By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./Director of the Office of Marriage, Family and Life
For those who regularly read this column, you know that I am in the midst of reviewing Pope Francis’ reflection on love based on 1 Cor. 13:4-7 found in his apostolic exhortation “The Joy of Love”. I am going to take a one-column break in this review to write about a remarkable event that I was blessed to attend. At the beginning of July, over 3,300 delegates from Catholic dioceses across the United States gathered in Orlando for the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders” which focused on the Holy Father’s “The Joy of the Gospel”. Our U.S. bishops decided some years ago to gather bishops, priests, deacons, religious and the laity (about one-fourth clergy and three-fourths laity) to pray and reflect on what it would mean to follow Pope Francis’ call for us all to be “missionary disciples”. We were invited to consider our role in leading the Church in the New Evangelization which Pope Francis says should bring the “Joy of the Gospel” to everyone, especially those who have become separated from the Church or were never connected to God or the Church.
You may wonder, “What does this have to do with me?” You may even be thinking that, while there were certain words in the first paragraph that sounded familiar, you do not really know how they impact you as a Catholic. So allow me to ask you this question: “Do you want to spread the joy of the Gospel in your family?” If your answer is yes, then you may be wondering “How do I do this? How do I evangelize my family to the joy of the Gospel?”
During the convocation, Cardinal Wuerl of Washington D.C. described five characteristics of “The New Evangelist” and I believe that we should all apply them to our families. To be a “New Evangelist,” Cardinal Wuerl said that you have to have: boldness, connection to the Church, urgency, compassion and joy. Let me suggest how you can bring these to your family:
- Boldness (what Cardinal Wuerl says is a form of courage): Decide that from this day forward you are going to love your family as Christ loves us all and, when you come up short, you will have the courage to begin again. This is a bold goal for you to set for yourself.
- Connection to the Church: The Church is the living Body of Christ and so your sharing (i.e. evangelization) of the “Joy of the Gospel” must be anchored in prayer, in the Mass, in life in the Church. The boldness that I wrote about above can only be powered through the power of God’s grace which we experience so uniquely in the Church. The Eucharist, Reconciliation, prayer with the Church – all are sources of the grace you need to reach the bold goal of loving your family as Christ loves the Church. Then take this one step further and work to keep your entire family connected to the Church. Attend Sunday Mass as a family, pray with your family, get engaged in the life of your parish with your family.
- Urgency: Spread God’s joy in your family as soon as you are done reading this column in OND! Just had a fight with your siblings or with your spouse? Show them love right now. Perhaps they are not with you right now? Text the words “I love you” to your entire family. Do not wait for the “perfect time” to show them this love – decide that every time together is the right time to love.
- Compassion: Have a heart of mercy in your family, forgive their mistakes, feel their pain as well as celebrate their joys. Reflect as best you can the heart of merciful Jesus in your family.
- Joy: Share true love, which comes from God, in order to spread a spirit of joy in your family. If you have a joy-filled spirit you can more easily bring happiness to your family. And if you are a wounded soul who does not see much happiness in life, share your faith in God and the perfect joy we will experience in heaven. The Gospel points us to the ultimate joyful life when we are united with the God in heaven.
Many Catholics believe that they cannot participate in the “New Evangelization” but Cardinal Wuerl points us in a clear direction. Live the characteristics of the “New Evangelist” in your family today, do it again tomorrow, and the next day and the next. If every member of every family in the Diocese of Crookston spread the “Joy of the Gospel” in their family, this joy would radiate out from our families into our parishes and communities and we would all become “Missionary Disciples” in the New Evangelization.
To view presentations from the convocation, visit: www.usccb.org/convocation.