kelly wahlquist

Catholic Evangelist & Speaker

Kelly Wahlquist is a dynamic and inspiring Catholic speaker whose gift of weaving personal stories and Scripture together with practical advice allows her audience to enter more fully into what Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict have called us into - to be witnesses of our faith and part of the New Evangelization.

Filtering by Category: Living the Faith

“Do whatever He tells you…”

One invitation can have an eternal ripple effect.

Ten years ago a friend invited me—well, to be honest, more like “volun-told” me—to join a Bible study, and ten years ago my life was drastically changed. I’ve spent the last decade deepening my relationship with Jesus, falling in love with each person of the Trinity anew and traveling the country to share the joy of the Gospel. My heart was transformed and my spirit lit on fire to share the faith, and all because of one simple invitation. It’s amazing to imagine what one invitation can do.

In fact, here’s a perfect example: “On the third day, there was a marriage in Cana in Galilee and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus was also invited to the marriage, with his disciples” (John 2:1). Think about that. Someone invited Mary to a wedding… and they also invited Jesus.

Perhaps the scenario went something like this:

The young engaged couple is sitting down with their parents and making their wedding guest list. They’ve determined how many people can fit at the wedding and how many mouths they can afford to feed. The mother of the bride says, “Let’s invite Mary of Nazareth. She’s always been such a dear friend and there for me whenever I need her.”

To which her husband responds, “She still has a son living at home. If we invite her, we have to invite him too.”

The young bride quickly says, “That’s ok. He’s single and I hear he’s a nice guy. Might be fun to have him at the wedding.”

The young groom chimes in, “And he has a great group of friends.”

Someone invited Mary and Jesus to the wedding, and look what happened! Lives were change and hearts were transformed on that day, and every day since.

Because of one invitation, on that day in Cana, a need was met, a family was spared humiliation, water was miraculously turned to wine, Jesus began his public ministry and the Blessed Mother spoke words that have an eternal effect: “Do whatever he tells you.”

The story of the Wedding in Cana perfectly sums up WINE: Women In the New Evangelization.

WINE is about meeting women in their need and inviting them into relationship—relationship with other women and relationship with Jesus Christ.

WINE is about growing in our love for the Lord by following the example of the perfect woman, Mary, and striving to always do the will of God, striving to do whatever he tells us.

WINE is about living our Catholic faith with renewed confidence, with conviction and hope, and one of the beauties of our faith is that we are a community. We’re all in this together. It’s not always easy to know and live the will of God. How blessed I am to have strong Christ-centered friends who help me as I stumble along this path. And many of these friendships are the result of one simple invitation years ago to join a Bible study.

We invite you to visit our new website at www.WomenIntheNewEvangelization.com and to set it as one of your favorites. It is our hope at WINE, that you find peace, joy and a sense of belonging in the friendships that come about as a result of spending time laughing and learning and growing in your faith with other women. 

May we always be there to assist each other as we grow deeper in our personal relationship with Jesus. May we open our hearts to an invitation from the Lord to follow him and invite others to journey along with us. And may we always be there to guide, encourage and support one another as we each strive to do the will of God—to do whatever he tells us.

 

 

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THE WAY OF BEAUTY

The Sinner

THEME: Individual sin

FOCUS OF THE MEDITATION: The following meditation will help us to own our role in the world's brokenness. We have inherited a broken world, yet sometimes we add to the repugnance that exists around and within us. Destructive behavior keeps us from knowing the full love of our heavenly Father. Here we will attempt to become more aware of ourselves in relation to the world's plan.

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Michelangelo Buonarroti

Sistine Chapel altar wall

Circa 1536

"It is never particularly enjoyable to meditate on the reality of sin, yet we reap bountiful fruit in our souls when we regard ourselves in the light of God."

"The only figure in The Last Judgement scene that breaks the visual plane and looks out at the viewer is the penseroso (contemplative man)."

"Still, this character remains a mystery, both removed and yet staring intimately at every individual viewer, inviting us to understand this important reality that will be for all. He is depicted in a moment of realization, with toned muscles clenched in fear. This is the moment of judgment, the moment when we become fully aware of ourselves as sinner's in Christ's light."

"No pay heed to the grayish figure who wraps his strong arms around the shins of the sinner, keeping him from walking freely. The action here can be likened to the temptations offered by the world. Recall the parable from the Gospel of Matthew that compares us to seeds sown in the ground. The seed of God is sown in the world, but often the world houses other plans that arise and choke our growth toward virtue."

"By choosing sin in our lives, we deviate from our true end—God."

"Though God always desires to move in our souls, our choices can deter God's action. We must repent, ask God's pardon, open ourselves to the Lord's aid, and freely receive from the fount of mercy that is being extended to us by our Lord Jesus Christ." 

 

SCRIPTURE MEDITATION

Matthew 13:24-30; 37-42

 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.

But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.

When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.

Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.

The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.

The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.

They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

 

PRAYER AND REFLECTION

"A simple definition of sin is a refusal to love. Even in our weaknesses, our refusal to love is the root cause of our fall. Recall your struggles and weaknesses today, asking God to ignite your heart with love for others so you might stop separating yourself from the people of God."

 

The comments above are taken from Meditations on Vatican Art by Fr. Mark Haydu. To truly enter into this Visio Divina, I suggest purchasing the book as each masterpiece comes with a complete description, prayer and reflection, and spiritual exercise.

