Healthy Soul/My Life/Witness and Evangelization Everyday Evangelization: Locker-bays and Catacombs by Maddy Bernero The word “evangelization” reminds me of a time I was ambushed in a parking lot. One summer afternoon I was sitting in the parking lot of Starbucks with my windows rolled down, ready to pull out. I had my iced coffee, I buckled my seatbelt, turned on my country music, glanced in my rearview mirror to reverse and I saw a woman approaching. She came up beside my car shouting, “Ma’am, excuse me! Ma’am!” I put the car in park and, bewilderedly, tried to figure out what she could want. She stood beside my car, leaning through the open car window and started asking me questions about church, if I went, where I went, if I believed in Jesus, etc… I noticed the Bible in her hand and with confidence thought to myself, “I’ve been going to youth group, I go to Catholic school, this is my chance! I am so excited to tell someone I DO know Jesus, and be able to back it up!” I opened my mouth to begin answering her questions and was cut off. I got out, “I do believe in Jesus Christ, I attend church, I’m Catholic,” and that was it. She started to lay into me with questions about the reasons for certain Catholic traditions. She kept asking me to point to Scripture to prove every point I tried to make. When I answered a question she would come back with another one, right there, in the middle of a parking lot, through my car window. The frustration lasted for 45 minutes. I felt so trapped, bombarded, and uncomfortable. When we hear the word evangelization, sometimes we associate experiences like this parking lot disaster. We imagine evangelization to be Bible banging and shouting about eternal damnation from street corners. But this is so far from the truth. Our evangelization needs to be like the witness of the early church, when Christians were being persecuted and the faith was treasured and shared in secret in the catacombs (a.k.a. underground passageways). As you enter into a new school year, here is some advice on how you can evangelize from your locker and in your school. What Is Evangelization? Evangelization is sharing the Good News, the Gospel. It is a natural response to a profound encounter with a person, Jesus Christ. Sharing the Gospel does not merely mean approaching someone, opening up the first chapter of the Gospel of John and reading, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). When we speak about evangelizing others through sharing the Gospel, we mean sharing the Word, the Word made Flesh, the Miracle of the Incarnation, the Baby of Bethlehem, Jesus Christ. This next nugget of wisdom will rock your world. Read with caution: “The Good News proclaimed by the witness of life sooner or later has to be proclaimed by The Word of Life. There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed.” (Evangelii Nuntiandi 22) Woah! Read that again — that paragraph is SO important. That is evangelization in a nutshell. Over and over the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “we must proclaim Christ!” In his first letter to the Corinthians St. Paul says, “we preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23). We cannot simply be good people and love others. We must be a people living through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ. In his pastoral letter, Go Forth With Hearts On Fire, Most Reverend Paul S. Loverde, Bishop of Arlington describes the art and joy of evangelization so beautifully. He says, “We do not impose our beliefs on others. In fact, we propose the Good News” (9). Evangelization is not about arguing or convincing, it is an introduction, an invitation. To share the Gospel, we must first LIVE the Gospel. How can we introduce people to someone we do not know, or share what we do not live? We evangelize by sharing the good work Christ has done in our lives. We give thanks and praise for His mercy and providence. We share with others how He has blessed us, helped us through our trials and healed the brokenness in our lives. Everyday Evangelization So what does this look like? What can you do as you start your school year? We live in a time that looks more and more like the early Church. You cannot share or discuss your faith openly and freely in school, the Church is being persecuted. However, this is fantastic! When the Catholic Church has experienced the greatest persecution, those were the times she witnessed the greatest growth. Why? Because brave men and women rose to the challenge. They put aside their fears of persecution, being an outcast, death, betrayal and rejection. Many of them died for the Church, and as Tertullian, an early christian theologian, said, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” They are the seed from which the Church blossomed. So, brothers and sisters, my companions in this holy war – I want you to treat your locker bays like the catacombs. I need you to carry Jesus to people. I am not saying go out and pick a fight, or become a martyr, but the church and the world needs you to step up. We need you to evangelize, to bring Christ to those who don’t know or have Him. Simple practical things you can do to evangelize: Pray before lunch (yes in front of your friends) Offer to pray for your friends and their struggles Smile – live with genuine Christian joy Grow in virtue – people are attracted to virtue Watch your language – people really notice Do not be afraid to acknowledge, give thanks and tell people about the blessings the Lord has given you Evangelization is our duty, privilege and joy as christians. It is meant to be a joyful experience – as long as we stand clear of car windows.