Apologetics

During formation meetings we are in the midst of a six part series on the process of evangelization. The foundation for this series was laid in August with a presentation on “The Mission of the Church.” It gave an overview and introduction to the process of evangelization according to the mind of the Church.

The other five sessions will focus in particular on each of the stages in the process of evangelization. And we will draw out, on a practical level, what these different essential moments look like in youth and campus ministry today.FID

Much of what will be covered during this series would be supplemented by reading Sherry Weddell’s book Forming Intentional Disciples. As the upcoming topic for each month is introduced we will note sections from this book that correspond with the topic.

The topic for October’s formation meeting is “Apologetics.” This will be the second night we spend on the stage of pre-evangelization, which encompasses everything prior to proclamation of the Gospel. In preparation for this meeting on October 25, 2016 we encourage everyone to read Ch. 6-7 from Forming Intentional Disciples.

The full list of topics in the series are as follows:
1. The Mission of the Church (Overview)
2. Relational Ministry and Building Trust with Teens (Pre-evangelization)
3. Apologetics (Pre-evangelization)
4. Proclamation of the Gospel through personal testimony (Evangelization)
5. Delivering the Fullness of the Faith (Catechesis)
6. Accompanying Teens in Prayer, Charity, and Evangelization (Discipleship)

Post-meeting update (10/28/16): After brief introductory remarks we broke into small groups to spend time talking through ways to handle three typical questions. These discussions bore a lot of fruit in helping us stretch to consider different perspectives or beliefs people may have that would lead to the particular question. There were scenarios in  which simply offering different facts or truths could be seen as a help and others that seemed to required more awareness and understanding before heading down a specific path to answer the proposed question.

There are many questions we could have used but the three we spent time unpacking how to address were:

  • Why do Catholics confess their sins to a priest?
  • How do you know God is real?
  • Why does the Church hate gay people?

It was interesting to see how often the discussion steered itself back to an answer to these questions beginning with another question, one that could engage the questioner and hopefully lead to mutual understanding. Ultimately addressing people’s questions is a craft that requires both content and interpersonal insight. This night was a chance to grow in both areas. And we handed out a streamlined listing of these apologetics resources from the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology anyone who wanted to strengthen their knowledge to answer these or many other common question about the Faith.

Relational Ministry and Building Trust with Teens

Over the next couple months during formation meetings we will be taking a deeper look at the process of evangelization. The foundation for this series was laid in August with a presentation on “The Mission of the Church.” It gave an overview and introduction to the process of evangelization according to the mind of the Church.

In upcoming sessions we will focus in particular on each of the stages in the process of evangelization. And we will draw out, on a practical level, what these different essential moments look like in youth and campus ministry today.FID

Much of what will be covered during this series would be supplemented by reading Sherry Weddell’s book Forming Intentional Disciples. As the upcoming topic for each month is introduced we will note sections from this book that correspond with the topic.

The topic for September’s formation meeting is “Relational Ministry and Building Trust with Teens.” This will be one of two nights that we will spend on pre-evangelization, which encompasses everything prior to proclamation of the Gospel. In preparation for this meeting on September 27, 2016 we encourage everyone to read Ch. 5 from Forming Intentional Disciples.

The full list of topics in the series are as follows:
1. The Mission of the Church (Overview)
2. Relational Ministry and Building Trust with Teens (Pre-evangelization)
3. Apologetics (Pre-evangelization)
4. Proclamation of the Gospel through personal testimony (Evangelization)
5. Delivering the Fullness of the Faith (Catechesis)
6. Accompanying Teens in Prayer, Charity, and Evangelization (Discipleship)

Essential Moments in the Process of Evangelization

Summary of our formation topic from August 2016 and the first presentation in our new formation series on the process of evangelization.

Last week’s formation was entitled “The Mission of the Church.” It was the first in a series during which we will reflect on the process of evangelization. Having looked at the underlying principles given by the Church, in upcoming sessions we will focus more practically on what this looks like in youth and campus ministry today.


This first talk was an overview of the Church’s understanding of the process of evangelization and can be summarized in the following 5 points.

1. The Church “exists in order to evangelize”
The Church’s mission flows directly from Christ who gave her it to her before his Ascension (Matthew 28:19-20). Blessed Paul VI expressed this reality when he wrote:

“Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize” (Evangelii Nuntiandi 14).

Here we see that evangelization is not one task among many for the Church. It is the reason for her existence. And therefore everything that she does, and everything we do as a community, must be evaluated in light of this mission.

2. This plan is born of the Father’s heart
God the Father desires for us to be united in relationship with him. This is the reason why he created us. Even in the moment of our first sin, he immediately responded, promising a Savior. Time and again he reached out to his people through covenants.

The Son makes the Father’s plan possible. Our salvation, our being brought back into communion with the Father, is possible because of the Incarnation and Paschal Mystery.

The Holy Spirit effects the plan through the Church. In some way, it is not enough that Christ rose from the dead. Grace has to be communicated to us and Christ promised to do so through the Church. In the words of St. Paul:

“To me, the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God who created all things, so that ht manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church” (Ephesians 3:8-10).

It is breathtaking, and humbling, and incredibly encouraging to see God’s willingness to allow us to cooperate with his plan for salvation.

3. Evangelization has 5 essential elements
According to the General Directory for Catechesis the essential elements of evangelization are: witness, proclamation, teaching, sacraments, and love of neighbor (GDC 46).

