To re-energize for the New Year, bring it back to basics

The work of evangelization can be exhausting.

I’m talking to all of you music ministers and liturgical coordinators who just wrapped up the celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord and who are probably already beginning to prepare for Lent. I’m talking to all of you pro-life activists who are gearing up for the annual March for Life on Jan. 22. I’m talking to all you youth ministers, campus ministers, catechists and teachers who spend hours — inside and outside the office — preparing your events, lessons and classrooms for sharing the Faith with your students. And I’m talking to all of you, fellow members of the Catholic press, who ride a never-ending cycle of information download, analysis and output. In her column (Page 17), Teresa Tomeo struggles with whether or not her work of evangelization is actually reaching anyone.

It’s tiring work — and it can seem overwhelming, especially when results are hard to see. We read polls that say the United States is becoming more secularized. We read surveys (Page 3) that indicate that more people view Christmas as “cultural” than “religious.” A recent report from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate stated that fewer Catholics were getting married in the Church and baptizing their children.

It becomes worrisome. Is anyone listening? Is there any difference to be made?

So we bring it back to basics, as Pope Francis has so patiently and lovingly been emphasizing. We rely on the attractive beauty of the truth and of the Faith to appeal to others. We re-energize ourselves by recalling why we’re here in the first place. For ministers in the field, this could mean putting aside the to-do list and going on a short retreat. It could mean gathering your co-workers for lunch and talking about your faith journeys.

For OSV Newsweekly it means we’ll highlight — starting this week — 12 Great American Catholics. Each month OSV Contributing Editor Russell Shaw will profile a man or a woman who has lived a model life of evangelizing spirit and profound faith. May we be energized by their stories, and may they help us recall our common mission: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Stuck to my computer monitor on a yellow Post-It note is one of my favorite lines from Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”).

“In your heart you know that it is not the same to live without (Jesus); what you have come to realize, what has helped you to live and given you hope, is what you also need to communicate to others.”

This is our call. This is why we are here. We may get downtrodden by statistics or think we’re talking into the void, but our mission doesn’t change. What has given us hope — Christ himself — is what we need to share. Blessedly, we’re not doing it alone. At Christmas, he himself came to us, with humility and love. And by our sides he will stay.