My Faith/Teen Faith Evangelizing on a Catholic Campus by Colton Marks During my sophomore year of high school I attended a retreat with my youth group that quickly became my first major encounter with the Joy of Christ. During Adoration I became desolate as I witnessed my fellow peers filled with emotion in the presence of Christ but I felt nothing. After a half hour of frustration, I stormed to the back of the small chapel room to speak with a religious brother. I told him that I did not feel Christ, associating Him with emotions I receive when I pray. The brother corrected me saying, “Christ cannot be reduced to merely a feeling, He is so much more than that. You are Christ’s militant and He is fighting the battle right next to you.” I was immediately filled with immense joy as Christ became personal to me and my journey. He was now my friend instead of emotion. The joy I received at that moment became a spreading fire within my soul as I felt drawn to share this newfound joy and message with others. As we receive the joy of Christ into our own hearts, we are called further to spread this everlasting Joy to our family, friends, and community. Pope Francis encourages the faithful to radiate the Joy of God when he says, “Jesus teaches us that the Good News, which he brings, is not reserved to one part of humanity, it is to be communicated to everyone.” Therefore, our life as followers of Christ must include the journey, struggle and eternal joy of evangelization. The Church is currently undergoing many hardships, thus, leading souls astray from the beauty of a life with Jesus. This brings me to the importance of evangelizing not only outside of the Catholic faith but working to fortify Christ’s mission within the Church. If you go to a Catholic high school, while you might be on fire for your faith, you likely have friends and acquaintances who see their faith as just another class, not something that transforms their lives. That’s why, even in a Catholic school, you’re called to evangelize. By caring for the spiritual needs of others, regardless of where they currently are in their faith journey, we live out Christ’s mission for us, showing others the beauty of pure joy that comes from Jesus alone. Why This Matters Why should you evangelize at your Catholic school? As a Catholic school student, in my first year of high school, I loved my faith and relationship with Christ, but I thought that evangelization was unnecessary since the school already had mandatory Mass, theology classes, a Jesuit Catholic identity, and a retreat each year. I soon realized, however, that there was a lack of passion, throughout the student body, for our Catholic faith and I recognized my own obligation to share the Gospel with others — even at my Catholic school. These events and requirements gave a great opportunity, but they were only events, and, although these events held the best of intentions, my peers did not seem filled with the spark of a personal relationship with Christ, fostering a deeper spiritual longing within them. I discovered within myself the desire to evangelize because it is who I am as a follower of Christ. As people of faith, our authentic identity comes from the joy of the Gospel and our mission is to bring this joy to the people around us. Since our faith is who we authentically are, we must strive to bring that authenticity to others. This is how Christ calls us into greater intimacy with others. So if you’re anything like me and you see your fellow students struggling to embrace the joy of the Gospel, be bold in bringing Christ to them. The Tools at Your Disposal “Pray with great confidence, with confidence based upon the goodness and infinite generosity of God and upon the promises of Jesus Christ. God is a spring of living water which flows unceasingly into the hearts of those who pray.”-St. Louis de Montfort If you’re a student at a Catholic school there are so many tools at your disposal that help tremendously with evangelization. First and foremost, the shared experience of Catholic schools unites everyone’s story. Retreats, theology classes and other faith traditions on campus bring a diverse student body into a united whole, filled with the fruit of God. Every year at my high school we had numerous retreats sectioned off by each grade level. Our Freshman retreat included four days of nonstop action and brotherhood. On the third night of the retreat, as one freshman class, we took part in Sunday Mass. After Mass, we all sat down and listened to each willing person share a personal witness. This time became solemn and respectful as fellow brothers poured their hearts out to one another. Whether people enjoyed the retreat or wanted to leave after the first day, whether they knew the joy of the Gospel or felt far from it, we all still had an experience together, which lent itself to authentic connection, which is key for evangelization. This deeper sense of community continues into the classroom. Theology classes create a shared intellectual experience of the faith, leading to dialogue about Catholicism. Authentic community and intellectual engagement with faith set up the ideal circumstances for sharing the joy of the Gospel — even with the most uninterested of Catholic peers. Also available to you at Catholic school are the Sacraments, which are the source of any effective evangelization. The Sacraments fill our hearts with the grace and spiritual nourishment needed to foster a deeper relationship with Christ. They fulfill the joy of the Gospel, revealing our communities to the personal intimacy of the heart of Christ. This sanctifying grace received in the Blessed Sacrament and Confession allows for fruitful evangelization since it fills us with the very life of Christ. Where Do We Go from Here? “To convert somebody, go and take them by the hand and guide them.” -St. Thomas Aquinas The primary step to fruitful evangelization begins with yourself. To preach the Love of Christ you must prepare a place for Him in your own heart. Through a life of daily prayer and an active relationship with Christ, you can shine with the brilliance of the Gospel in everything you do. A false sense of holiness is extremely recognizable to those you will try to evangelize, so allow the Love of God to flow from all facets of your life. Be kind to everyone you meet and show people you care; if your relationship with the Lord is authentic, fruits of His Spirit will be evident to others and will create openness, leading to more opportunities for evangelization. Work hard to prepare the soil, but in the end, only God can plant the seed. Our job is to prepare the way for the Lord and continue to show His Love to others. We do this by being witnesses to the faith, not only by cultivating our own relationship with Jesus but also by getting involved and becoming leaders in the community. Getting involved in various clubs and organizations on campus opens the chance to connect with others and share Christ’s love with them, cultivating our calling to love one another and spreading the joy of the gospel. People want to be loved and cared for, so be that person, showing everyone you meet that they matter. Authentic love helps others find a deeper sense of belonging, allowing God to plant the seed. Don’t be afraid to invite those you love and care for into a deeper encounter with Jesus in Sacraments. Invite your friends you encounter in your various activities to join you for Mass and talk with them about the experience of it. Lastly, do not be afraid to start your own club or organization that invites others directly into an experience of encounter with God. My junior year of high school I began an Ignatian Prayer Club to fill a hole in the community. I loved a more intimate style of prayer and wanted others to experience it as well, so I began the club and invited others to take part in the contemplation of Scripture. Resulting from this was a deeper sense of community rooted in contemplative and meditative prayer. We became vulnerable in sharing our experiences and love with one another. Lead in Love Don’t be afraid to be a leader of the faith in your school community. Reach out to others and invite them into a community of love and companionship. But overall, let the Love of God work through you and straight into their hearts. Through evangelization, you become an instrument for God, so stay humble and remain Christ-centered. Keep this prayer of Saint Francis in your heart: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.” Good evangelization brings so many fruits to the community — even Catholic communities — and we all need a sense of community and intimacy; it’s what we were made for. Evangelization builds those things exactly. Show your community the beauty of genuine friendship. Be 100% intentional with the people God puts in your life. And don’t hold back from sharing the joy you’ve received in the Gospel. If you’re boldly living your faith people will look up to you, so be a beacon of faith for all people, continually growing deeper in your own faith. Love endlessly, pray wholeheartedly and trust that Christ will provide the spark of evangelization you long for. It may be hard work, but you have the foundation and tools to do wonders, so don’t fret, trust in the Lord and let Him plant the seed of Divine Love.