“Take one down, pass it around…” and let good times roll. Today we live in the early days of the New Evangelization. Beyond all catechetical programs and adult formation classes, there is one common thread that I have seen through many lives of converts. Fr. C. John McCloskey has written a book on it which I highly recommend. It is perhaps the first starting point of the early Christians when they were given mission to preach the Gospel. It is the same starting point that we fulfill the Second Vatican Council’s charge to the laity:
“The lay apostolate, however, is a participation in the salvific mission of the Church itself. Through their baptism and confirmation all are commissioned to that apostolate by the Lord Himself…Now the laity are called in a special way to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can it become the salt of the earth. Thus every layman, in virtue of the very gifts bestowed upon him, is at the same time a witness and a living instrument of the mission of the Church itself ‘according to the measure of Christ’s bestowal’.”
But how do we go about evangelizing this modern Mordor? Certainly we cannot bash our brothers and sisters in online forums, shout louder, be prideful, or use force. Conversion is a free act of the will, a response to love. Sure there are some that convert by a person’s writings, use of music, intellectual power but that will not be the most of us. Most of us will utilize a single avenue, one that has been shown to spread the message of faith, hope, and love for centuries.
It is also shares a cryptic message: “Pedo mellon a minno.” It is as if it was designed to keep secrets so as to protect from harm. “Speak, friend, and enter.” That is perhaps the first step into the life of another. First comes friendship. Just as we don’t walk up to a stranger and ask her to marry, walking around Bible thumping seldom works as an effective means to conversion. We are people, social beings created by a social God of Trinity. Evangelizing is really nothing short of taking people where they really want to be, part of the in-crowd of the Divine Life.
I think one of the most effective tools Catholics have in this New Evangelization is our ability to convivialize, yes, ok, I made the word up, I do it often. It is the coming together for merriment and cheer, for wine and good beer for “Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!” as I quote from the wise Belloc (the Catholic guy, not another LOTR character). Now there is a man I could share a beer with it and chat about some cool sh…stuff. In fact, bring over the Inklings too.
The Church has also made it easy for to have excuses to celebrate. There are plenty of feast days and some are so wonderful that our secular culture has even tried to steal them. We are know the big ones: Christmas, Carnival, Easter. But that should not stop us from making many more. For about two years, we celebrated the Divine Mercy Turkey which unlike the Presidential Pardon turkey, this gobbler fills us with gratitude for His blessings. Another easy one is St. Lawrence’s Feast Day. St. Arnold’s Feast needs to be celebrated as well. And don’t forget St. Amand and St. Morand of Cluny. In fact, I remember teaching the high school kids that it is the Church that knows how to party. Most of us celebrate Easter for one day, the Church gives us an Octave.
One good way to bring people together and starting to build relationships is by forming associations naturally. In your pursuit of hoppiness, why not invite a few friends over and each bring a different beer to try. Here are a few to get you started: New Belgium Brewery’s “Abbey” or “1554”; not feeling hoppy, how about a simple book club; start a non-profit; grow professionally. The point is to put yourself out there and enter the lives of others. If you find yourself starting to keep tabs on how many people you convert, you are probably not being really effective. A friend loves without condition; it will be that love of God working in you that will draw others to holiness. Sanctity is attractive and like a magnet, the invisible force of holiness captivates other people, but only when you get close enough. And just like a magnet on iron, holiness is retentive.
What are other ways you have found to bring people together? If your conversion was initially due to a friendship, please share how it laid the groundwork for the cornerstone or planted the seed of faith?
[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/JTDTAT-Childrens-House-Copy-e1329964684276.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Jared Tomanek lives in the country of Texas with his wife Denise, a Southern Belle from Trinidad and Tobago, and his three children. He holds two graduate degrees from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, an MBA and Master of Science in Organizational Leadership, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Franciscan University of Steubenville. Having taught for five years in Catholic education, he now works in the construction industry in Victoria, TX. He is a parishioner of Holy Family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus Parish in the Diocese of Victoria. He also blogs at his local paper on just about everything cool.[/author_info] [/author]