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A Clean Start

A clean desktop on my iMac, makes life seem less stressful and offers a good metaphor for life: Clean your heart, simplify your life!

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There's always been something about a clean space that has made me think, work, create better. Perhaps that's one way I am made in the Image and Likeness of God; for, He too began with a clean slate... actually, He began with a "formless wasteland and darkness covered the abyss." Now, I'll admit my iMac may at times seem like a formless wasteland as I get in a rut of saving things too quickly to my desktop, but what a wonderful feeling to see it all wiped clean and actually witness the beauty of the picture that lies underneath. 

This too is how I feel in life sometimes. I get in a rut with sin... same old sins, just increasing in quality and quantity and piling up on the desktop of my soul. How blessed I am to have the forgiveness of my Heavenly Father. To know, without doubt, that the Sacrament of Reconciliation brings forgiveness of sins and a restoring to God's grace is one of my favorite things about being Catholic. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that those receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation with a contrite heart experience a true spiritual resurrection, which is followed by a peace and serenity of conscience. That's it! That is the beauty I experience as I am joined in an intimate friendship with my Creator. That is the wiping clean of my spiritual desktop and a revealing of the beauty God has place in me... the beauty of His image... the ultimate screensaver! 

Sometimes a clean desktop is all I need to ensure a good night's sleep, but always a clean soul is what I need to ensure serenity of heart... and safeguard me from having to undergo a total reboot.

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Third Millennium Wise Men: Orienting the periphery toward the “Centre”

This is one of the most beautiful, insightful and thought provoking reflections on the three wise men I have ever read, and I count it a great blessing to share it with you.

Many writings and reflections focus on the three wise men from 2,000 years ago. In this reflection, Patricia Jannuzzi focuses on the here and now —God-with-us TODAY, as she asks us to consider the three wise men God has gifted us, in our time, to lead us to His Son. 

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Over two thousand years ago Our Savior was born. Angels sang. Shepherds watched. Oriented Wise men visited. The three wise men followed a Star in the Heavens to find Our God, Our Centre humbly lying in a manger. Christ arrived and lay where the animals ate. The wise kings knelt. They offered Him gifts.

Not much is known about the three wise men, such as who gave what gift, but I like to think Caspar, the youngest, offered Gold, signifying humble Kingship. Melchior, the mindful stargazer, offered the smoke of Frankincense, signifying prayer and His Divinity. Balthazar offered Myrrh, a fragrant ointment used to anoint the dead, signifying His humanity and our humanity.

The three wise men departed by a different route to protect the new born King from the jealousy and tyranny of Herod the Great. They entered Bethlehem with temporal treasure. They left with eternal treasure. They continued into the periphery. The eternal centre of Christ was stamped in their hearts, minds, bodies and souls.

Approximately two thousand years later on the cusp of the Third Millennium in the small “peripheries” of Poland, Germany and Argentina, three male infants were born to be baptized as Carol Wojtyla, Joseph Ratzinger and Jorge Bergoglio. They were lovingly raised in the tender lap of Mother Church. At a young age they encountered Christ in the “Centres” of their families and Church. As they grew up, they learned to follow the Heavenly Star, Our Blessed Mother, who led them to Christ. 

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Carol joined a “living Rosary”, Joseph frequented the Marian Shrine of Otting and Jorge devoted himself deeply to Our Lady of Knots and Our Lady of Aparcedia. Like the three wise men, Mary’s prayer, the heavenly star, guided these young men to Christ. They heard The Lord ask, “What gifts do you bring to me “Carol, Joseph, Jorge?"  They answered, “Our complete lives Lord. We want to be your Priests.”  He accepted their gifts with joy! They were anointed. They became His priests!  

Each developed their God given Gifts in extraordinary ways and under extraordinary circumstances. Carol used them in the periphery of Philosophy under the dictates of Nazism and Communism. Joseph used them in the periphery of Theology under the dictates of theological Revolutionaries. Jorge used them in the periphery of the poor under the dictates of corruption.

Each had threatening adversaries such as Nazism, Communism, Corruption, Fundamentalism, Atheism, Secularism, and the worst enemy of all, betrayal from within. Each answered their adversaries with humility, love, dialogue and prayer.

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Time passes but again the Star appeared and Mary prayerfully guided them to profoundly encounter Christ. Again, The Lord asked, “What gifts do you have for me Carol, Joseph and Jorge?” They responded, “Lord we have given you our lives!” The Lord continued to prod “What unique gifts do each of you have to shepherd my people, my people Universal? My people are scattered in a confused “periphery”.  They do not recognize me as their “centre” and source. They erroneously think that their hearts, minds, bodies and souls are disconnected from, and not integrated with me, their Creator and Source of life. They worship idols. They are unanchored and afloat in a dark and cold periphery. They do not look or listen to my love in my written word. They do not recognize me or hear my heart in the Eucharist. They do not see me in their brothers and sisters who suffer and are weak. What gifts do you have to offer me for my people?”   

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Carol is the first to answer. He humbly states, “Like Balthazar, who offered you Myrrh for the anointing of the Body, LORD, I will offer you my body. I will teach the souls of your people ‘Theology of the Body’ which is your truth explaining why we are created male and female. I will teach them that our bodies matter. I will go even further and witness by using any bodily suffering you allow to point to you so that they might see the value of redemptive suffering and conclude that all life matters. Our embodiment matters. Divinely matters. I could offer more if it is your will, but that would be my starting point.” The Lord Says, “Go and Be Not Afraid, Pope John Paul II, I am with you.”

