This part of the USCCB’s document, “Disciples Called to be Witness, the New Evangelization,” covers how and when we can evangelize without too much effort. Through conversion and the methodologies of: discipleship, a commitment to the Christian life, parish life, the liturgical life of the Church: popular devotions and piety, the Christian family, catechist and teachers of the faith, and religious experience we bring the Church to the world by our examples in these areas. Last time I discussed conversion and promised a discussion on methologies of evangelization which will make it clearer how we all can be new evangelizers.
Through discipleship we serve as witnesses for Christ and His teachings. Witnessing is a farther reaching act of teaching that traditional teaching. When someone shares their own personal experiences about life it drives home to those how it looks and feels in real time not just from a book. This makes total sense, too, as a new mother-to-be some years ago, I had symptoms that weren’t in my pregnancy books or from the doctor office, but hearing from other mothers who experienced same or similar symptoms, I was relieved and confident that all was well with my pregnancy. When we share our understandings and experiences with Christ’s teachings and the teachings of the Church in positive light, we are planting seeds in those around us for future witnesses.
In order to do this we must first grasp these teachings personally through a firm commitment to the Christian life and active participation in parish life. Without being committed to our Christian faith we cannot be active learner and teachers, but we cannot do this alone, “the Holy Spirit within the Christian community forms the person as a disciple of Christ.” The parish must provide formed disciples, catechists and teachers to formally pass down the faith to its members, especially those who want to return to the Church. “It is the responsibility of the parish community and it’s leadership to ensure that the faith it teaches, preaches, and celebrates is alive and that it is a true sign, for all who come in contact with it, that this truly is the living Body of Christ.”
Speaking of the Body of Christ, attending Mass and receiving the Eucharist as often as possible is crucial to a healthy spiritual life. Praying the rosary, attending adoration, confession, and observing other holy practical acts of piety like meatless Fridays year round all provide a powerful witness to the faith. They “form the basis of “Catholic Culture.” The coming together in the Liturgical life of the Church as one gives strength and continued faith development for the Church family and those who seek to return.
In the Christian family or the “domestic Church” the sacrament of matrimony models the Trinitarian love of God for His children as parents nurture and care for their children. It is here in the home that faith develops deeper within the children. Many children that I see today are not taught their faith at home much less experiencing it there. Parents are so busy with their own jobs and responsibilities that they do not take the time to practice their faith at home. This is a major problem because children are being basically taught to compartmentalize God at school or at Church only, so during the majority of their lives they are not witnessing God’s touch in all that they see and do.
Catechists and teachers of the faith must be teachers and witnesses of the faith! They must believe and live what they teach or else they are scandalous. These precious people provide a powerful witness to the Gospel and lay the ground for a culture of witnesses. “A vibrant Catholic identity and active promotion of gospel values in Catholic schools help foster future generations of disciples and evangelists.”
“Discipleship is rooted in human experience. It is through human experience that one enters into a dialogue with modern culture.” The human experience provides the “sensible signs’ that help us come to know ourselves, one another, and God.” These are the concrete signs and works of the Holy Spirit present in the Christian’s everyday life. Through retreats, bible studies, prayer groups, ecclesial movements give way to opportunities to grow and blossom in our faith and provide avenues of witnessing to each other. With constant searching and participation in religious experiences, we can create a culture of witness that will continue to nurture our faith and the life of the Church as we go forward into the future.
Again, I’d like to share Justin Stroh’s mini podcast part 4b, he also mentions that catholic schools have been a mainstay in our country that pass on the values to our children. It is a great gift, but it is declining in many parts of the country, however, we need to pray and support these fine institutions. However, this does not mean that we pay the tuition, send off each day to the Catholic school and not live the faith at home by attending Mass, etc.
Copyright 2012 Ebeth Weidner