• Joliet, Illinois team leader • Started with SPSE Spring 2018 • The Joliet, Illinois team has been active since Spring 2018. Their team is fulfilling the call of their bishop, Daniel Conlon, who has asked for greater evangelical zeal throughout his diocese. Their team often evangelizes at fairs and city festivals.
– What motivates you to evangelize?
What motivates me are the very words of our Lord Jesus, to “Go” and spread the Gospel (Matt. 28:19). Bishop Daniel Conlon of the Diocese of Joliet brought this to the forefront very recently. This is not a commission for only the Apostles, but for every single one of the baptized. As Pope St. Paul VI says, “[The Church] exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass…” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14). Called by name, we cannot ignore the words of our Lord Jesus to evangelize.
Secondly, what also motivates me is that many souls are living apart from Christ and His Church, either because they never knew him, have lapsed in their faith, or have just become indifferent as is so common today. We must have a real urgency for souls, and not become indifferent ourselves. No longer can we say, “He’ll be OK, he’s basically a good guy”, whether that person be an atheist, a Muslim, or a non-Catholic Christian. In every one of those cases, such a person is not typically receiving the life giving grace of the sacraments, specifically the Holy Eucharist. How much grace our Lord Jesus wants to pour upon the world, if only they would be able to know Him, especially in the Blessed Sacrament! This is why there must be a sense of urgency for souls.
As the Second Vatican Council stated, “But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator. Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, ‘Preach the Gospel to every creature’, the Church fosters the missions with care and attention” (Lumen gentium, 16).
We who have been regenerated in Christ must foster those missions as well. Many in our culture have fallen for the deception laid out by the evil one, and we must do all that our Lord wills for us, as instruments of the Holy Spirit, to that end of bringing them to know Christ through His Church. The words of St. Francis Xavier, the patron of the Diocese of Joliet, ring in my head: “Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming Christians for one reason only: there is nobody to make them Christians.” This is so true for our own day, and this message, stemming from our Lord Jesus’ commission to all the baptized, is at the forefront of all that we do.
– How does prayer impact evangelization?
Prayer impacts evangelization immensely. We have to be saturated in prayer, otherwise what we’re doing is some mere human work and we aren’t allowing ourselves to be used as instruments of the Holy Spirit. We always ask for the intercession of may saints, especially our patrons, as well as St. Francis Xavier, St. Michael, and especially St. Joseph and our Blessed Mother. If we aren’t asking for help, how can we receive it? Prayer absolutely must be at the center of any type of organized effort towards evangelization.
The Scriptures and the Eucharist are also important. 1 Peter 3:15-16 says: “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” We have to keep this in mind when we evangelize.
In the Eucharist, our Lord is with us, present upon our altars. It’s the meeting point of Heaven and earth. As St. John Chrysostom says, “When Mass is being celebrated, the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the Divine Victim immolated on the altar.” The Communion of Saints is there with us, and fast approaching is that moment that we will receive our Lord Jesus into our very bodies. Nothing can be greater than that.