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Joseph is the second to answer, “Like Melchior, who used his mind to study the heavens and offered you incense to point to your transcendence, LORD, I will offer you my mind and its knowledge of your  tradition, scriptures and liturgy. I will instruct your people on the transcendent nature of your Liturgy and reintroduce them to the ancient prayer of Lectio Divina and Eucharistic Adoration so that they may personally encounter your mind and heart as their Centre. I will teach them the hermeneutic on continuity and reinforce the truth that all Church teaching flows from the same source, your Centre, and does not break from the past. I could offer more, but that would be my starting point.” The Lord says, “Go and be my humble servant in the vineyard, Pope Benedict XVI, I am with you.”

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Jorge is the third to answer, “Like Caspar, who offered you gold for your humble Kingship, LORD, I will offer you my heart as a heart of gold centered on the poor. Through my life witness I will lead your newly ‘centered’ people into the periphery and away from their comfort zone. I will teach them to be missionaries so that they may reach the souls of the poor, lost, confused, rejected, suffering and abandoned. I will teach them to reach out with Your Heart, Mind and Body. I will teach them to give joyfully and humbly your Mercy in the Periphery. The Lord says, “Go and walk in the periphery with my people, Pope Francis, I am with you.”

And so now it is our turn. The Lord asks, “What gifts do you bring for my people? What unique gifts do you have to build my kingdom?”

Do you generously offer the eternal centre of Christ? Do you recognize Christ who is sacramentally stamped within your heart, mind, body and soul for His mission?

The Lord has set the stage for the New Millennium! He has given us three great wise men with extraordinary gifts to lead us. Let us embrace them! Let us follow their lead and give back to God the gifts He has given us to build His kingdom. And let us go to the periphery proclaiming Christ is the Centre of our lives in all we do!

Blessed Epiphany,

Patricia Jannuzzi

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THE HOMILY: A MOTHER'S CONVERSATION

REFLECTION ON EVANGELII GAUDIUM 135-144

Daily Reading for Dec. 15: Evangelii Gaudium paragraphs 135-144

Reflection by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff

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As a Mother Speaks to Her Child – So Also Does the Church Preach

Background:

In paragraphs 135 – 144 of Evangelii Gaudium, the Holy Father speaks about the importance of the homily within the liturgical celebration. Right off the bat, Pope Francis describes what the homily can and should be, “an intense and happy experience of the Spirit, a consoling encounter with God’s word, a constant source of renewal and growth” (¶ 135).

In my diaconate ministry, I have been three-times blessed by the Lord. First, the opportunities encountered to serve and console people in their need and suffering, to share in their joy and celebration, has been life-changing. Second, to share my talents to further and deepen adult education and faith formation has been a true joy. Third, to serve the Lord in my liturgical roles, including the joy of proclaiming the gospel and preaching, has deepened my own interior participation in Holy Mass and at other liturgies.

As one who preaches a homily on a fairy regular basis, I welcome the Holy Father’s inspiring words of instruction, encouragement and correction in regards to the homily.

Pope Francis reminds us of the words of Blessed John Paul II in Dies Domini , “the liturgical proclamation of the word of God, especially in the Eucharistic assembly, is not so much a time for meditation and catechesis as a dialogue between God and his people, a dialogue in which the great deeds of salvation are proclaimed and the demands of the covenant are continually restated.” He says of the homily, “it surpasses all forms of catechesis as the supreme moment in the dialogue between God and his people which lead up to sacramental communion” (¶ 137).

Much of what Pope Francis writes in this section might seem to be directed solely to the clergy who preach, but that would be a mistake. For the proclamation of God’s word, he reminds us, is a dialogue. 

God speaks to us within the context of the liturgy and we all hear… and we take what we have received into our daily lives and return it to God through our love for one another and through our prayer. The priest and the deacon are called to “guide the assembly, and the preacher, to a life-changing communion with Christ in the Eucharist. This means that the words of the preacher must be measured, so that the Lord, more than his minister, will be the centre of attention” (¶ 138). If we are to be transformed by grace and led to a deeper communion with the Lord, both the preacher and the hearer must be engaged.

I really like the image that Pope Francis paints of the homily being a moment of conversation, much like a mother with her child, “…she preaches in the same way that a mother speaks to her child, knowing that the child trusts that what she is teaching is for his or her benefit, for children know that they are loved” (¶ 139).

He goes on to describe the homily as a heart-to-heart conversation that, “arises from the enjoyment of speaking and it enriches those who express their love for one another through the medium of words. This is an enrichment which does not consist in objects, but in persons who share themselves in dialogue” (¶ 142).

Action:

We who preach should take to heart these words and give the time and thought and prayer necessary to meet these ideals and principles. This role the Lord has placed on us is both a high honor and a grave responsibility where we serve to bring God and the human person together. “To speak from the heart means that our hearts must not just be on fire, but also enlightened by the fullness of revelation and by the path travelled by God’s word in the heart of the Church and our faithful people throughout history” (¶ 144).

Those who listen should recognize the encounter with their God that takes place, particularly in the Liturgy of the Word during Holy Mass. We should present ourselves as children who love to hear and do what their mother speaks to them.

