May the Lord give you peace!
I am writing this reflection on our return from the SEEK Focus Conference in Indianapolis. Several parishioners and staff attended the conference with Fr. Matt and me. The Conference was focused—no pun intended—on the New Evangelization. There is no doubt in my mind that the future of the Church will be about Evangelization or it won’t be. That statement may sound shocking, but Jesus himself stated, “When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8).
The past and current ways of transmitting the faith are not getting the job done. In previous generations the faith was passed on automatically through the culture. This works well when there is a strong Catholic culture that introduces, sustains and reinforces Christian beliefs. It even works, at least survives, when there is a Catholic culture. This is not our current landscape.
We live in a post-Christian culture. Even with a Catholic School, the secular values of our culture often operate as a subculture with such force that it is difficult for the faith to take root in our youth. This is a major reason why we find such a low number of our Catholic School graduates practicing the Catholic faith after high school.
What’s the answer? The vital energy in the Church over last the several decades has been focused on what has been termed the New Evangelization. The New Evangelization is really about a personal encounter with the person of Jesus Christ who proposes to us a new way of life. The New Evangelization proposes verses imposes the Gospel. Jesus invites each of us personally to come, follow him. The personal encounter that puts us face to face with Jesus comes in many forms. It can come from reading a book, listening to a CD, a flash of insight at Mass, an organized program such as Christlife. It can also come from the witness of Catholics who are living the faith with zeal. Actually, there are probably a million different avenues that provide the space for this encounter with Jesus to take place.
It is not so much the place or medium of the encounter, but the actual encounter that moves our hearts. I must repeat, it is not so much the venue, e.g., a retreat or a book, but an encounter that moves our hearts. The encounter that moves our hearts awakens us. We might use the popular slang word, “woke.” The encounter with Jesus that spiritual wokes me.
Ad majorem Dei gloriam, Fr. John F. Jirak, Pastor