we still clung to at the time of our death. However, if we aim for Purgatory and miss….
St. John Paul II gives us some practical wisdom. Principles that govern the spiritual journey:
- The spiritual journey is totally dependent on the grace of God.
- There is a secret about reliance upon God and becoming a beggar before the Lord and pleading to Him to change our stony hearts.
- St. Therese is a great teacher. She showed us how helpful it can be to turn your perspective from seeing the Lord from the perspective of the world, to looking at the world from the arms of the Lord.
- You can trust the Lord. He has the ability to care for you. Know of the pureness of His love for you. He will never leave you.
- Our effort is necessary.
- Go to the most fearful place in your soul. Say, with faith, “Jesus, I trust in You.” Think about your death and trust Jesus for all those things: for the perfect timing/method of your death, for the people you will be leaving behind, for your purification.
- We need to give the effort of paying attention to God. The main way we do this is via prayer.
- We have to say Yes. God will not force us to love Him against our will.
- Today is an opportunity for you. If you’ve hardened your heart against the Lord, today is an opportunity to reconcile yourself to Him.
- What about the sins of the Church? Despite all the weaknesses, we hold this treasure (of our faith) in earthen vessels (sometimes translated as cracked pots). Just because the container is faulty, it doesn’t follow that the treasure is any less treasure. For all the problems, the Church still contains the fullness of the faith handed down by Jesus.
- There are some painful dimensions to the process of purification. We have a basic disorder on our soul from Original Sin, wounds from the sins of others, and our own sins.
- Even though it takes effort and can be painful, there is nothing better that you can do but to desire every day to make progress in your spiritual life. The more you come in harmony with God’s life, the better you will be a light in the lives of others.
St. Therese used to fall asleep during prayer. And the purpose of the Carmelite life was to pray! She wasn’t discouraged because she knew that God would still love her through that. Even sleepy, distracted prayer times can be efficacious. Persevering in personal prayer is important.
Turn away from those things which are impeding your union with God. Sin never helps. The very nature of temptation is to say, “Hey! This sin will help!” However, it always wounds the soul and sets us further back from the communion and peace that we desire.
What are some serious sins that we do not talk about? Environmental concern is important, but it may not send you to Hell. There are many resources which talk about the gravity of sexual sin: the Catechism of the Catholic Church, St. Paul’s teachings, Revelation…. Sins against the body are serious because we are one body and one spirit with Jesus. We cannot be complicit with going along with the culture’s message that these things aren’t important. St. Augustine was enslaved to sexual sin and could not free himself of his own willpower. He did what he could and eventually God provided him the grace to be delivered from this.
After we turn away from serious sin, we still need to chase after venial sins. There are inadvertent venial sins (the residue of our fallen nature) and advertent venial sins (E.g. I know I shouldn’t, but this is just a little thing.). However, it’s no little thing to knowingly offend God. Decide that you never want to freely offend the Lord, even in small matters.
St. Francis de Sales talks about affection for sin. Maybe you are not longer committing a sin, but you have a nostalgia for it, or maybe you are thinking about it, even if you do not commit the sin. Any indulgence of temptation, you need to release to the Lord.
- The Hebrews could have made the journey to the Promised Land in 8 days, but it took 40 years because their nostalgia for sin (Egypt) delayed their spiritual progress.
- We need to close some doors and not leave them open. We need to go through the One Door of Jesus.
There are four main ways Jesus is present to us: Eucharist, priests, the Word of God, and the indwelling presence of God. During the quarantine, we didn’t have access to the first two of these, but we still had access to the second two. We need to learn to live the Christian life within ourselves and not rely solely on external sources of grace. We need to be able to carry on the faith no matter what.
Panel on Evangelization in Media
Wendy Grace/Katie Ascough (Called to More)
Being able to access faith-filled content is great, but it’s very important to have access to faith-filled content that is local to you, where you can hear truth being proclaimed in your own language by people speaking with your accent, and providing insights and examples from your own culture.
Radio is a great medium for evangelization because it is commonly seen as a friend, as something approachable and non-threatening. Christian music in particular can be very powerful, and it is recommended that you start your children listening to it at a young age. As a parent, have you looked up the lyrics on the top 10 songs being played on secular radio? It is shocking the messages that are being consumed by our young people.
“I’m not a Catholic journalist; I’m a journalist who happens to be Catholic. It’s just part of who I am.” We need to bring our faith into all corners of our lives. Be bold in your faith! Others are likely more curious than anything.
Regarding the use of media during the pandemic, it has been fairly inline with the percentage of the faithful who attend Mass in person: we may have lost some who are not technically-inclined, but are gaining some people who are tech-savvy, but who haven’t ventured to a Mass.
It can be helpful for people who have young children. Trying to get to a holy hour may be a struggle, but having the flexibility to have access to praise and worship online and be able to attend from your home can help to share the faith with your children.
Brian leads the apostolate, Paving the Way Home, that seeks to explain what the Church teaches and why. In Ireland, they have a very devotional faith, but it may lack in scholarship and deeper understanding.
St. John Paul II told us to go to all the marketplaces and proclaim the Gospel. All of our young people are involved in the internet in some way. Be bold and step out of your comfort zone. You never know what’s going on in someone’s life and how your sharing of your faith may affect them.
Alpha is about the person-to-person contact and primary evangelization. How do you do evangelization when you cannot physically bring people together? Many parishes have started to run Alpha online. They’ve found that people are still finding this to work, because people may be more comfortable being in their own homes and this security allows them to talk about deep issues. Babysitting and other related barriers to participation are removed.
Post-pandemic, will these online offerings continue? This is a fascinating question. Online evangelization will not go away. Even older people in our society have internet access these days. The challenge is what do you do online? How do you make the most of it?
Sister Miriam Heidland SOLT
I didn’t catch a lot of this session, as I popped over to the NASA/SpaceX launch, but the first question addressed was, “What am I supposed to be doing with this time (COVID pandemic/quarantine) and what does it mean?” Sister Miriam relayed a word that she received from the Lord that this is a very sacred time that you won’t get again. So we are to be attentive to the workings of God in our lives. And to soften our hearts anywhere they are hard or afraid.
Join me tomorrow for the final day of the conference: Ignite: Be a Light in the Darkness. I’ve converted the times below to Eastern Daylight Time. Ireland is 5 hours ahead of EDT.
Sunday, May 31, 2020
- 8 am – Mass – Bishop Fintan
- 9 am – Ralph Martin
- 10 am – Have your say: Interactive panel on Evangelizing Culture
- 11 am – Patrick Tacey
- 11:30 am – Have your say: Interactive panel on Catholic Education
- 12:15 pm – Fr. Mike Schmitz
- 1:15 pm – Evening Prayer
- 2 pm – Have your say: Interactive panel on Evangelization Ireland 2020
- 3 pm – Dr. Scott Hahn