Michael Brown, who is a sort of ‘Catholic Matt Drudge’ has a new article which is certainly worth reading, if not heeding. Its title says it all: Evangelize, evangelize! If Jehovah’s Witnesses can go door to door, what about us Catholics?
First disclosure: the idea of knocking on doors and speaking to strangers about Jesus Christ makes my blood run cold. This is a gut reaction which I’m conscious could well close me off from the Holy Spirit. I’m happy to be reasoned with, so if you think door knocking strangers is a good idea, please make your case. I promise a fair hearing!
I’m not against all “street evangelisation.” Marcus Goulding and Trevor Tibbertsma, friends of mine from the seminary, had a positive experience of a street evangelisation initiative in Soho, London. Moreover, walking around in a clerical collar presents me with an occasional opportunity to engage in spiritual conversation with strangers.
But none of this, I think, relates to the main task of evangelisation. If “charity begins at home,” shouldn’t evangelisation follow suit? It seems to me that the most effective evangelisation occurs within established relationships — especially loving relationships. It consists primarily in pursuing deeper, more meaningful conversations with friends and relatives. And secondarily, in challenging them to deepen their faith — by means of a good book maybe, or inviting them to Mass, or adoration, or (eek!) confession.
In some ways, this sort of evangelisation requires greater courage than random door-knocking. But it’s also more natural, and for all that, more effective. It’s the sort of evangelisation we see in the New Testament — especially in the calling of the apostles.
As I am wont to do, especially when I get started on the apostolate, I’ll finish with a quote from St Josemaría:
The Christian apostolate — and I’m talking about an ordinary Christian living as just one more man or woman among equals — is a great work of teaching. Through real, personal, loyal friendship, you create in others a hunger for God and you help them to discover new horizons — naturally, simply. With the example of your faith lived to the full, with a loving word which is full of the force of divine truth.
Second disclosure: though it’s long been on my to-do list, I have never read Pope Paul’s Evangelii Nuntiandi. That’s my homework for this week.
(H/T Marcus. Great picture!)
The Evangelium Summer School was, by all reports, a resounding success.
I joined the ‘graduates’ for an Australia Day barbecue in Carlton Gardens last night. The feedback was unanimous. Fr Nicholas Pearce and his organising partners are to be congratulated.
The barbecue itself was a joint initiative of Evangelium and Theology @ the Pub. The participants, therefore, spanned a generation — from school-leavers to thirty-somethings. It was great to catch up with old friends, and even better to meet so many new people!
In the course of the evening I met someone who has initiated a very simple and highly successful apostolate. It’s called Verso L’Alto, which is the Italian equivalent to our English expression, “Onward and upward.” The expression is commonly associated with Bl Pier Giorgio Frassati, who is co-patron of the Verso L’Alto apostolate.
Basically, Verso L’Alto Melbourne is a walking group. Three or four times a year, the organisers send out an invitation to their friends — and others — to join them on a walk of several hours, which culminates with Mass. You can bring your own cut lunch, or stake out a nearby café or restaurant.
A couple of priests, who are available for confession or a chat, join the walk, but mostly it’s a “peer apostolate” — that is, an opportunity for young Catholics to spend time with other young Catholics. The explicitly religious content might be limited to praying together at Mass, but the everyday experiences of enjoying the walk, swapping iPod playlists, and commiserating each other’s sore feet and blisters can be formative.
I vividly remember the shock, when I started university, of meeting people my own age who loved Jesus, who prayed, who practised their faith . . . but people who were (apart from all that) normal! By that I mean I could have a normal conversation with them. That impacted me. Religion wasn’t just for ‘Jesus freaks.’ It could be a part of an ordinary life, lived well.
Sometimes, of course, religious matters were the subject of conversation. But still, it was natural conversation. Earnest. Sincere. Respectful. Some of these people became my friends, at which point they had a much greater influence on my faith than probably any of them realised.
That’s the beauty of the apostolate of friendship. The Holy Spirit performs the heavy lifting, and He requires only good will and open hearts on our part. And also, in the case of Verso L’Alto, a willingness to walk five or ten or fifteen kilometres!
