Praised be Jesus Christ! Someday the World Series will be more meaningful because before I die the Milwaukee Brewers are going to play in it at least once. Compared to last week’s weather predictions, this is possibly the boldest and least prudent prognostication yet! Even though the baseball season is officially over I’d like to share an image that was presented at our annual Fall Clergy Conference a month ago. Dr. Carol Brown from Oklahoma City gave some fantastic talks about how to spread the Gospel both within and outside our parishes. You’re savvy Catholics (in part because you’ve been reading these columns for the past 6 1⁄2 years!) so you know that the word for spreading the Gospel is “evangelization.” Dr. Brown used a baseball analogy to convey how this is best done: 1st base is best described as the believers, i.e. those who have chosen to put Jesus at the center of their lives; 2nd base is for disciples and those who find themselves at this level receive formation regarding prayer and how to meditate on Scripture. This level is also when we receive Catechesis so we are knowledgeable about what Catholics actually believe; 3rd base is for workers who are now better equipped to go out and do basic evangelization; finally, home base is for those who are truly evangelists – i.e. folks ready to follow Christ’s command to “go and make of all disciples.” In looking this over, where are you? The conference made a definite point of criticizing how we too often skip 1st base and take folks straight to Catechesis and spiritual formation. How many of us feel that we’re learning about someone we really don’t know all that well? This is a SERIOUS PROBLEM – i.e. do you have a personal relationship with Jesus? Do you know His voice and feel His loving gaze? Without this our faith never really gets off the ground. Thankfully there are groups that have learned from our mistakes in the past and are effectively “discipling” people into a deep friendship with Jesus Christ. One such group is FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students – this is arguably the most potent force of evangelization in America today. Their motto is “Win, Build, Send” – they win friends by being natural, joyful, and present on college campuses. Then they build by helping students develop a prayer life while beginning to live the sacramental life of the Church in a virtuous way. Finally these new disciples are given the task of “giving as gift what they have received as gift” – i.e. they must now go out and win new disciples, building their faith and sending them to do likewise. Frankly, as far as pedagogy goes, this is one of the most effective ways to grow our own faith. As mentioned above, part of the problem is that we really don’t know Jesus as well as we should. Prayer, especially in the form of Eucharistic Adoration, is the indispensable means of deepening our friendship with Jesus. But even for those who have a sincere friendship with Our Lord, if you’ve never passed it on to anyone by sharing it you are missing one of the great graces of being a Christian. We’ll be working on this as a parish and everyone will be participating, no exceptions, no compromises (you can always join another parish)! In all seriousness, I want you to check out a very inspiring and realistic video on Youtube called “When Jenny met Kate.” You can find it at www.youtube.com/ watch?v=1ss6zkN2fg and it’s worth your while. I hope you’ll take the time to see how the faith has been passed on for centuries from one person to another. Someday, please God, more of us will be doing the same thing.
May the Holy Spirit deepen our friendship with Jesus so that we can share our faith with others!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin