11 October 2003


There is a big discussion on the Newman-Stein Fellowship listserv about our mission for evangelization. As a group, we've been reading Mary Beth Bonacci's book, "We're on a Mission From God," and the first chapters deal with being a Christian and being a joyful Christian. My small group supplemented this with an excerpt on joy and contentment from the writings of Fulton Sheen. I'm going to post parts of the discussion here. I hope the authors don't mind. The first writer, E, is co-leader of a discussion group with Lizzy and me. He's also a seminarian. The second, T, doesn't actually go here anymore; he finished his bachlor's in philosophy last year, but this group was sort of his brainchild, so he's still very much invested in it even though he's now on the East Coast. The third, Dr. D, is a professor at the Law School, and NSF's faculty advisor. He spoke to us last week on the universal call to holiness. The text of these messages has been edited for names and spelling errors.

I was thinking about our talk on the Universal call to Holiness by Dr. D. While it was interesting and did have some good points behind it, I found it very abstract, and not directly applicable to my faith and personal call to Holiness. While we are all called to personal holiness, that holiness is not supposed to be an abstract thing, but something that is rooted in a deep and abiding love for Jesus Christ. One thing I love about Newman-Stein is the opportunity it gives us to learn about the faith. However, without that deep love of Jesus and a relationship with Him, it really doesn't matter at all how much theology we happen to know.

This also ties into the Bonacci book that we've been reading. With that deep relationship with Christ comes the true Joy that she was talking about. That relationship is something that truly transforms a person, because of the great graces that are present. If we do have a deep and abiding love for Christ, one that seeks to have an active relationship with Him, then our lives will be abundantly joyful. The fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity and faithfulness will all be present in our lives in abundance as well. While I want Newman-Stein to be a place where we can learn about our faith, and about theology, even more than that I want it to be a place that fosters a deep relationship with Christ.

We should be an organization on campus that people look at and say, "Wow, look at the way Christ has changed their lives! Look at the joy, peace, love, and generosity that is present in their lives! I want to have what they have!" If this is what we were truly seeking, I believe that the prospect of evangelizing our campus would be immeasurably easier. Rather than us having to try to bludgeon people to death with the truth they would look at us and see the beauty of the truth already present in us through Christ. Then we could be truly living St. Francis' exhortation to "Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary, use words."

So, thats my reflection on what this universal call to holiness could mean for each of us, and for our organization as a whole. Thoughts? Maybe we can have some sort of discussion of this, and how it is that we want to be evangelizing the campus.

E is right that primarily important is our relationship to Christ and the conversion of our whole being that that brings. There seems, however, to be something dangerous in the way he views that manifesting itself. His assumption seems to be that joy in our relationship to Christ is something that will necessarily be evident to other people in a completely transparent way. A few comments on this:

First, not all of us are bubbly or cheerful. Some are dour, melancholic, grumpy, etc. I am reminded of a story about Catholic novelist Evelyn Waugh, who was known to be an acerbic, rather nasty guy. A woman once asked him, "Mr. Waugh, you're awful! How can you call yourself a Christian!" Waugh is said to have replied, "madam, think how much worse I would be were i not a Christian." The point is that it is not so much important to feel holy or to seem holy to others, but to actually BE holy. Also, remember that the Church is a hospital and that the members of the body of Christ are the ailing patients therein. We are all sinners, all needing Christ's saving grace. If others look at us and say, "It is not directly evident to me that they are holy. in fact, I see a lot of sin and evil. How unattractive!" They are missing the point. We must
sin less and strive to increase in faith and holiness, in part because of the scandal caused by the sins of a Catholic. But who can judge the soul of a Christian, other than God? There are many things happening beneath the surface of someone who may not look to be filled with the joy of Christ.

Next, there is a danger of a tyranny of apostolate. Not everyone is called to every apostolate. Some people are called primarily to study the faith or to educate about it. I think a large proportion of Newman-Stein members fall into this category. There is nothing wrong with that. Should we encourage other
apostolates in the group? Absolutely!!!! But we need to recognize that different people are called to different things.

So, my question for E, and the list, is: What, concretely, can Newman-Stein do to help the evangelical mission of the group that takes into account the diversity of apostolates among the members of the group and also is realistic about the fact that relationship to Christ is about holiness, not necessarily about changing (or upgrading) one's personality.

I'll post the replies of E and Dr. D tomorrow.

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