Into the deep…

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Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is the Editor-in-chief and co-founder of the The Integrated Catholic Life™ (www.integratedcathoiclife.org). A Catholic Deacon of the Roman Rite for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Deacon Bickerstaff was ordained in February, 2006, and is assigned to St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church where he is the Director of Adult Education and Evangelization.

He is a co-founder of the successful annual Atlanta Catholic Business Conference; the Chaplain of the Atlanta Chapter of the Woodstock Theological Center’s Business Conference; and Chaplains to the St. Peter Chanel Business Association and co-founder of the Marriages Are Covenants Ministry, both of which serve as models for similar parish-based ministries.

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PERSON TO PERSON

REFLECTION ON EVANGELII GAUDIUM 127-134

Daily Reading for Dec. 14: Evangelii Gaudium paragraphs 127-134

Reflection by Kelly Wahlquist

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”Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey.” 

Disclaimer (right off the bat): I know I am the one who set this Advent Reflection on “The Joy of the Gospel” in motion; and I know I was the one who assigned the paragraphs to each of the wonderful writers and evangelists who came forward to help; and, trust me, I KNOW it was all the work of the Holy Spirit. Then why am I sitting here right now astonished that this is the one section that wasn’t claimed, but left for me to write? The answer is simple and it is the same answer Blessed John Paul II gave us in 1998: “Whenever the Holy Spirit intervenes he leaves people astonished...” 

I am astonished that I have been blessed with the task to write today’s reflection, because this is my heart! This is the heart of the message I travel the country proclaiming. We must evangelize from heart to heart! We must joyfully share the love we have for Christ with another. We must “draw others to Jesus by being a light that is so lovely, they cannot help but want to know the source of it.” (Madeliene L’engle) 

To do that, to draw others to Christ, to share your love for the Lord, you must have a relationship with the person of Jesus Christ and you must have a relationship with the person sitting across from you. It’s the greatest of all commandments: Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor.

So how do you have a relationship with the Lord? Well, that was addressed in many previous reflections and will be addressed throughout the remaindered of these posts, because it is the ultimate goal, union with God! Therefore, let’s talk about how we can have a relationship with a friend, an acquaintance or a stranger —a relationship that opens us up to sharing Jesus with them from heart to heart. To me, this is the biggest lesson I have learned since the Lord decided to really put me to work in His vineyard these past ten years.

Much of my schooling in how to evangelize comes from spending tons of time 30,000 feet in the air sitting next to a “captive audience.” Ironically, I never set out to “evangelize” someone. I sincerely like to hear people’s stories, I like to know where they are in life and I love to share the joy I have in my heart for the work that I do... and I love sharing my love for the Lord!

Though the settings and scenarios may differ and the conversations vary greatly from person to person, a few key items remain consistent in my sharing of the Gospel message. I’m not saying I have the formula, for as Pope Francis tells us, “We should not think, however, that the Gospel message must always be communicated by fixed formulations learned by heart or by specific words which express an absolutely invariable content,” but perhaps my sharing with you can help you share Jesus with another this week. (Take note because this is your action item from today’s reflection —to actively share the JOY of the Gospel sometime this week. Tell someone about Jesus!)

  1. I always begin any conversation about the faith with, “Come Holy Spirit!” (I don't say this out loud, but I certainly pray it in my mind and in my heart.)
  2. I listen to where the person is on their journey. I listen to their hopes, their pains, their concerns for loved ones, their needs. (You’d be surprised how much people will share when buckled into a chair flying 30,000 feet above the earth! You’d also be surprised how much people will tell you in the line at the grocery store, or sitting at a baseball game, or waiting for a bus, if you are interested in them!)
  3. I share my story, my joy, my struggles, “my hopes, my concerns for loved ones and so many other heartfelt needs.” (128) 
  4. And in sharing my joy, I naturally share the source of it. For me it’s a relationship of love I found with the Lord through studying Sacred Scripture, and I share how that relationship with the Lord has changed my life.

Each encounter is different. Sometimes I invite the person to pray with me, sometimes I assure them of my prayers for them, sometimes I share the beauty of the Scriptures, sometimes I give them a good resource that fits their need. Perhaps a website like: CatholicsComeHome.org; BibleStudyforCatholics.comCatholicMom.com; IntegratedCatholicLife.org; CrossroadsInitiative.com; etc... or a book like My Life on the Rock; Rome Sweet Home; The Sound of His Voice; Catholicism Pure and Simple, Praying Scripture for a Change; Forgiveness: A Catholic Approach; Catechism of Hockey, etc... or a DVD or CD such as Extreme Mercy; From Mormon Missionary to Catholic Church; or From Love, By Love, For Love, etc... or sometimes we become FaceBook friends, and sometimes we go our separate ways.

Though each encounter differs, each accomplishes the same task, a seed is planted. That is our job, to “respectfully and gently” plant the seed. (128) At another point on that person’s journey it may be the task of someone else to water that seed, someone else to fertilize, someone else to tend to the soil that surrounds it, someone else to put it in the light as it begins to bud. We don’t need to do it all! We can take comfort knowing that the Holy Spirit “enriches the entire evangelizing Church with different charisms” and that we have each been given charisms, gifts of the Holy Spirit, for the good of another, for the sake of building up the body of Christ. (130) (Romans 12: 4-8) We can also take great comfort and find great courage and creativity in our sharing of the Gospel message knowing it is the job of the Holy Spirit to covert souls. The Holy Spirit bridges the valley of our differences; “he alone can raise up diversity, plurality and multiplicity while at the same time bringing about unity” (131).

