Light In Darkness

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Light in the Darkness Presentation by Fr. Michael Fones, OP given at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Seattle, WA on January 21, 2009.

Light in the Darkness Presentation by Fr. Michael Fones, OP given at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Seattle, WA on January 21, 2009.

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  • 1. Light in the Darkness
    • Talking About Your Faith With Others
  • 2.
    • What is your experience of others talking about their faith with you?
      • What made you comfortable / open to what they were saying?
      • What made you uncomfortable / closed to what they were saying?
  • 3. Culture and Conversion
    • Is our situation similar to ancient Rome? Why is Christianity rejected in Seattle?
    Relativism (Smithsonian) the pantheon of Gods Globalization Cosmopolitan Scientific Materialism Stoicism Moral degradation Moral degradation Denial of death Brutality of life Christians disappoint Christians inspire
  • 4. The Question
    • A talk at a class at the University of Oregon
  • 5. But why do you believe?
    • The New Evangelization "is not a matter of merely passing on doctrine but rather of a personal and profound meeting with the Savior."
      • John Paul II, Commissioning of Families of the Neocatehumenal Way, 1991
  • 6.
    • "May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith, and may charity be the root and foundation of your life. Thus you will be able to grasp fully, with all the holy ones, the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ's love, and experience this love which surpasses all knowledge , so that you may attain to the fullness of God himself."
    • Eph. 3:17-19
  • 7.
    • 48% of Catholics are certain that you can have a personal relationship with God.
    • 29% of Catholics view God as an “impersonal force.”
    • 62% of Catholics seldom or never share their faith or view of God with any one else (which is a lower rate than US atheists).
      • Pew Religious Landscape Survey
  • 8. Talking to Others about Christ
    • Become disciples ourselves
      • counting the cost
      • love Jesus more than mother, father, etc.
      • taking up our cross (obedience)
      • recognizing our sin (difficult in post-modern society)
      • reading Sacred Scripture and the works of saints
      • praying for conversion and transformation
    • Many Catholics are “ still without any explicit personal attachment to Jesus Christ; they only have the capacity to believe placed within them by Baptism and the presence of the Holy Spirit .”
      • Catechesis in Our Time, 19
  • 9.
    • “the ‘good news’ is directed to stirring a person to a conversion of heart and life and a clinging to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; to disposing a person to receive Baptism and the Eucharist and to strengthen a person in the prospect and realization of new life according to the Spirit ”
      • The Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and the World, 33
  • 10.
    • “… the evangelical message should [implant] itself in his heart,… and evoke an entirely personal adherence and commitment… In the long run, is there any other way of handing on the Gospel than by transmitting to another person one’s personal experience of faith? ”
    • Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 45
  • 11. Discipleship
    • Is not “unconscious” or accidental
    • Is not merely cultural
    • Is not just “following the rules” or “being good”
    • Is not a matter of just attending Mass on Sunday
    • It is intentional and requires a deliberate decision to follow Jesus Christ as Lord
  • 12.
    • "You must lay aside your former way of life and the old self which deteriorates through illusion and desire, and acquire a fresh, spiritual way of thinking."
      • Eph 4:22-23a
  • 13. Stages of Evangelization
    • Pre-evangelization: Preparation for first proclamation of the Gospel
      • “ non-believers, the indifferent”
    • Initial announcement of the Gospel
      • Non-believers, those who have chosen not to believe, those who follow other religions, children of Christians. those who may have been baptized but have little or no awareness of their Baptism and . . . live on the margins of Christian life.”
    • Initiatory Catechesis: introduce the life of faith, the Liturgy, and the charity
      • Catechumens, those who are coming to the Catholic faith from another Christian tradition, Catholics who needs to complete their initiation, children and the young.”
      • National Directory for Catechesis, p. 49
  • 14. Thresholds of Conversion
    • Focus: Lived relationship with God
      • Baptized or unbaptized, churched or unchurched.
    • 1. Initial Trust
    • 2. Spiritual curiosity
    • 3. Spiritual openness
    • 4. Spiritual seeking
    • 5. Intentional discipleship
      • Adapted from Five Thresholds of Post-Modern Conversion, Doug Schaupp, 1998
  • 15.  
  • 16. Thresholds of Conversion
    • For reflection:
    • What threshold do you think you’re at?
      • We can’t help anyone go beyond where we are in the spiritual journey...
    • 1. Initial Trust
    • 2. Spiritual curiosity
    • 3. Spiritual openness
    • 4. Spiritual seeking
    • 5. Intentional discipleship
      • Adapted from Five Thresholds of Post-Modern Conversion, Doug Schaupp, 1998
  • 17. Trust Curiosity Openness Seeking Discipleship Pre-evangelization Initial Proclamation Catechesis
  • 18. Fostering Trust
  • 19. Establishing Trust
    • Fundamental distrust of Christianity/Catholicism is now the norm in many places.
    • Many people’s assumptions and feelings about Catholicism, the Church, or Christ, are often profoundly different from our own. They truly do not see us as “good”.
    • To a person who does not trust, distrust often seems like wise skepticism.
    • To effectively evangelize, we need to avoid natural reactions to distrust:
      • Defensiveness
      • Seeing ourselves as a “victim”
      • Avoiding
      • Judging
      • Arguing
  • 20. Habits that build Trust
    • Pray . Pray that your heart be softened toward them. Intercede for them.
    • Learn . Ask good questions. Let them vent. Try to to see the faith/Church/Jesus from their perspective.
    • Bond . Do with things with them rather than avoid them.
    • Affirm . Look for genuine good (not relativism) and affirm it.
    • Welcome them into your life. “Come and see.”
  • 21. Habits that build Trust
    • What do these habits imply?
      • Evangelization takes time
      • It is based on real relationships, not “scalp hunting”
      • If your friend never “comes to Jesus,” you don’t abandon them
      • You cannot evangelize everyone you meet
    • Pray .
    • Learn .
    • Bond .
    • Affirm .
    • Welcome .
  • 22. What you do not love, you cannot evangelize Francis Cardinal George, Chicago
  • 23. Fostering Trust
    • Most often facilitated by non-scriptural personal relationship and “witness.”
    • Non-practicing Catholics and non-Christians may need to establish trust apart from any religious language.
    • Note: Non-Catholic Christians may need you to express your belief in Christ and your relationship with Him in order to begin to trust you.
  • 24. To Be A Witness . . . means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.” Cardinal Suhard
  • 25. Discussion
    • What activities and ministries at Blessed Sacrament help to build trust in the Church?
    • In Jesus?
    • In Catholics?
  • 26. Fostering Curiosity
  • 27. Trust Curiosity Openness Seeking Discipleship Pre-evangelization Initial Proclamation Catechesis
  • 28. Fostering Curiosity
    • Look for opportunities to elicit curiosity with external graces that have religious content:
      • religious jewelry
      • sign of the cross
      • offer to pray for their concerns
      • invitations to outreach programs or events
      • discussions that have some religious content
    • Some Catholics are uncomfortable with public displays of faith but it can be a true external grace.
  • 29. Pre-evangelization or Proclamation?
    • What is called for in this situation with this person?
    • Pre-evangelization gives way to initial proclamation of Jesus
      • when someone asks a Christian why they live the way they do, or
      • asks a question about Jesus
      • or asks questions of an explicitly religious nature.
  • 30. Fostering Curiosity
    • Questions that one might ask someone who already possesses initial trust:
      • Have you ever had a spiritual experience? Would you like to have one?
      • Have you ever felt like you received a sign from God? What would you do if God gave you a sign?
      • What is your take on this whole God questions. What do you think God is like?
      • What do you know about Jesus? What do you think of him?
      • What do you think life is about? Do you think you have a destiny?
  • 31. Curiosity is not Seeking
    • It involves trust, but does not imply real openness to change. Not yet.
    • We can intentionally foster curiosity.
    • Curiosity is a “natural” tendency.
    • Those who don’t believe in a God with whom you can have a personal relationship can explore that possibility at this threshold.
    • People need a very safe, non-threatening way to express their curiosity without over-reaction or pressure from us.
  • 32. Fostering Curiosity
    • Jesus ran “Q & Q” sessions:
      • What do you want me to do for you?
      • How do you read the law?
      • Where is everyone? Has no one condemned you?
      • Who do people say that I am?
      • What are you looking for?
    • Our primary task at this threshold is not catechetical - to answer factual questions.
    • We must first arouse spiritual curiosity.
  • 33. Fostering Curiosity
    • Answer a question with a question.
    • Help non-believers experience genuine Christian community.
    • Speak of our struggles and share how Christ has responded.
    • Tell your favorite Jesus stories.
    • Tell stories of Christ’s work in your life and the lives of others.
    • Tell kingdom stories: of contemporary Christians, people you know, or saints doing kingdom things.
  • 34. Fostering Curiosity
    • If our goal is intentional discipleship, we must foster curiosity about the person of Jesus as the center of the Catholic faith.
    • Those who are disdainful of Christianity often know very little about Jesus.
  • 35. Fostering Curiosity
    • Pre-evangelization elicits curiosity about Christ, but may not yet explicitly contain the kerygma.
    • Don’t drown them in information. Match their level of curiosity.
      • Respond to a little bit of curiosity with a little bit of information.
    • Depending upon their background, an individual might be introduced to basic Christian truths, i.e., Christ taught that:
      • God is love (e.g., 1Jn 4:7-10)
      • God is personal (e.g., Ps 139)
      • Creation is good (e.g., Gen 1, Mt 6:26-30)
  • 36. Fostering Curiosity
    • Don’t just be “nice” and let yourself be put in a box.
    • Do kingdom-oriented, counter-cultural actions in daily life.
      • Forgive
      • Speak the truth in love
      • Honor others with your words
      • Live healthy relationships
      • Care for the poor and bring others with you
      • Pray
      • Share your possessions.
      • Say unexpected, border-line outrageous things.
  • 37.
    • Above all the Gospel must be proclaimed by witness. Take a Christian or a handful of Christians who, in the midst of their own community, show their capacity for understanding and acceptance, their sharing of life and destiny with other people, their solidarity with the efforts of all for whatever is noble and good. Let us suppose that, in addition, they radiate in an altogether simple and unaffected way their faith in values that go beyond current values, and their hope in something that is not seen and that one would not dare to imagine. Through this wordless witness these Christians stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live: Why are they like this? Why do they live in this way? What or who is it that inspires them? Why are they in our midst? Such a witness is already a silent proclamation of the Good News and a very powerful and effective one. Here we have an initial act of evangelization.
    • Evangelii Nuntiandi, 21
  • 38. Stages of Curiosity
    • Awareness . There are more possibilities than they had imagined or experienced. One such possibility might be: you can have a personal relationship with a God who loves you.
    • Engagement : Taking steps on their own: making friends with a Christian, reading about Jesus, etc.
    • Exchange : Intense curiosity. Not just listening but actively asking questions and exchanging ideas.
  • 39. Fostering Curiosity
    • This is not the time for confronting lifestyle or culture issues. Focus on building interest in Jesus and his kingdom.
  • 40. Discussion
    • What activities at Blessed Sacrament help to generate curiosity in the person of Jesus?
    • In the Church?
    • What about the way you live might make someone curious about your faith?
  • 41. Fostering Openness
  • 42. Fostering Openness
    • Openness is not discipleship. It is a tentative openness to God and spiritual change.
      • You may not be certain that you can have a personal relationship with God, but must be open to the possibility.
    • Openness is still essentially passive.
    • One of the hardest transitions to make.
    • Must lower defenses (cynicism, antagonism), and acknowledge to God (if he is really there and listening!) and yourself that you are open to change.
      • It can feel dangerous, crazy, horrific, out of control.
  • 43.
    • “ If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom?”
      • Benedict XVI’s inaugural homily. 
  • 44. Initial Proclamation
    • Kerygma (basic Gospel message) is different from teaching (didache) and from catechesis.
      • Teaching and catechesis forms or preserves existing faith. Kerygma awakens faith.
    • Jesus is the center of the kerygma.
    • Proclamation is gradual– share different parts of the kerygma over time as people are ready or ask related questions.
    • Different aspects of the kerygma become important at different thresholds.
  • 45. Transition
    • Catalyst to Openness
      • Unemployment/Switching careers
      • Marriage/children
      • Relationships
      • Divorced or widowed
      • Illness/tragedy/loss
      • Returning to marketplace
      • Graduating or retiring
      • Spiritual awakening/newly returned
      • Just entered the Church, etc.
      • Media: book, movie, music, art, internet
      • Participation in “good works”
  • 46. On the Verge of Openness
    • Patience is critical.
      • Many go back and forth between wanting change and being opposed to change.
    • Some “try on” what it would be like to change - give God a “trial run.”
    • We need to stifle the impulse to say “this is true. You just have to believe.”
    • They need to know that we are their friend, no matter what they decide.
    • Intercession is crucial. Conversion is God’s work!
  • 47. Fostering Openness
    • The primary goal of proclamation to the already curious:
      • Fostering curiosity about the person of Christ in a way that draws the individual to lower his/her defenses and acknowledge his/her openness to Christ and to spiritual or life change.
    • Many Catholics, practicing or not, are not yet open to having their daily lives changed because of their faith.
    • Many Catholics have not heard an explicit proclamation of the kerygma.
  • 48. Fostering Openness
    • The part of the kerygma that is most appropriate for someone who is curious: the earthly life and ministry of Jesus.
      • His ethical teachings, e.g., forgiveness, nonviolence, chastity, serving others, simplicity, non-judgment, golden rule, power of prayer (Mt. 5-7)
    • The first teachings you mention should touch upon the behavior that has raised their curiosity.
    • They must see these values and virtues being lived by Catholics.
      • This may be particularly true for lapsed Catholics.
  • 49. Fostering Openness
    • Jesus’ ministry of healing
      • Cures that show his concern for those who suffer (combine with stories of his power manifested in the saints, and in contemporary lives like Mother Teresa’s. These demonstrate the trustworthiness of Jesus and raise curiosity about his divinity)
    • Jesus’ ministry of forgiveness, including his forgiveness offered from the cross.
