What is evangelization anyway?
Faith in the context of organized religion often seems decorated with a lot of trappings. The array of dogma and doctrine that we get immersed in and the rituals we are told we are obliged to participate in for the saving of our very souls offer a lot of mystery and beauty, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve found that these elements serve to distract me from my efforts to know and understand my true purpose for being. I often hear a little voice in my head screaming, “Can we please just get to the point?”
I know I’m not unique in this regard. Anyone who has faith in God addresses the “purpose” question from their own perspectives. Still, I am always fascinated by the fact that, at least in my case, I keep coming at the subject from different angles depending on my situation at the moment.
I suspect I’m not alone. Indeed, I think it’s the shared questioning that draws me and other fellow faith trekkers to the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis. It is there that I find a sense of certainty amid uncertainty, rooted in the encouragement to “Live Jesus.”
The steadfastness that the sisters exercise in trying to identify and live purposeful lives — as individuals and as a community — reminds me there is grace simply in asking the questions. And their example keeps challenging me to not give up in my efforts.
Why, you may ask, am I bringing any of this up? Well, just recently I was asked by an old friend whether I would be applying for the position of Director of Evangelization at the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.
There might be reason for me to consider it. I did serve in somewhat of a similar capacity for the Archdiocese between 2002 and 2007. But when I looked at the job description, I realized it probably wouldn’t be a good fit. For one thing, I’m not sure I would be qualified. They prefer someone with a master’s in Theology. Strike one. They also want someone who’s a “Catholic in good standing.” (I don’t always get to Mass on Sunday). Strike two.
But the biggest reason I don’t think it would be a good fit is that I don’t know how the current leadership of the Archdiocese defines evangelization. Based on what I do know, though, I suspect there might be a clash of ideologies.
You see, when I was working in this area back in the last decade, I found that everyone’s definition of evangelization was different. Some people thought it meant going door to door inviting people to come to “our church.” The ultimate goal was get more bodies in the pews. Others thought it meant being an apologist for the Church.
So, one of the first priorities of our evangelization initiative was to clearly state that our definition of the task was, “To make Jesus Christ known and loved, in our time, by choosing to live out the Gospel in every moment.”
Do you hear the Visitation tenet inherent in that line? Live Jesus. Sweep past all the veils, unknowns, mysteries of dogma, doctrine and ritual and what you are left with is that.
Now that’s evangelization, I think.