Now, knowing we are a missionary people called to share the Gospel daily, and knowing that sharing our love for the Lord need not be some highfalutin formal presentation, but rather a sharing that can take place in the middle of an everyday conversation between two people, and knowing it is the job of the Holy Spirit to convert the soul, let us joyfully and enthusiastically go forth and “be constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey” (127).

 

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Yep, this post was written by yours truly. Thanks for stopping by my blog and joining us as we slowly "sip" our way through "The Joy of the Gospel". On a side note, this is my favorite talk to give and I'm giving it tonight. So if you got a little moment, send a prayer to the Holy Spirit to be with us tonight!

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THE NEW EVANGELIZATION FOR THE TRANSMISSION OF THE FAITH

REFLECTION ON EVANGELII GAUDIUM 14-18

Daily Reading for Dec. 3: Evangelii Gaudium paragraphs 14-18

Reflection by Thomas Smith

 Parish life at St. Joseph's in Rosemount, MN

Parish life at St. Joseph's in Rosemount, MN

Summary

In this final section of the introduction (para. 14-18), Pope Francis identifies the three audiences/settings of the New Evangelization and the seven themes that shape his vision of our particular chapter in the ongoing story of salvation.  

These seven themes, and each of the three audiences/settings, will be explored in more detail as the document unfolds.  Even though this section is a “nuts and bolts” summary of what Pope Francis will be proposing in Evangelii Gaudium, it isn’t lacking in material that both challenges us and invites reflection. While I am tempted to explore each of the three audiences here, they will be unwrapped as the document unfolds, so I will focus on the first one, as it gives us plenty to “sip” on for a daily meditation.

 

Reflection

There’s a real danger of imagining that the Gospel call and the New Evangelization is about “those people out there.”  And yet, for Pope Francis, the first setting of the New Evangelization is the local parish and it’s first audience is most of the people reading this series - it’s us!  By us, I am presuming you are an “intentional disciple” (1) whose life is marked by “full, active and conscious” participation in the Mass (2) while flourishing in and sharing your particular charisms with the Body of Christ (3).  That’s a tall order, I know, but that should be ordinary Christian living.  

Even when we are doing all that, we are still the object of the New Evangelization. Conversion is an ongoing process, an organic growth that we have to constantly cultivate and engage.  As Pope Benedict remarked a few years ago, if we are not advancing in the spiritual life, we are, by default, regressing.  If the Gospel is at it’s heart a relationship with a Person, Jesus Christ, then it naturally has to be engaged daily like a healthy marriage. The central place that relationship is strengthened and nourished is the parish setting where we meet Christ in Word, Sacrament, and in each another.  By the way, this was the topic of Pope Francis’s first Sunday of Advent homily for a suburban Roman parish (see http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/christian-life-is-a-path-of-encountering-jesus-preaches-pope/ )   

Response

With this in mind, take a few moments today to make a clear-eyed assessment of your engagement with your local parish community.  Are you welcoming Christ fully in Word and Sacrament so you are continually growing in the exercise of your gifts and your confidence and joy while sharing the Gospel?  Consider some simple changes like arriving at Mass early so you can recollect your heart to receive all the graces the Mass offers.  Take a few minutes in Lectio Divina on the scriptural readings of the day “to prime the pump” of your heart for their proclamation and exposition by our clergy (the Pope is counting on our clergy being “animated by the fire of the Spirit, so as to inflame the hearts of the faithful” (para. 15). If you find your mind wandering in the liturgy, establish a “wakeup” word or phrase that draws your heart back into the moments of the Mass.  I use very simple ones like “Jesus” or “I love you, Lord help me to love you more.”

Have you discovered and deployed your particular charisms?  This is one of the most important ways we can take up Pope Francis’s invitation here to “grow spiritually so that [we] can respond to God’s love even more fully in [our] lives (para.15).  If you don’t know what your charisms are, seriously consider discerning, discovering and deploying them. Your particular parish desperately needs them, and you were given them for that community.  You owe it to your brothers and sisters to do this. My life was transformed when I discovered and started living in my charisms.  A great place to start is www.siena.org

Pope Francis reminds us we must be vigilant and continually open to the Gospel, even as seasoned disciples.  The daily prayer that Pope Francis offered in para. 3 is one of my morning renewal prayers now, like Kelly, to also help me be attentive to that.  When we do this, we are equipped to faithfully and fruitfully share the Gospel to the other two audiences (the baptized but not evangelized, and those who don’t yet have the gift of faith).  

 

(1) What in the world is an “intentional disciple”? See Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples.  This should be on every Catholic bookshelf.

(2) Sacrosanctum Concilium. para. 14.

(3) Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 798-801.

 

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Catholic speaker and presenter, Thomas Smith, was a Protestant minister who was received into the Catholic Church in 1996. Bringing a wealth of experience and insight on the Word of God to audiences across the U.S., Thomas is a repeat guest on EWTN and Catholic radio as well as a sought after parish mission and conference speaker. To follow Thomas' insightful blog or contact him visit: Gen215.org

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THE DELIGHTFUL & COMFORTING JOY OF EVANGELIZING!

