12 October 2003

Evangelization II

In which E replies to T's reply, and Dr. D replies to both. I'll try and post some of my thoughts on the Fellowship's problem...soon. Probably Tuesday. (Midterms this week, so who knows?)

T raises many issues, some of which I had not considered, and some that I had not intended to imply.

When talking of the issue of joy in our lives, I did not take the time to think about how perceptions of it might be affected by an individual's persnoality. While it may not be absolutely transparent in some people, I think it will be apparent in everyone, regardless of their personality. Just because a person is joyful does not mean that they are giddy, or silly, or anything like that. The joy that comes with a deep love for Christ and relationship with Him is closely tied to the other fruits of patience, kindness and generosity which are not dependent on personality, and should be present in everything we do. I know many of us have some problems with our personal formation in dealing with one of these (Patience is certainly not my gift), but as the relationship with Christ grows, those personal barriers can also be broken down. My story is somewhat like Mr. Waugh's that was shared - if I'm impatient now, just imagine what it was like before I had any sort of relationship with Christ (there are a couple people on campus who knew me back then, ask them).

I'm specifically thinking of the presence of these fruits of patience, kindness and generosity, in addition to joy, as they relate to evangelization on this campus. One of the most frequent complaints I hear
about our group is that we do not do a good job of really sitting and listening and discussing issues with other people. I've been told that we are too quick to just dismiss someone because what they're saying is
inconsistent with the teachings of the Church, or just wrong. Many people feel as if we are not willing to sit and listen and truly dialogue with them. The reason I've been told this is because its something I've been
personally guilty of, but it was interesting that when people have mentioned it, they didn't see it as something that just I did, but instead as a general characteristic of our group.

More disturbing is that many people have called us elitist, snobbish or cliqueish. Some of this comes from gruops who are simply hostile to us, and that will always be there. The part that concerns me is that many of these comments have come from your average Joe Catholic here on campus. If we are perceived this way, then we will have a difficult time ever reaching out to all the people who are in the middle of this war on campus, because they aren't going to want to listen to a group who they feel act in an elitist manner.

My hope is that even though most of the issues that will be brought up have already been decided for the Church, and are not going to change, that we will still be willing to talk about why they are the truth, and why they aren't going to change, in a way that will reflect the presence of the fruits of a relationship with Christ in our life. (how's that for a run-on sentence?)

I in no way intended to suggest that we should get rid of the theology and study part of this group. Without the theology, we're going to have a tough time sharing the deeper truths of Catholicism, and have a tough time responding to criticisms of the faith. In fact, it is because of Newman-Stein that I am able to discuss theology in a decent matter, and I also owe a part of my vocation to NS because of the learning that I got out of it last year. I learned far more last year due to Newman-Stein than I did from all my classes combined. What I am seeking is not a removal of a part of NS and probably not even an addition to it, but instead just a strengthening of a part of the mission that we may not have done the best job of implementing.

As far as concrete solutions, I would say the strengthening would need to occur on two levels. Each of us as individual members would constantly reflect on the way they spread the gospel to others, so that we can take care to always do so in the manner of Christ, being peaceable, gentle, kind and loving at all times.
As a group perhaps we could host speakers either for our group or for the entire campus on what good evangelization is, and what it isnt. This presentation or presentation could talk about practical tips for the
evangelization of a campus, and could talk about how to relate to people who are Christians but not Catholics, or how to relate to people who are Catholics but do not always fully understand or share in the teachings of the Church, and also how to minister to those who have no faith, but constantly see so much warfare within the Church.

I look forward to a continuing discussion on some of these issues, and hearing from the group what they think about this. Thanks to T for getting that discussion started.

Dr. D:
I appreciate the thoughtful comments from both E and T. My own reflection would be this: just as a parent needs to alternate between, on the one hand, showing pleasure and delight in a child, and exhibiting displeasure and imposing discipline, so the Christian must respond to what he or she sees. In the same way that a parent will fail if the parent is constantly correcting and finding fault, the Christian will fail if the primary message to the culture is one of disapproval. Speaking from experience, what is sometimes difficult is to discern the right time for each. If a child is having a good time, but in a rambunctious sort of way, do you accept it and encourage his enthusiasm? Or do you warn him about his little sister, who might get run over in the process? Theory is one thing; application is another. Similarly, in our culture do we identify the positive things that aspire to the good, even in a mixed up sort of way, or do we identify the inadequacies or shortcomings that have a potential for evil? Again, speaking from experience I have looked back and recognized that at times I was too indulgent, and at other times too harsh. Hindsight is always 20-20.

NSF may appear more fixated on the discipline aspects because of a perception that the normal disciplinary process in a Catholic university has been impaired; there's a sort of "attachment disorder" phenomenon. Where children don't perceive that their parents are fully in control, they spend a lot more time thinking about authority and discipline than children who have confidence that their parents are in charge. If parents set clear boundaries and enforce them consistently, their children will be childlike (spontaneous, playful, etc.). Last Sunday's homily invited us to be like children, and I concur. However, for the reasons I identified in my talk, we have reason to be anxious about whether or not there are clear boundaries that are being consistently enforced. I'd plead guilty to being fixated about rules, but I submit it's for good reason.

No comments: