November 18, 2015
During my time as a pretty recent campus missionary for Saint Paul's Outreach, formation in effective evangelization was constant, essential, and constant. It was also constant. I highly recommend it to any growing Catholic; I had only been reinvigorated and re-involved in my faith for a few years, and the Lord was already calling me to directly proclaim the Gospel to college students. I was the walking definition of the Lord equipping the called, and not vice versa. Without training and actual missionary work, my faith would have stagnated faster than you could say "new evangelization."
Throughout our various meetings, conferences, and retreats, a favorite quote from a favorite exhortation (Evangelii Nuntiandi, or "Evangelization in the Modern World" by Pope Paul VI) rang loud and true:
"Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses"
So, this reflection, I figured I'd write about the thing I am most qualified to write about: my life, and more importantly how the Lord has moved me and within me.
During my missionary training I prayed and prayed for a big moment, a smashing Miracle with a capital "M", that one true Act of God that was conclusive and self-evident. I wanted God to write my "elevator testimony," as industry insiders might call it. Thank God I had hours and hours of contemplation built into our schedule over the year of mission work, because that Miracle never came.
Dozens of miracles surfaced in my time of reflection, however, probably among the hundreds I've failed to notice, and a pattern emerged. God has spoken directly to me, many times. WHAT?! How did I miss it?! I'll say it again, a bit more accurately:
God has spoken directly to me, many times. Almost all of these miracles were small invitations from close friends to give a little more of my time, a little more of myself.
[My expectations] Would I give my life to Jesus, right here and now, completely and totally, sacrificing everything I have for the Kingdom? Whoa, buddy, I'm not sure about that...
[Reality] Would I join a Catholic student household program? Erm... Sure? I don't really have a good reason not to. And it's cheap. And they'll let me leave mid-year to study abroad...
[My expectations] Would I postpone my career goals, become a missionary, move to Miami, and date my now wife long-distance for a year or two? See, you're asking a little much again....
[Reality] Would I be a student volunteer for the men's ministry and lead a small group? Well, alright, it went really well for me, so as long as the curriculum is already written.... About pornography? Wait really? Ugh, fine.
All of these things eventually happened. Every one of them. But the Lord was gentle with me. He knew I wasn't reckless (I was actually cautious to a fault). He spoke in small invitations allowing me to give my heart to Him at my own glacial pace. Only through a lot of reflection, a lot of external processing with small groups, adoration, contemplation and prayer did I piece together this Miracle.
True to my missionary boot camp notes, I will now give you a couple takeaways:
- Let the Lord work in your day-to-day. A word from your friends, enemies, that one podcast you like; nothing is outside the parameters of God's ability to communicate with you. If you're lucky, you'll catch His miracles in real-time if not;
- Make time to contemplate. I really mean it. Make time. Some of my best prayer time has been when I stopped trying so dang hard to "pray right" and finally stopped to listen for a while. And it will only feed your more "active" prayer later. Don't buy the lie that it's a waste of the time you fought so hard to set aside for Him.
Praised be Jesus Christ.