REFLECTION ON EVANGELII GAUDIUM 9-13

Daily Reading for Dec. 2: Evangelii Gaudium paragraphs 9-13

Reflection by Martha Fernandez-Sardina

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Pope Francis is calling the Church to carry out The Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World with a renewed commitment to and appreciation for the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing so that we and others may experience the joy that fills heaven and must fill earth when what is lost is found and what is dead is brought back to life. 

Is it worth the effort – and can we evangelize any other way?

Yes… and no… to use the same expository style used by Pope Francis in this Apostolic Exhortation on a love that evangelizes or an evangelizing love as I am fond of saying when speaking, writing, and training others for the new evangelization.

Yes, it is worth it! 

  • Few joys this side of heaven surpass the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing! 
  • Few things compare to the joy of making Christ and His plan of salvation known. 
  • Few things demonstrate greater love for our neighbor and for the God who wishes everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 4: 2). 

No, we should not evangelize in any other way.

  • We evangelize with joy because “The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.” Both the evangelizer and the evangelized “who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ, joy is constantly born anew.” (Evangelii Gaudium, No. 1)
  • We cannot effectively evangelize if we are “Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter.” (No. 6)
  • We can experience daily the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing because we have first encountered Love Incarnate: Jesus Christ: “Thanks solely to this encounter – or renewed encounter – with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption. We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization. For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?” (No. 8; cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 24)
  • We, the evangelizer, “must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!” Rather, “Let us recover and deepen our enthusiasm, that ‘delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, even when it is in tears that we must sow… And may the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the good news not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervor, who have first received the joy of Christ.’” (No. 10; Evangelii Nuntiandi, 80)

We can. We must. Evangelize with joy! 

Download Martha's in-depth reflection on this section: Evangelii Gaudium Nos. 9-13

About the Author

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Martha Fernández-Sardina is an international, bilingual speaker, and consultant touching thousands through radio, TV, articles, training seminars, talks, and new evangelization outreach projects, including Remember You Are Loved™, N.E.T.S.-New Evangelization Training School™, Prepare The Way™, the Hispanic Festival of Faith and the Month of Hispanic Evangelization. Her programs educate, enthuse, and equip Catholics for a new evangelization. Find, friend, and follow Martha and her Mission of Love at RememberYouAreLoved.com, Facebook.com/MFernandezSardina, Twitter.com/iEvangelize, iEvangelize.wordpress.com, and Vimeo.com/MarthaFernandezSardina. For a speaking engagement or a consultation, email her at iEvangelize1@gmail.com.

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A JOY EVER NEW, A JOY WHICH IS SHARED

Reflection on Evangelii Gaudium 2-8

Daily Reading for Dec. 1: Evangelii Gaudium paragraphs 2-8

Reflection by Kelly Wahlquist

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A RENEWED PERSONAL ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS

How ironic that as the world begins its preparation for Christmas on a day named after darkness and the void of light, Black Friday, the Holy Father invites all Christians, everywhere, to begin their preparation for Christmas with a renewed encounter with the Light of the World, Jesus Christ!

We are invited to prepare for a greater joy than any Black Friday sale can provide. We are invited to a joy ever new, and that joy is found in a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. And that invitation is for ALL. No one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord!

That’s an exhilarating idea, to think that no matter what, I am invited to a renewed personal relationship with Jesus Christ... but then a thought enters my mind: “How do I really do that? How can I have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ?”

Pope Francis gives us beautiful ways to do that in these first 8 paragraphs of Evangelii Gaudium. Simply put we are to: Ask, Seek, Rejoice and Persevere in Faith.

We are to ask and be open at all times to an encounter with the one who loves us perfectly. We are to seek Him knowing that “whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms.” We are to rejoice in His Divine Mercy, “radiant with the glory of Christ’s cross” and we are to persevere in our faith, trusting in God’s love, surrendering completely to the love of the Father such that we allow Him "to attain the fullest truth of our being" and we find true joy.

Here are some simple ways to follow Pope Francis' words of wisdom to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ:

Ask 

Begin each day this Advent with the simple prayer: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”.

I have a copy of the prayer on the cupboard that holds my coffee cup, it guarantees each day begins with asking for a renewed personal encounter with Jesus. Perhaps write the prayer on a card and keep it next to your bed to say morning and night, or tape it to your bathroom mirror.

Seek

Seek time with to be with Jesus. A renewed relationship requires spending time together. 

Make time to go to Adoration each week during Advent. If an adoration hour is already part of your routine, take one of the Scriptures referenced in the daily readings of Evangelii Gaudium and meditate on it. 

Begin Advent with the Sacrament of Confession. “God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy” (Evangelii Gaudium 3).

Rejoice

Find joy in God’s presence in your life: “Do not deprive yourself of the day’s enjoyment.” 

Find ways throughout the Advent Season to enter into the “great stream of joy.” Perhaps keep your favorite praise & worship CD in your car and when days get trying, blast the music and sing for joy at the top of your lungs. 

Persevere in Faith

Grow in your faith by simplifying your life and detaching from “things” that consume you.

Let go of meaningless time spent on social media or watching t.v. this Advent and spend that time getting to know Jesus Christ. Making time each day to read and reflect on Evangelii Gaudium is a great start.

