Thursday, April 30, 2015

Evangelization? I'd Bet Everything on Friendship.

Yesterday evening I attended a talk given by Curtis Martin, the founder and head of FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students), at the Harvard University Catholic Center.  Curtis' talk on evangelization was excellent.  After the talk, the chaplains at Harvard invited Curtis, the FOCUS Missionaries from MIT, Harvard, and BU, and the chaplains of those schools for a reception.  I was struck by the friendship and common vision that we all share.  You had a room full of lay people and priests who are entirely committed to the same mission.  So often in the Church there are conflicting and antagonistic ideological agendas at work. This impedes evangelization.  But in that room, I was surrounded by men and women of various ages who were filled with joy and love for one another.  I was particularly encouraged to witness the excellent priestly ministry of my brother priests. I felt grateful to be counted among their number. The wider Church could learn a lot from what is happening in college campus ministry.

Sometimes on Thursdays I have part of the day free.  Today was a beautiful day in Boston.  I arrived at the Catholic Center this morning and had a great day.  A friend and I took public transportation down to Downtown Boston and went to "Arch Street" (non-Bostonians would say, "St. Anthony's Shrine") where we went to confession.  This is Catholicism!  Two men who are sinners go get in line with a bunch of other men and women who are sinners.  We wait our turn, go into the box, confess our sins, and receive absolution.  We are all in this together.  

After we went to confession, we grabbed a sandwich.  Although I lost some weight during the Lenten fasts, I apparently observe the Easter feasting with greater zeal than I did the Lenten fasting.  Despite the need to curb the feasting, when I saw pastrami on the menu, I couldn't help myself. After a delicious sandwich (of which I only ate half), we decided to walk through Boston to get back to BU. It was a great day in Boston.  We passed through the Boston Common and the Public Gardens and then made our way down Newbury Street.  When we returned to the Catholic Center, we spent some time hanging out with students who are done with classes and are preparing for exams.

This evening, a priest friend of mine from another diocese came up to Boston for dinner. This guy is the real deal; a priest through and through.  He is simply at the service of the Church.  You can tell that he loves the Church and that he pours himself out in service to the Church.  I really felt like I was being reminded all over again what the priesthood really is.

Interspersed throughout all of these encounters were various interactions with students at BU and text messages and conversations with young people.  We are living something beautiful together.  We live a friendship together.  This friendship involves going to confession together, joking together, eating together, conversing and debating together, praying together, and loving one another. It's really kind of amazing. Something beautiful exists among us.

If I ever have any small amount of success in the work of evangelization, it won't be because I came up with clever ideas, catchy phrases, or successful strategies.  If any success is granted to me, it will be because I was able to go to confession with a friend, have lunch with young people, be educated by good priests ordained before me and after me, and live intensely and intentionally a friendship with the people--no matter what their age or state in life--that the Lord places in my path.  These people educate me and help me to grow.  They move me.  I hope that in being moved, I become an instrument of moving others.

In the people that I encountered during these past twenty-four hours, I've been reminded that Jesus has kept his promise, "I am with you always."  The assurance of his presence sustains me.  Evangelization begins and is sustained by something that is real and that is happening now.  After the past twenty-four hours, I am convinced all over again and with ever greater conviction that the path of evangelization is the path of friendship.  

1 comment:

  1. "The wider Church could learn a lot from what is happening in college campus ministry." Well said but how to make the wider Church listen when so often the response is silence?