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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Tuesday, 22 October 2013

EVANGELISATION AND PROSELYTISM



What is the difference between proselytism, which Pope Francis calls a "solemn nonsense" and evangelisation which is a dimension of the very nature of the Church?   I have borrowed two posts which, I believe, show us what evangelisation is all about.   I thought of adding a third on icons, because I believe that icons offer us an insight into the true nature of evangelisation, just as the Orthodox believe, quite rightly, that they offer us an insight into the true nature of Orthodoxy (and Catholicism, I would add).

St Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words."   

Proselytism is all words, and the object is to win.   "Let us nail the bastards!"   Let us grind them into the dust with our arguments. It is Richard Dawkins in reverse.   His arguments are mostly stupid, so let us show him up.   Let us show the world that the emperor is naked, that Anglican orders are invalid, that those who differ from us do not have a leg to stand on.   In the spirit of the Crusades, let us win for Christ and his Church: let us all join ChurchMilitant.com: a solemn nonsense!!

Proselytism aims at winning, while evangelisation aims at serving.   Proselytism wins only at the expense of  its enemies: evangelisation has no enemies and only wins to the extent that all who listen savour the fruits of victory.   Proselytism tries to be faithful to God by being faithful to itself: evangelisation is only faithful to itself by being faithful to God.   Proselytism receives its  strength from the force of its argument: evangelisation receives every bit of its strength from the presence of God in the very activity of evangelisation.   Proselytism is a product of human ingenuity and can happen anywhere, at any time: the evangelist is a mere instrument and, like the Apostles at Pentecost, is wholly dependent on the Spirit. Proselytism is a product of human ingenuity and can happen anywhere, at any time: the evangelist is a mere instrument and, like the Apostles at Pentecost, is wholly dependent on the Spirit.   Proselytism needs forceful personalities: evangelisation needs witnesses, people actually living the Christian life. Indeed, the Christian life, authentically lived, is the main source of evangelisation and that which makes sense of any words that are spoken: hence the quotation from St Francis.   When we are "church together", whether as a Christian family, a monastic community or World Youth Day, we are body of Christ, and his presence among human beings is reflected in our communal life.  In so far as we live the Christian life, we are a living icon of Christ.

  Having said all that, all the main arguments used in proselytism may well be found in evangelisation, but in a very different tone: the evangelist shoots arrows of love rather than arrows of steel.   This is because he knows that Christ is already at work in the person being addressed, and because he is conscious that it may not be the moment of grace that God has chosen for that person.  It is  only certain  that God loves that person and that he, the evangelist, is nothing more than a point of contact, a vehicle for God's love  that God may or may not use explicitly for the person's conversion. 

Someone who is evangelised has had his humanity as "image of God" restored by becoming a member of a community embracing heaven and earth that came into existence at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit shared with us the effects of Christ's death, resurrection and Ascension.   We all share in this marriage between heaven and earth as we ,celebrate the marriage feast of the Lamb, being made one with Christ in his journey from earth to heaven, and we rub shoulders with the angels and saints as we sing, "Holy, holy, holy!"   Indeed, the Church participating in the Eucharist is the most intensive evangelising tool of all, at least when the Eucharist is properly performed - and there are many ways of doing that, according to the context. A properly celebrated Mass is where Christ's presence is sensed more than anything else because he reveals himself through the truth of it, the goodness of it, and through its beauty.

   Having been made one with Christ, the whole world is changed for us as we see every place, every situation, every encounter, every task, every moment as, in some way, an expression of God's providence.   Hence, every situation, every encounter, every place, every task and every moment has an importance, a meaning that can only be grasped fully by God:  every moment is a mystery for us, every moment a sacrament.

Evangelisation takes place in this world transformed by grace.   We receive the power to evangelise through our identification with Christ in the Eucharist.   It is there that we become renewed images of God, and Christ lives in us for our own transformation and to bring others to himself through us.  Without Christ in us, we cannot evangelise because he alone is the true Evangelist.   With our renewed consciousness of Christ's presence always and everywhere, we must be alert, attentive to what this ever-present Christ is telling us through the concrete circumstances of our lives.   It is in this context that we evangelise, working with Christ who works in the other, rather than imposing our own ideas and ways of doing things.   A good evangelist must be a good listener!  Most of all, he must learn humble obedience, because  only our humble obedience gives to Christ who lives within us a free hand.

The posts that I have borrowed show us the central importance of evangelisation, but also that our only weapon is the truth, which seems to weak before the massive presence of public opinion and political correctness.  All I can think of saying is, look at Russia.   They have already been there.   The Russian state threw everything it could at Christianity, and lost.   This is the central message of the Apocalypse.  Roman public opinion, combined with Jewish public opinion were, humanly speaking, all powerful, and Christianity had nothing other than its faith: but this faith won, just as in modern Russia.    Now, when the Christians of Syria seek protection, they do not go to the United States or Britain that the Taliban mistakenly believe to be Christian powers: they seek Russian citizenship because they believe that Russia CARES, and it does.   Obama, and Cameron who told Pope Benedict that Britain is a country of faith, couldn't care less.   They have bowed to the vocal secular minority to such an extent that their faith is without  any content that matters.   We can look at Russia and know that our faithfulness is capable of defeating everything that seculars can throw at us, not because we are strong, but because it contains the very presence of Christ who has already conquered the world.

     Hence, as we strive to be faithful in little things, to evangelise among small, simple people, let us do so with confidence.   Jesus expelled the devil from ordinary people and never made a famous convert; but every time he expelled the devil in ordinary domestic circumstances, the whole kingdom of evil shuddered in defeat.   Every Catholic family that truly lives its Catholicism (or Orthodoxy) is an icon of the Blessed Trinity, and the power that created the universe, the power of divine love that it reveals simply by being itself, is stronger than anything that opposes it.   In Christ, we defeated the Roman Empire; in modern times, the grandmothers of Russia defeated the Russian atheistic empire; and against a faithful Church, secular Europe doesn't stand an earthly.   Our job is to faithfully evangelise in the humble knowledge that Christ has risen.



As the Year of Faith draws to a close, World Mission Sunday comes forward to help recharge our efforts to go forth and evangelize!  So as we mark this yearly renewal, I’m seizing the occasion to revitalize the voice of one amazing catechist and missionary, Fr. John Anthony Hardon, S.J.  You could say I’m doing a paper on a paper to help keep the works of this incredible servant of God alive!

What great timing then, since what I’m most concerned about these days is other people’s faith.  Some might say that’s none of my business, but Jesus told us He’ll proclaim us before His Heavenly Father if we proclaim Him before men here on earth.  So here I am, Lord!

Jesus’ words are “both a promise and a warning,” says Father Hardon in his article, “Understand Your Catholic Faith or Lose It,” “It is not enough for us to believe.  We must labor, dare I say exhaust ourselves, to share the riches of God’s truth with others.  No one gets to heaven alone.  Either we help others reach their heavenly destiny by our apostolic zeal, or we risk our own celestial destiny.”

The Catechism teaches that no one can believe alone,

“Faith is a personal act – the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself.  But faith is not an isolated act…you have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life.  The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others.  Our love for Jesus and for our neighbor impels us to speak to others about our faith.  Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers.  I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith.”  (Catechism, Para. 166)

Fr. Hardon died 13 years ago, but left behind hundreds of writings on our Catholic faith.  A Jesuit priest and spiritual director up for beatification, he dedicated his life to the apostolate of writing, teaching and evangelizing.  He wanted to reach as many souls as possible.  And he did, particularly toward the end of his life, by bringing the faith to our modern world through mass communication. He saw the need for the New Evangelization long before it recently surfaced to the levels of social media.

There’s buried treasure right in front of us on our computer screens.  Looking for answers to your faith questions?  Pining for a spiritual director who’s trustworthy to help you along your faith journey?  You’re a keyboard away!  Try Googling, “Fr. Hardon” and whatever doctrine you want to know about. He was a renowned theologian and Master Catechist who never wavered in his loyalty to the teaching of the Church’s Magisterium.  He’s an author of over forty major works of theology, spirituality and catechesis and one of the world’s most respected authorities on the Catholic faith.  His method of teaching was modern and is easily understood, yet he never held back or minced words.  If you’re open to the Holy Spirit, his writings will set you ablaze!

Initially, I didn’t know what to expect when I sat down to study one of his textbooks.  I recall one evening sticking my face into one, intending to spend an hour.  Five hours later I looked at the clock, stunned!  This was good news!  God continuously tries to get our attention by putting Himself in front of us in countless ways such as this.  If only we would cooperate.

How crucial it is to understand our faith so we can pass it on effectively.  We not only need to believe the mysteries of our faith – those of the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, of the Son of God, the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrifice of the Mass, the Seven Sacraments and the mysteries of God’s creating the world out of nothing – we need to grasp them.  How do we do this?