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WHAT IS AN APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION ANYWAY?

Tomorrow we begin our daily reading of Pope Francis' first apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. Now, while apostolic exhortations have been around for hundreds of years and although Pope Francis seems to speak... well... frankly, words such as "apostolic exhortation" aren't very mainstream words. In fact, most of us are left scratching our heads saying, "Apostolic Exhort-what-tion?" So, let's begin our journey through this document knowing what it is and why is is important to every Christian.

Catholic speaker and presenter, Thomas Smith, explains what an apostolic exhortation is and how it is pertinent for our lives today as he helps us prepare our hearts this Advent in this wonderful to-the-point 4 minute video.

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LET THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL FILL YOUR HEART

"THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come" (Evangelii Gaudium, 1).

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I am excited to have you join us —yes, us; for I have a few friends joining me in the journey through the "Joy of the Gospel" this Advent and I am thrilled that they will be contributing to our daily reading, reflection and response to the words of Pope Francis' first apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. Some of the contributors to our daily reflections are Catholic writers or speakers, some are catechist or leaders of apostolates, some are moms or homemakers, some are religious, some are laity, some are podcasters, some authors and some are bloggers, but ALL of them are passionate about bringing the JOY of the Gospel to the hearts of many.

So let's cut to the chase and get to the why and what we are doing. My life is busy and I'll be honest, sometimes that means my prayer life and quest for knowledge get pushed to the backseat with many a forgotten french fry and art project; but that said, I really yearn to know and understand my faith, because I know that understanding and wisdom will lead me deeper into my relationship with the Lord, and I need a deeper relationship with the Lord! 

With that in mind, I decided (as I do every year) that this Advent, I really want to prepare my heart for Christ to enter ever deeper. This Advent is going to be different. This Advent I am going to stick to my plan... but this Advent there seems to be more to it than just my own personal preparation.

Upon reflecting on Advent and the coming of the Lord, it hit me that Advent is not just about preparing my heart to be a dwelling place for Christ, it's also about going in haste to bring Jesus to others, like Mary did when she was told she was to be the one that would prepare Jesus to enter the world as a baby and become man. 

Advent isn't just about my relationship with Jesus, it's about relationships in the grand sense of the word. It's about my relationship with others and my willingness to introduce them to a relationship with Jesus. It is what Mary did when she heard the first good news proclaimed by the angel. She went in haste to meet Elizabeth where Elizabeth was on her journey and she literally brought Jesus to Elizabeth. And what was the result? Upon hearing Mary's voice and knowing Jesus, "My Lord", was near, John leapt in the womb of his mother. Now get this! What does Mary do? She is so overcome with joy that she breaks out into song, and her heart magnifies the Lord! 

This Advent I want to do that. I want to walk in Mary's footsteps and prepare my heart to receive Christ. I want to meditate on the Word of God. I want to go in haste to bring Jesus to others, and I want to be overcome with the Joy of the Gospel! I want to “Shout aloud and sing for joy!” (Though I guarantee you do not want me to break out in song!) But, here's the catch... every Advent I start out with the goal of setting time aside each day to prepare for Jesus and somehow, at sometime along the journey, I get distracted. So, how am I going to stay focused this year? Simple, I'm doing two little things. First, I'm going to set time aside for prayer each day. I've already posted the prayer from Evangelii Gaudium (see below) on the cupboard that holds my coffee cup, so it's a gimme that I will begin each day with that prayer. Second, I'm going to grow in my understanding of the faith this Advent by reading and reflecting on the words of the Holy Father in his first apostolic exhortation, the Joy of the Gospel.

Ok, I admit, reading an apostolic exhortation sounds intimidating to many. Reading 224 pages of Church talk sounds intimidating to many. Reading 288 paragraphs of papal writing sounds intimidating to many, and reading 48,000 words sounds intimidating to all! BUT, when presented in small doses with some food for thought and a little strong coffee, the apostolic exhortation mountain top appears more accessible. So, that's what we are going to do here for the next 25 days. We are going to take little bites of Evangelii Gaudium and I invite you to join us! 

Each day will have a reflection, challenge or perhaps practical ideas for how to live the aspect of the Gospel that day's words speak to. We will for sure post the 288 paragraphs such that by Christmas we (and hopefully other busy people) will have read and meditated on some 48,000 words, but in small sips. 

So join us for our daily reading and go in haste to invite your friends to do so also. Who knows, perhaps this daily digesting will help us bring about a “revolution of tenderness” by opening our hearts each day to God’s unfailing love and forgiveness.

 

Daily Prayer from Evangelii Gaudium:

“Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”.

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PREPARING YOUR HEART, ONE SIP AT A TIME

READ EVANGELII GAUDIUM THIS ADVENT WITH ME...

IN SMALL SIPS

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Prepare your heart this Advent over a cup of coffee and little "sips" of the "Joy of the Gospel" with us! Each day we are going to read & reflect on sections of Pope Francis' first apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. Fear not, if you don't know what an apostolic exhortation is, fellow co-worker in the vineyard, Jimmy Akin has a great explanation over on his blog www.JimmyAkin.com.

Here’s a little taste of his post:

2) What is an apostolic exhortation?

It’s a papal document that, as the name suggests, exhorts people to implement a particular aspect of the Church’s life and teaching.

Its purpose is not to teach new doctrine, but to suggest how Church teachings and practices can be profitably applied today.

