Catholic Free Press

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  • May
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Evangelizing home and neighborhood

Posted By May 2, 2013 | 1:04 pm | Lead Story #3

By Tanya Connor

WESTBOROUGH – Young John Paul came home sulking. His friends were playing a “shoot ’em up and kill” game he was forbidden to play. So he figured he might as well come home.
“You have to make this one sacrifice for Jesus,” his mother explained.
“That’s evangelization in the home, because the more little John Pauls there are who say, ‘I don’t play that game…’” said his uncle, Father David Pignato.
The Fall River diocesan priest who teaches theology at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton was speaking at a breakfast after Mass April 20 at St. Luke the Evangelist Parish. He was responding to a question about evangelization and busy young families.
The Christian family fulfills its vocation primarily in the home, thereby convicting the world of sin, he said. His brother and wife evangelize their cul de sac by taking their family to church each Sunday. If the occasion arises they might also speak about faith.
Society poses several challenges to the truth, Father Pignato said, and gave listeners themes to use in evangelizing.
The Year of Faith that Pope Benedict XVI opened last October is an opportunity to jumpstart the new evangelization, to breathe new life into it, he said. He said this relatively new term has been defined various ways. At first “the new evangelization” referred to missionary activity to reach those who’ve never heard the Gospel, but later came to include representing the Gospel to those who have heard it but no longer find it credible or interesting.
Part of what Pope John Paul II meant by the new evangelization was Catholics reclaiming some of the apostles’ zeal and preaching the Gospel in its fullness, he said.
“You’re the ones who are … at town hall meetings, the Little League field,” Father Pignato told listeners. “Our job as priests is to light a fire under the lay faithful. … We can’t evangelize and sanctify the world; there aren’t enough of us.”
Like the apostles, today’s Christians must speak boldly about what they have seen and heard, and obey God rather than human beings. (Acts 4:17-21) That’s the boldness Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have encouraged. Boldness, however, does not mean lack of charity, he said.
“Our first duty” is to help souls get to heaven, Father Pignato said. “Our Lord’s last words to us were, ‘Go out and preach the Gospel.’”
Father Pignato spoke of challenges to evangelization: relativism says there is no truth, skepticism says one can’t know truth, secularism forbids proclamation of the truth in the public sphere, materialism says fulfillment comes through possession of material goods, hedonism says pleasure is the only intrinsic good, nihilism says nothing has value because human existence has no value.
“We need a hope that can survive any darkness,” Father Pignato said, and recalled that Christ said he would be with his people always. “We need to re-propose the faith – why it works for us and why we believe it should also work for them.” (I Peter 3:15)
Father Pignato gave content which he makes a priority to include in the new evangelization.
First, Christianity is a historical religion; it relies on the testimony of eyewitnesses found credible because they gave their lives for it. (I Jn 1:1-4)
“For many people, Rome is where faith becomes real,” he said. “I get a tear” looking at St. Peter’s bones. The Holy Land is even better.
Second, Jesus said he is the Light and Resurrection and Life.
“These are bold claims; he’s claiming to be the Savior of the World,” Father Pignato said. “Everyone who is saved is saved by Jesus Christ, the only Savior of the world, even if they don’t know him. … I believe because I am convinced that Jesus has the words of eternal life.”
Father Pignato’s third priority was daring to believe Christ meant what he said, even hard teachings; “it’s not up to us to decide whether that way makes sense.”
“The first reason we evangelize is because we love Christ,” Father Pignato said, speaking of his fourth priority – zeal. “The other reason we evangelize is because we love souls, even if we don’t know them. We want people to know and love God and experience the difference faith makes. … Even though we continue to struggle … it makes life beautiful.” Souls will live forever in heaven or hell, he said.
Father Pignato’s fifth priority was willingness to sacrifice and suffer for the faith. He said there are things Christians can’t participate in, such as impure shows and books, and the mentality that, when violence happens, retaliation is called for.
“We need to ask Christ to transform and renew us,” he said. “We need to live at a critical distance from the culture.
“We need to be willing to accept the consequences. … We don’t seek opposition.” But when it happens, “the sky doesn’t fall.” The apostles rejoiced that they were found worthy to suffer “for the sake of the name.” (Acts 5:41-42)
How can Catholics speak more confidently about their faith?
“You have to wait for the Spirit too to prompt you,” and  strategy, tact and prudence are helpful, Father Pignato said. Catholics might write a letter to the editor, call someone they’ve been out of touch with, or pray the rosary for someone who’s left the Church. He said others’ openness will depend intensely on the prayers Christians offer before speaking.