In one of his writings, Father tells us that we grow in our faith by making it “more meaningful…more real in our lives.”  He recalls the parable of the sower as described by Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel,

“The sower went out to sow his seed.  It was all good seed, but it was not all good ground on which the seed fell.  There were four kinds of ground and only the last soil produced any yield.  The first ground on which the seed fell was the pathway.  It was hard ground and the seed remained on the surface, just long enough for the birds of the air to come along and eat up all the seed that had been sown. When the disciples asked Jesus to explain the parable, He told them, ‘…when anyone hears the words of the Kingdom without understanding, the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart’ (Matthew 13:19).”

“There we have it!” Father wrote.  “It is both that simple and that tragic.  The revealed truth has been sown into our hearts at Baptism.  But that was only the beginning.  We must do everything in our power to understand what we believe.  Otherwise, the devil will come along and steal the faith from our hearts.”

What kind of ground do I plant my seed in, I often wonder. Frequently I find myself defending attacks on our faith from ex-Catholics rather than just sharing it. Do they even know what they’ve abandoned?

There are no rational grounds for giving up one’s belief in the truths revealed by God and taught by the Catholic Church for 2000 years.  Father wrote,

“By the end of the sixteenth century, the Protestants who separated from the Catholic Church had no less than two hundred interpretations of Our Lord’s words at the Last Supper, ‘This is my body – This is my blood.’  There is only one meaning to the Real Presence.  It is Jesus Christ.  It is the Son of God who became the son of Mary, who died on Calvary, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and is now on earth in every tabernacle of every Catholic Church in the world.”

“Countless once believing Catholics have abandoned their faith because they did not understand what they presumably believed. What we dare not ignore is the widespread dissemination of untruth…which has penetrated our culture…Our Holy Father speaks of countless consciences being blinded by the deluge of error that is flooding the modern world…is it any wonder that so many Catholics have given up their faith?  The wonder is that there are still Catholics who remain faithful to the teachings of Christ and the Church He founded.

“What is the solution?  It is nothing less than an organized effort to re-educate people in understanding their faith.”

The New Evangelization!

 “Is there anything more precious that we can share with others than this gift of faith?  It is the foundation of everything the human heart can hope for.  It is the proof that everything in this world is only a means to reach that eternal home where Christ and His Mother are waiting for us.

“Our Lord could not have been more plain when He told us that we are His disciples if we take up our daily cross and follow Him.  What is this cross? It is the will of God crossing our wills.  We have urges and desires that are contrary to the will of God.  We have dislikes, even dreads, that God wants us to accept…Christ tells us, ‘If you abide in my word, you shall be my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’  (John 8:31-32).

“Sacrifice is the surrender of something precious out of love for God…and none is more precious than our own individual self-will.  In a thousand ways that we have never calculated, this desire to do my own will, as I want to do it, when I want to do it, for as long as I want – is at the heart of our personality…We are talking about growth in the faith.  It is not too much to say that we mature as followers of Christ in the measure that we have learned to surrender this most precious possession of our being.

“As we grow in the understanding of our faith, we grow in our understanding of Jesus Christ.  As we grow in understanding Him, we grow in our freedom to love Him with all our hearts and enjoy Him already here on earth, with something of the happiness that awaits us in eternity.”

Once we experience divine happiness, we wear our faith, as I learned teaching Catechism to a fourth grade class.  When I asked if there were any questions, a little girl exclaimed without a hitch,  “YER goin’ ta HEAVEN!”

That’s the goal!

As links in the great chain of believers, we delight in God’s endless truths!  When we shout them from the rooftops, faith tells us God receives them from His children with pride, joy and love returned.

my source: Ignitum Today

The Sacrament of Matrimony is Out of This World
by Lauren Meyers
Let’s talk about awkward for a minute.

How about when your family is talking about the wedding someone just went to: the flowers, the ceremony, how beautiful it all was. Being polite, you smile, nod your head, comment on how it sounds like it was a nice time. You’re trying to do the right thing, to take part in the conversation. Then they give you a look, and roll their eyes, turning their head as they pass judgement on you since they know you are not in favor of the wedding they attended, which was between two men.

Awkward.

Those moments are becoming more common now. For a long time, I found myself feeling bad. I would avoid the topic or jump ship from one conversation to another to avoid the comments about my archaic beliefs or the glances of disdain. I just didn’t want to deal with it. Maybe I was being a coward. I don’t know. All I know is that people have been going on and on about same-sex marriage, how the times and the people and the definitions need to change. Part of me felt bad for telling them that I disagree with them. I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. And more than that, I selfishly just wanted everyone to be happy and like me. Oh, the vanity.

I re-read some of the Gospel of John recently, and it was a swift kick in the rear end that helped me stop being such a coward and helped me to stop apologizing for my beliefs.

” If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world…the world hates you” (John 15:19).

It was like I could hear Jesus, and just about all of the saints, telling me: Stop trying to make the world like you. Stop trying to make the world accept your beliefs. Stop trying to fit in with the world, because you don’t belong in it, and neither does your definition of marriage.

And the more I thought about it, the better I felt. Everyone has been talking about how the definition of marriage in America is going to change. Then I realized that, without everyone noticing, the definition of marriage in American society changed already. I mean, let’s take a look at the promises that are made in Catholic Rite of Marriage and compare them with popular practice.

Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?

First off, thanks to premarital sex and cohabitation, most people don’t give anything to each other on their wedding day that they haven’t given them before. And to give freely withholding nothing? Most people caution young couples to get a pre-nup, keep a separate bank account, and have an “exit plan”. There are always well wishes for a lifetime of happiness, but there is also the thought of, “Well, if it doesn’t work out…” Sounds like reservation to me.

Will you love and honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?

This is a promise, a vow, to love each other as man and wife, forsaking all others, through good times and bad. Even if the bad times are really bad. Seriously? Seems that today “the rest of your lives” is more like, “I’ll love you and honor you, until one of us decides not to.” We see signs along the highway that read, “Divorce, just $399! No spousal signature needed!” While those signs are probably scams, nobody can deny that divorce has become normal. Makes “the rest of your lives” sound kind of short.

Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the laws of Christ and his Church?

Children? Whatever. In today’s world, contraception is a necessity, children are a choice, and family is just an option. It all depends on what you want. If Catholics are trying to get with the times, we had better scrap this entire part of the rite. Or maybe change it to, “If you want to have children, that’s up to you. It really doesn’t matter. Let’s move on.”

Maybe there was a time when the world, the political authorities, and popular opinion viewed marriage as the Church does: an exclusive, conjugal, and committed relationship between one man and one woman, open to new life. Those days are long gone. For decades now, cohabitation, no fault divorce, contraception, and infidelity have sent society on an entirely different course from that of the Church. If secular marriages were honest, the vows would sound nothing like the Rite of Marriage in the Catholic Church. They would read something like, “I now agree to enter into this partnership, to share with you what I wish, to file a joint tax return, and to remain legally obligated to you for as long as we both shall choose and in so far as the state shall require.”

That might sound cold, and it might make it seem like legal marriage isn’t important, but that’s all that my marriage license from the State of New Jersey really means to me. It means nothing. What does have meaning for me and for my marriage? The vows my husband and I took at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. The promise to love each other as Christ and the Church, as described in Ephesians, chapter 5. The eternal love of the trinity that we are meant to reflect in the love which has brought us two, beautiful sons. That, my friends, is what marriage means to me. The state’s definition of, laws concerning, or rulings on marriage mean about as much to me as the paper they’re printed on.

While marriage is a public concern, it is, for us as Catholics, much more. It is the living out of a vocation from God. It is, by it’s nature as a sacrament, “out of this world”. Because of that, it will be hated by the world.

wedding card

I think a bridal shower card I recently saw sums it up completely. It said, “I mean, if you’re going to live together anyway, you might as well get a bunch of presents for it.” Marriage in America has become just that. An excuse to put on some fancy clothes, have a party, and get presents. Many couples play the part of man and wife on their wedding day. They don the costumes and say the lines, but what are they really saying? What is really changing? Sometimes, it’s just bank accounts and last names.

So, while it will always be necessary to discuss marriage as a public issue, I refuse to stress about it, apologize for my beliefs, or have any anxiety about it. I will advocate for marriage to remain between one man and one woman, not because of animosity toward anyone, but because I believe that is what is best for society. I will stop apologizing for what I believe and stop trying to make everyone like me. I will love my husband, love my children, and all of those I come in contact with. I will attempt, in my actions and in my words, to show the world the beauty of chastity and marriage as taught by the Church.

And it will be out of this world.



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