Some apostolic exhortations are devoted to the pastoral challenges faced in particular parts of the world (Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas). Others are devoted to particular themes.

Previous apostolic exhortations include:

    Paul VI’s Evangelii Nuntiandi (on evangelization today)

    John Paul II’s Christifideles Laici (on the role of the laity)

    John Paul II’s Redemptoris Custos (on St. Joseph)

    Benedict XVI’s Sacramentum Caritatis (on the Eucharist)

    Benedict XVI’s Verbum Domini (on the Word of God)

 

Here's our schedule for Advent. We'll post the paragraphs and perhaps a little reflection each day to go with your coffee:

Dec. 1     2-8 (Joy)

Dec. 2    9-13 (Joy of Evangelizing)

Dec. 3    14-18 (Scope of exhortation)

Dec. 4    19-24 (Church's missionary transformation)

Dec. 5    25-33 (Pastoral Activity & Conversion)

Dec. 6    34-39 (Heart of the Gospel) 

Dec. 7    40-45 (Human Limits)

Dec. 8    46-49 (Mary)

Dec. 9    50-58 (Amid Crisis: idolatry of money)

Dec. 10   59-75 (Cultural Challenges)

Dec. 11    76-92 (Temptations of pastoral workers & Relationship in Christ)

Dec. 12    93-109 (No to spiritual worldliness)

Dec. 13    110-126 (People of God proclaim the Gospel)

Dec. 14    127-134 (Person to Person, Charisms, Culture) 

Dec. 15    135-144 (The Homily) 

Dec. 16    145-159 (Preparing to Preach)

Dec. 17    160-175 (Kerygma)

Dec. 18    176-185 (Social dimensions of evangelization)

Dec. 19    186-216 (Inclusion of the poor in society)

Dec. 20    217-237 (Common Good and Peace in Society)

Dec. 21    238-258 (Social dialogue as contribution to peace)

Dec. 22    259-274 (Spirit-filled evangelizers)

Dec. 23    275-283 (Personal encounter with Christ) 

Dec. 24    284-288 (Mary)

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FINDING JOY IN THE GOSPEL THIS ADVENT!

READ EVANGELII GAUDIUM THIS ADVENT WITH ME...

IN SMALL SIPS

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Today the Holy Father, Pope Francis, gave us the perfect Advent gift, the perfect guide to help us on this journey as we prepare for the coming of Christ. He gave us his first Apostolic Exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium, or for us non-Latin speaking folk, The Joy of the Gospel. So, being the Catholic geek that I am, I poured my coffee into my already 1/2 full cup of Pumpkin Spice creamer and sat down to joyfully read an Apostolic Exhortation at 6:00 am! (I PROMISE, if you knew me in college this scene would shock you! All of it... the early wake up, the coffee chosen over the Diet Coke and above all, the fact that I found excitement in an Apostolic Exhortation, much less knew what it was!) 

The document turned out to be richer than my Nestle's Coffee Mate drenched coffee and I soon came to the conclusion that I could not digest it all in this one sitting. So, I thought... small sips... and I came up with the idea to read a section of Evangelii Gaudium each morning over my coffee during Advent. Then I thought, there's no way I can do this alone! I won't grasp the fullness of the message, and let's be honest, I'd probably quit by day 8 without someone to prod me on (that's what happens with my workout schedule anyway.) Thus, I'd like to invite you to join me. 

Throughout Advent I am going to post sections of Evangelii Gaudium and hopefully a reflection or some practical things I'm going to try to do to live the message of that section with renewed conviction, with confidence and with hope. Again, I invite you to join me. Pour yourself a cup of coffee (or Diet Coke or whatever wakes you up) and join me in reading this rich Apostolic Exhortation in small sips. Join me by sharing your reflections and by offering ways we can live the Joy in the Gospel. We begin this Sunday! You in?

Here's our Schedule for our small sips of Evangelii Gaudium for Advent

Dec. 1        2-8 (Joy)

Dec. 2        9-13 (Joy of Evangelizing)

Dec. 3        14-18 (Scope of exhortation)

Dec. 4        19-24 (Church's missionary transformation)

Dec. 5        25-33 (Pastoral Activity & Conversion)

Dec. 6        34-39 (Heart of the Gospel) 

Dec. 7        40-45 (Human Limits)

Dec. 8        46-49 (Mary)

Dec. 9        50-58 (Amid Crisis: idolatry of money)

Dec. 10    59-75 (Cultural Challenges)

Dec. 11    76-92 (Temptations of pastoral workers & Relationship in Christ)

Dec. 12    93-109 (No to spiritual worldliness)

Dec. 13    110-126 (People of God proclaim the Gospel)

Dec. 14    127-134 (Person to Person, Charisms, Culture) 

Dec. 15    135-144 (The Homily) 

Dec. 16    145-159 (Preparing to Preach)

Dec. 17    160-175 (Kerygma)

Dec. 18    176-185 (Social dimensions of evangelization)

Dec. 19    186-216 (Inclusion of the poor in society)

Dec. 20    217-237 (Common Good and Peace in Society)

Dec. 21    238-258 (Social dialogue as contribution to peace)

Dec. 22    259-274 (Spirit-filled evangelizers)

Dec. 23    275-283 (Personal encounter with Christ) 

Dec. 24    284-288 (Mary)

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