Contemplatives and the New Evangelization
I want to be an apostle like you, from the heart of my dear solitude. I want to work for the glory of God, and that means I MUST BE FILLED WITH HIM.”
(Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity, Letter to a priest, June 22, 1902)
One of my duties is to go grocery shopping each week. Our local grocery store is chock-full of wonderful people, many of whom muster up the courage to approach ‘the nun’ and say hello as I grab the carrots and cauliflower. I appreciate the chance to say hello, assure them of my prayers, or hear a story about a Sister from years gone by.
However, just a few times, I have been approached by some rather plucky and slightly discourteous Christians and asked the following questions with a tone of suspicion: “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?” and/or “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?” I’ll be honest – as I stand there in the full habit I find these questions rather preposterous. “Um, yes sir, I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord, my Savior, AND my Spouse.”
Lately I’ve come across many an article about the New Evangelization. What is it? How are we, as faithful Catholics in our various vocations, supposed to be a part of it? What are we to DO? The more I read and the more I pray, the more I realize that the New Evangelization has more to do with “BEING” than with “DOING”.
This “Christian questioning” that I encountered in the store from well-meaning folk sorta hits the mark at least in some imprecise way. Not so much the “how”, but the “what”. I believe the New Evangelization has EVERYTHING to do with this quesiton: Do I have a personal relationship with my Savior? The New Evanglization begins with the deepening of my own relationship with God. Do I have a personal relationship with my Savior? – yes, and it’s my life’s work to move more deeply into it. This is our first duty in the work of the New Evangelization, no matter what our state in life. This is the core! All else flows from here, from the reality of our BEING in a relationship of deep love with the Lord. And from this relationship of love, lived and cultivated, flowers a culture of life and a civilization of love.
This quote from the book about Our Lady of Guadalupe by Carl Anderson and Msgr. Eduardo Chavez states this so clearly:
Culture is not definitive; it cannot direct itself independent of people, but it takes on the character of those who live in a community and give it life. Conversion begins with individual people and, through the lives of these individuals, culture is transformed. Whether in the form of personal prayer, small or great acts of charitable service, the daily self-renunciations and sacrifices in our family lives, or integrity and competence in our work, we are called to be mediators between God and society. In this way culture is not only transformed, but converted.” (pg 109)
If we want to be a part of changing the culture, of bringing Christ to our somewhat hopeless and sin-laden society, then we must first allow Christ to break through our somewhat hopeless and sin-laden self. We must experience first hand the compassion and strength of Jesus, entering into relationship with this Love that is stronger than death. We must allow Christ to fill us with Himself to such an extent that “it is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me”. Then our very life will be the leaven of this much-anticipated culture of life and love. And for this reason, no matter what our state in life, we are called to be integral players in this New Evangelization. Cloistered nuns, the terminally ill, the shut in, the prisoner, the missionary, the married couple, the child, the elderly and, of course, in a particular way, the Alter Christus…the Priest.
A Contemplative’s Prayer for the New Evangelization
LORD JESUS CHRIST, You have given Your Church the mission to proclaim the Gospel to the very ends of the earth. In this mission, You willed to place me at Your side, near to Your Heart. There, hidden from the eyes of all, grant me
the grace to truly witness to Your Love through a life of silence, adoration, and intercession. In a world consumed with secularism, materialism and activism, grant that my life may witness to the power of Beauty, to the One Thing Necessary, and to the primacy of prayer. Expand the capacity of my heart that I may be a spiritual mother to those who most need to hear the Gospel message. Reap a great harvest through our union, through Your greatness and my littleness. This amazing love You have shown me, Lord, I ask that You set the world on fire with just such love! Come to those who least expect You. Come to those who unknowingly long for You. Come to those who ask: “What is truth?” Come Lord JESUS, Come! Amen.