Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What Evangelization Means

Editor's Note: This is the second in our exciting line of team posts! Today we bring you an awesome piece from Christy Gualtieri. You should check her out on Twitter @agapeflower117 and at her blog

It was a Sunday morning, about fifteen minutes before we were supposed to leave for Mass, and our house was in the throes of the usual chaos that occurs anytime our family has to be anywhere at a certain time.  The doorbell unexpectedly rang, and I stopped at the door to open it while somehow trying to force my preschooler son to put his pants on.  Two women were at the door, their friendly faces warm and open, and in their hands they held brochures.  I recognized them as part of a group that passed through our neighborhood a few times a year, looking for new members to join their non-denominational church the next town over.

“Good morning, ma’am,” one of them told me.  “Do you believe in the Devil?”

I snuck a look over to where my son was jumping on the armchair we expressly forbid him to jump on about a milion times a day, naked as a jaybird from the waist down.  His screams of joy at getting at the contraband matched the angry screams of his infant sister upstairs, who was being wrangled into a pair of tights.  I looked back at the women.

“I certainly do,” I told them.


I can understand the women’s need to evangelize.  Their church asks them to do so, and so does the Catholic church.  But maybe ask isn’t the right word for Catholics- we are more like mandated.  And I think that the closer we are to God, the more intense our desire will be to want to evangelize - to tell people about the love of God because His love burns in us so intensely that we have no physical choice not to  (think the travelers on the road to Emmaus).  But what does Catholic evangelization mean? Does it mean going door-to-door? Cold-calling names from an online phone registry? 

Some people think it means to educate.  I get that.  Growing up, I made it my mission to let others know I was Catholic, and darn proud of it.  By the time I was in eighth grade I was determined to become a nun, and I prepared myself to follow my dream.  Each month, I would scan the backs of my mother's religious magazines in the bathroom for the "Seeking Sisters" ads, as I call them, the ones that read like the ones found on Craigslist: Seeking young women looking to give up everything to follow Christ.  Must be young, enthusiastic, not have any debts, and willing to give up every earthly possession. I dressed the part - I wore outfits like a dark wool skirt, thick opaque knee-socks, an argyle sweater, and, yes, a dickey.  To public school.  In Miami, where the humidity was so thick it felt like you were walking into an open shoe every time you opened the door to leave your house.

I can't imagine - or maybe I don't want to remember - the amount of teasing I called down upon myself during that time period.  I can envision it now, on the school bus:

You can sit next to me, if you want to.

No thanks, loser.

 [smiling beatifically]
God bless you, my child.

And I wanted to practice evangelization on the people in my life who had no choice but to listen: my family.  My parents raised my brothers and I in the faith, so they didn’t need to hear it, but I felt it was my duty to dole out my spiritual teaching according to what my brothers could handle.  When I was eleven years old, I took it upon myself to teach my four-year-old brother all I could about the spiritual world of our faith.  

I started with the Devil.  

I knew it wouldn’t be easy, because it’s hard to explain the entirety of evil to a four year old. How would I tell my brother about him? How could I keep him on the lookout? He's a pretty sneaky character. I knew this because at the time of my plan to educate my brother about him, I had also been reading Butler's "The Lives of the Saints," and wouldn't you know it, there was a description of the Devil right in the story of Saint Martin (lightly paraphrased, of course, because this incident happened twenty-plus years ago):
 [The Devil appears to Saint Martin in the form of Christ, wearing purple robes and a glorious crown.]

It is me, my son.  Jesus.

...I don't know...

What do you mean, you don't know? I've never appeared to you before. 
You don't know what I look like.  This is what I look like!

[Looks intently at him.]
Where are your wounds?


Your wounds.  The ones you received on the cross?

Oh, don't need to see them.  They're there.


[Disappears in a puff of smoke.]

So you can understand why I'd want to protect my little brother; my sweet, four-year old towhead from falling eternally into sin.  He was young, innocent.  He could be lured into a pit of fire and sulfur by the Devil for all eternity, never to be heard from again.  He needed to be ready, lest he was weaker than Saint Martin was, and when having a vision forgets to ask Jesus to show him the goods.

I waited until my parents were busy and we were playing together, I took a deep breath. This is it, I decided.  He needs to know.

"Julian," I began, lowering my eleven-year old voice into its most serious tone.  He stared at me with his big, trusting, blue eyes.  "I have to tell you something."
He kept staring.  "Julian," I continued solemnly,  "Every time you do something bad..." I felt worry creep into my voice, but pushed it back - for his sake, for my brother's sake.  He needed my protection, my knowledge.

"...If you ever do anything bad," I gushed just before I got up to run out of the room,  "the Devil will come and get you in the middle of the night and you will die."

So maybe I wasn’t the best at evangelizing.  To be honest with you, I don’t know if I’ve improved at it much, except to say that I try to be as honest about loving God and my Catholicism the best I can.  I’ve grown so much in knowledge and (hopefully) maturity since I was eleven years old, and I know that if I keep trying to grow, keep reaching and listening for God, He will instruct me on what to say, how to say it, and whom to say it to.

I thanked the women who came to my door that Sunday for visiting.  I let them know we were a Catholic family, and, in fact, on our way to worship.  And later, I thought about what evangelization means: speaking God’s Word of love to a needing heart.  I thought about all the times in my life where I was so sure God just couldn’t love me; where I thought I had exhausted the limits of His mercy - and about all the times I was brought back to my senses through those who shared their faith with me, even though I thought I already knew it all. 

I don’t know how God is calling you to evangelize; it might be a different way than mine.  But let’s pray for each other, that we are able to discern what His voice is asking us to use our own to say.  May we find that our hearts are also burning to share His love for the world!

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