Through witness we are present to people and demonstrate, more through actions than words, a new way of living. Proclamation is sharing the basic Gospel message of God’s love and a call to conversion. Through teaching we make explicit the fullness of what God has revealed in Christ. In the sacraments we have access to the grace won by Christ on the cross and the community is built up. And through growing in love of neighbor people learn to share the love they have received from Christ.

“And while each of these essential elements are crucial, we cannot reduce the dynamism and richness of evangelization which calls for them to be implemented in totality” (GDC 46).

We cannot reduce evangelization to primarily one of these elements. For example, there is the all too popular phrase that St. Francis of Assisi never actually said: “Preach the Gospel always and if necessary use words.”

A singular focus on witness that is ultimately opposed to the proclamation of the Gospel creates a false dichotomy. Of course this is often an overcorrection to the negative reaction garnered when Christ is proclaimed with words separated from a life of witness. In both cases there is a flattening and distortion of the “complex, rich and dynamic reality which is called evangelization” (EN 17).

4. Evangelization unfolds in progressive stages
The essential elements of evangelization follow the basic structure of the Great Commission. “Go (be present and witness), therefore, and make disciples of all nations (proclaim Christ), baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (sacraments), teaching (teaching) them to observe all that I have commanded you (love of neighbor).

This postcard was created by our diocesan Office of Youth Ministry to give a visual overview of the stages of evangelization.

The General Directory for Catechesis summarizes this progression: “The process of evangelization…is structured in stages or ‘essential moments’ (Catechesi Tradendae 18): missionary activity directed toward nonbelievers and those who live in religious indifference; initial catechetical activity for those who choose the Gospel and of those who need to complete or modify their initiation; pastoral activity direction toward the Christian faithful of mature faith in the bosom of the Christian community” (49).

These stages are not rites of passage that we complete and, as a result, never revisit. In our practice of youth ministry we must be attentive where our teens are in process of evangelization and accomodate our work with them to help them move toward the next stage. And we must keep in mind that these essential moments “may be repeated, if necessary, as they give evangelical nourishment in proportion to the spiritual growth of each person or of the entire community” (GDC 49).

Developing a greater understanding of each of these stages and discerning how to help our youth and youth communities grow in their relationship with Christ is the main reason for this formation series.

5. Marked by liturgy
Finally, as we seek to help young people come to understand the fullness of truth, we must rely on the fullness of grace communicated to us through the Church’s liturgy. The liturgy is the source and summit of the Church’s life. Therefore we must seek to enliven the grace already given to youth in the sacraments they have received and help them prepare for renewed and deepened encounters of Christ in liturgy.

Formation punctuated by discerned, prayerful moments of commitment is a powerful means for growth in relationship with Christ and community. We have seen this in our own journey of becoming members of Women Youth Apostles. And therefore, whether it is offering a more structured model of stages of commitment such as Catholic Life Communities or CLCs, or simply a focused preparation for encountering Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation or the Eucharist, ultimately we must place our trust in the work and grace of Christ made most directly available in the Church’s liturgy.


In contrast to the popular misquote of St. Francis of Assisi cited above, there is a true quote from him that can inspire our efforts in evangelization.

“Let us begin, brothers, to serve the Lord God, for up until now we have done little or nothing.”

He was a saint, and as such a person filled with hope and joy. So this is not as much a critique of past action, but an expression of urgency in light of God’s greatness, glory, and the mission given to the Church. So with that in mind we look forward to diving into the following topics for this formation series on the process of evangelization:

  1. Relational ministry and building trust with teens (Pre-evangelization)
  2. Apologetics (Pre-evangelization)
  3. Proclamation of the Gospel through personal testimony (Evangelization)
  4. Delivering the Fullness of the Faith (Catechesis)
  5. Accompanying Teens in Prayer, Charity, and Evangelization (Discipleship)

Mary, Queen of Apostles – pray for us!
St. John Bosco – pray for us!
St. Therese of the Child Jesus – pray for us!

BLOG: Sacramental and Community Life

In 1997, I was privileged to make a pilgrimage to Paris for World Youth Day, my first time The group that I accompanied was the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and Youth 2000, two communities that were joined only because of the Eucharist and leading youth to Christ. What an awesome experience to be with them and celebrate with the Holy Father in France. After World Youth Day was over we had the opportunity to travel to Lisieux and to the site of St. Theresa’s birth, death and communal life in the Carmelites. What a joy to spend time in prayer where she prayed and lived. Her life was so short but so eventful and prayerful. She literally craved community! She begged the Pope to let her enter community life because she was able to listen to what God had in store for her. Even though she only lived a short 23 years, her love of community and the sacraments were such that it led her to be the great Saint and Doctor she is now.

I read “The Story of a Soul” many years ago and was touched by her discussion of community life and what it was like to be with those she loved and struggled to love. We all know that there are people in our lives that we love more than others and there are those that we struggle to love. After all, God said we had to “love one another” not “like one another” right? She struggled to be in community it appeared every second of every day, yet she stayed there because she knew it was what God wanted for her. Her struggles and joys were such that it led others in her community to be closer to God and even Saints! Isn’t that what we are called to do? Shouldn’t we be doing that in Community as well?

Community life is difficult but the Sacraments can overcome any difficulty. The more we celebrate our community life with one another and join together in the sacraments, the closer we grow to God and what He wants for our Community. It brigs us closer to each other and helps us to love one another even more. As it is said in “Les Miserables”, “to love another person is to see the face of God”.