    • You can also raise the issue of apostolic claims that he is “the savior of the world”. The concept of forgiveness opens them to the idea of change.
  • 50. Fostering Openness
    • Apologetics (for the questions they are asking)
    • The power of personal testimony
      • The curious person may be open to hearing what God has done specifically for you
      • Can you connect your experience to something in their life?
      • How has your life changed for the better?
      • How does your faith help you find meaning in your life?
    • Let their questions guide you, but don’t push
  • 51. Fostering Openness
    • Questions that one might ask someone who is curious
      • If you could change one thing about your personality, what would it be?
      • What do you think was Jesus’ true identity? Why?
    • Based on the Scripture passages they may be reading
      • How would Jesus answer the questions, “Is there a God?” “Why am I here?” “Where am I ultimately going?”
      • Given a list of statements Jesus makes about himself, what is the strongest reason you can give for modifying or rejecting them?
      • What is hard for you to accept about Jesus’ Resurrection?
  • 52. Fostering Openness
    • It can be helpful to point out to people approaching openness that God seems to be initiating with them.
    • Gentle nudges: “What is blocking you from opening yourself to Christ?”
    • Reminding them of how God has been at work in their life to this point.
    • Ask if you can pray for them right then to be open.
    Remember:
  • 53. Appropriate Challenge
    • The broken/honest need non-judgmental truthfulness.
      • Ask questions, listen. Speak honestly about our own struggles.
    • The self-pitying/fearful need to be challenged to act.
      • Suggest they ask God for a sign. (Have confidence in God’s desire to reveal himself)
      • “Let me pray for you for 10 minutes a day for the next week. If you and I genuinely seek God together for the next seven days, I am confident that he will show up for us. Are you willing?”
      • “I am going to feed the homeless next week. Please come with me and see how it feels to live out Jesus’ words.”
    Depending upon need
  • 54. Appropriate Challenge
    • The complacent/glib.
      • Ask challenging questions.
      • Agitate but don’t debate.
      • Show how they can’t live according to their stated values.
      • “You talk like truth is relative. You tell me that what is true for me is just true for me. But you don’t live that way. You live like we all hold things in common. Like love counts for everyone. I’m glad that you don’t live like a relativist although you talk like one.”
      • “You have some interesting ideas about how life works. What do you do when life gets hard?”
  • 55. Appropriate Challenge
    • The confused/befuddled .
      • Interpret their experience and connect the dots for them. Remind them of how God has been at work in their life to this point.
      • “I don’t think there are random events in your life. I think God is pursuing you. I think God is doing all he can to get your attention.”
      • “I think God is trying to get your attention through that dream you told me about (or that movie you saw). Your soul is yearning for God and you should listen to your soul.”
  • 56.
    • Are there any ways in which the ministries and activities at Blessed Sacrament encourage people to become open to transformation through the Gospel and the encounter with the risen Lord?
  • 57. Fostering Seeking
  • 58. Fostering Seeking
    • Talk to them about discipleship explicitly. Help them understand there is a decision to be made about repenting and following Christ
      • (especially important if they are already baptized and practicing.)
    • Initiatory Catechesis.
      • Encourage them to enroll as a catechumen, encounter Scripture for themselves, attend a retreat, adult education classes, etc. Answer their questions.
    • Some need classical apologetics/doctrinal instruction.
      • Some need answers that are more personal and grounded in life experience. Judge which approach is best for this unique person.
  • 59. Fostering Seeking
    • The part of the kerygma that is most appropriate for someone who is open has to do with the Kingdom.
      • the Pearl of Great Price, the Leaven, and the Mustard Seed parables all raise the idea that the Kingdom is different from this world affected by sin, yet within it, and desirable.
    • This builds upon the stories the person has heard about Jesus and allows you to make the connection that He is the Kingdom enfleshed and must be actively sought.
  • 60. Paul’s Good News
    • Jesus is God in our midst
      • “though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped...”
    • He is obedient to the Father, which leads to his persecution and death on our behalf
      • “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.”
  • 61. Paul’s Good News
    • We are helpless sinners; Jesus’ obedience is attributed to us by God, if we believe.
      • all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as an expiation, through faith, by his blood, to prove his righteousness because of the forgiveness of sins previously committed through the forbearance of God--to prove his righteousness in the present time, that he might be righteous and justify the one who has faith in Jesus. What occasion is there then for boasting? It is ruled out. On what principle, that of works? No, rather on the principle of faith.
      • Rom 3:23-27
  • 62. Paul’s Good News
    • This good news and experience of redemption, along with the power of the Holy Spirit given in baptism, changes lives - makes us good!
      • whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.
      • 2 Cor 5:17-20
  • 63. Light in the Darkness
    • Talking About Your Faith With Others