The Jesse Box is a great new product for family catechesis, which evokes something of the Montessori Method.
It is a means to introduce young children to “Boible stories,” as they’re described on the promotional video, and it’s also a conduit to family prayer. The product is shipped with resources for Advent and Lent, but resources relating to other liturgical seasons and scriptural narratives are available free to download.
The Jesse Box itself costs only $60 if ordered from Ireland or America, although I imagine the shipping costs are significant.
It would be good to see an Australian distributor lined up.
Father Robert Barron’s Catholicism project is outstanding. I used it last year to inaugurate a young adults’ group in my parish.
Catholicism could also be adapted to an intensive study course, or some sort of religious instruction programme. I certainly anticipate using it again and again in the years ahead.
Now comes news that Fr Barron has created a sort of sequel: a new DVD series entitled, Catholicism: the New Evangelisation. It was conceived, I think, in response to Pope Benedict’s call for a universal Year of Faith.
I don’t know any details, but I do know that Fr Barron is an outstanding teacher and communicator who is quite different from, but nonetheless invites comparison to, Archbishop Fulton Sheen. On that basis alone, I recommend the new Catholicism series, which I intend to acquire myself as soon as it’s available.
As an added bonus, this trailer for the series was largely filmed in Australia, and amongst many familiar faces, I recognise several readers of this blog!
Sandro Magister’s article on Père Michel-Marie is resounding through the blogosphere and Twitterverse. (What’s the Facebook equivalent called?)
It’s nice to know it has captured more imaginations than just my own. There’s nothing in the article I didn’t find compelling. After reading it, I took the natural step of searching for YouTube footage of the Curé of Canabière.
In his previous life you will recall, Père Michel-Marie was a bar-lounge singer, which explains the mildly intrusive soundtrack. I presume it’s the good Father himself singing. But I’m more interested in the visuals.
It’s all there. His “street apostolate,” his rosary, and above all (simply because it lends itself to the YouTube medium), his liturgical piety.
But if one Sunday you enter his packed church and listen to how he speaks of Christ with simple everyday words, and if you observe the religious slowness of the elevation of the host, in an absolute silence, you ask yourself who this priest is, and what it is in him that draws people, bringing back those who are far away. . .
. . the Mass is stark and beautiful. The affable priest of Canabière is a rigorous priest. Why take so much care with the liturgy? “I want everything to be splendid around the Eucharist. I want that at the elevation, the people should understand that He is here, truly. It is not theater, it is not superfluous pomp: it is inhabiting the Mystery. The heart too needs to feel.”
Today’s Google doodle profiles Maria Montessori, who would have celebrated her 142nd birthday, if she was alive today.
Clicking on the doodle brings up results which include this short profile from Wikipedia:
Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educator, a noted humanitarian and devout Catholic best known for the philosophy of education which bears her name.
Montessori’s pedagogy is derived from her observation of children’s learning, and the fact that it is still in use a century after it was developed it is testimony to Montessori’s empirical skills.
I am not — I must confess — very familiar with the Montessori method as it applies to general curriculum. But I am familiar with, and very impressed by, the Montessori method as it applies to religious education.
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd programme is developed for children aged 3 to 12. Students are introduced to scripture and liturgy by the use of models: 3D models in the case of liturgy and historical events described in scripture; and 2D models in the case of the parables.
This short video shows the long and the short of it:
Godly Play is a “rival” catechesis which also derives from Montessori’s pedagogy. There are significant differences between the two programmes, which are very clearly enumerated by the US Guild of the Good Shepherd.
But the two programmes also share many similarities. Here’s a clip of a GodPlay lesson on a parable which is also representative of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd:
Even though it was a bit like watching Play School, which normally bores me, I found this video very absorbing. I think I know why. The catechist reminded me of Edith Ann — Lily Tomlin’s vaguely menacing Sesame Street character. Edith Ann always captivated me — and still does — so even though it has nothing to do with Maria Montessori, I’m going to throw her into this post too.
I don’t know if it’s last week’s children’s trivia, or tomorrow’s 31st birthday, but my mind is presently flooded with childhood memories! And that’s the truth. Pfbpfbpfbpfb.