Austin, TX. We recently had a training for a large group in Austin, Texas, for the diocese’s Office of Vocations. There were 56 men in training for the deaconate, and their wives. Here is a “theological reflection” from Dan, one of the candidates for diaconate, and himself new to street evangelization.
As I stood at the corner of 8th and Congress on that slightly damp Saturday with rosaries in hand waiting for their new owners, two questions ran through my mind: Is this really the best way to evangelize and will this actually change anyone’s lives? I was street evangelizing, looking for opportunities to bring the lost sheep back to our Shepherd. I realize, now that the experience is over and after some time to reflect, that those were the wrong two questions to ask at the time.
Christ tells us to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15). That is a bold and pretty broad command. We are to evangelize when the opportunity presents itself. Sometimes this is by our actions and sometimes words are necessary. As I stood on that corner, I was not doing something I would do of my own accord on a Saturday afternoon. I was being stretched and challenged as a disciple of Christ. I was answering Jesus’ command in what small way I could.
The results were not dramatic but not without success. We handed out a lot of rosaries and we spoke to a few people. I helped some out-of-towners find the Mass times for the Cathedral so they would not miss Mass on travel. I had a few brief discussions. One man was searching for the answers to life’s questions and was open to the idea of the rosary. We gave him a rosary and a pamphlet on how to pray it. We got into a discussion with a Protestant about the crucifix and hopefully helped him understand the significance of it. We saw a lot of receptive people and some who politely refused.
There was no great conversion moment of the people we talked to that day (that I know of, at least). However, there was a conversion of heart in me. The introvert in me started the day with feelings of apprehension and dread about talking to strangers. As the morning training was going on, I was praying for rain so I could avoid going to the streets. As the day went on and the rain chances subsided, I started to open my heart to what this experience would do for me and others. By the time we got to the streets, I was actually looking forward to the street evangelization. I wanted to hand out those rosaries and (gasp!) talk to strangers about Christ! I felt joy in the street experience and actually had a good time evangelizing. I was the Grinch whose heart grew three sizes that day. The Holy Spirit had worked within me that day. This is still something I would never do of my own accord but if I was asked to join a group of evangelizers I would probably say ‘yes’ now. Prior to Saturday, the answer would have been a very quick ‘no.’
So, what were the right two questions to ask on the street? To me, they should have been: Is this where God is calling me and is this how can I do His will? The answer to the first, at that time, was ‘yes!’ although I did not see it at first. The second one I answered by just opening myself up to the movements of the Holy Spirit and letting Him lead me. That day, He led me to the streets to hand out rosaries and talk to strangers in the best way I could. Maybe I made a difference and maybe not. But I answered the call, did my part, and must let Christ do the rest.
Thank you for sharing, Dan!