Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The New Evangelization Requires That We Go Deep

One evening, while at dinner at the home of some parishioners, one of the seminarians from my parish recounted a humorous story.  The people were asking him how it is that he wound up in the seminary.  He gave a detailed account of various moments in his life.  And he added, "And then, of course, I started going to the early morning daily Mass at St. Mary's.  Fr. Barnes would get in the pulpit and say things like, 'If you think God is calling you to the priesthood, say 'Yes.'"  Then the seminarian adds dryly, "I would look around at the rest of the congregation and see that I was the only person there under 60 and I'd think, 'Gee, I wonder if he's talking to me?'"  Subtlety is not my strong suit.  He would have wound up in the seminary whether I was harassing him from the pulpit or not, but I hope my encouragement played some small role in his decision to enter the seminary.

This came to mind because today God gave me a little gift.  I was talking to a young man who out of the blue said to me, "I don't know if I will ever be a priest, but whenever you say at the end of Mass that perhaps God is calling some young man here today to the priesthood, I think maybe it could be me and I'm open to it.  It's not like, 'never in a million years.'"  This young man is a great, normal, fine person.  I don't know if he'll ever be a priest, but it does my heart good to know that young men like him are at least open to the possibility.

This young man's openness was a gift to me because it provided me with some needed assurance that fidelity to the New Evangelization is the way to go.  There's a safe way to run a parish.  It is to stay in shallow waters and trust in our own ingenuity.  Adherents to this method seem to become increasingly entrenched the more that the method fails.  The New Evangelization (in its true form), on the other hand, requires us to forgo the safety of the shallow waters and to risk everything on the Gospel and on the Holy Spirit.  The New Evangelization may prove costly for those who embrace it, but it will lead to a strengthening of the Church.  The lukewarm method may provide a comfortable existence to those who embrace it, but will most definitely continue to weaken the Church.  Today's conversation encouraged me to keep rowing out into the deep waters.

This weekend, a young man who was received into the Catholic Church a few years ago from this parish will be ordained a transitional deacon for the Dominican Order.  What attracted him to the Church and ultimately to the Dominicans and to the priesthood was not some vague, fuzzy "spiritual" feeling.  He loved Jesus crucified and risen from the dead and he loved the Sacraments.  Probably for a little while longer, the shallow water method of fishing will win the day in the life of much of the Church.  But, very soon and the ranks of priests will be dominated by those who are chomping at the bit to set out into the deep waters.  I know this to be true because, in large part, priestly vocations are almost exclusively arising from those places that have already begun the New Evangelization. 

The New Evangelization will require apostolic zeal and fortitude and may be very costly.  Not living the New Evangelization and playing it safe will and has exacted a far more serious cost.

1 comment:

  1. Father Barnes, I really liked your post. I have recently resumed graduate school and I am taking this course called Racial and Cultural Identities. The title is somewhat deceiving. It is not really as much about being politically correct as it is about coming to the realization that race and culture are largely abstract social constructs. Anyway, for the second essay we had to write about how we "do" culture and the norms,beliefs and values associated with it. Since it was so global I decided to instead just focus on my experience as a parishioner at St. Mary's and "doing" the culture at your church and how it differs from the worship experiences in nearby Catholic Churches. Since it is a secular institution I was a little bit hesitant to mention unwavering belief in God but figured that equality and social justice is truly what this course is all about. This country was based on religious freedom, even though God is definitely not a popular topic among the academic set. Little did I know that when I submitted my essay it would go on to a worldwide web for graduate schools and PHD programs nor do I know what the religious convictions are of this professor. I think I just unwittingly publicly evangelized.