EARLIER IN THE EASTER SEASON, we read in the Acts of the Apostles how Barnabas arrived in Antioch. He “saw the grace of God: he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith” (Acts 11:23-24).
Now imagine our own name in place of Barnabas. Are we people who rejoice and encourage others? People who are firm of heart and filled with the Holy Spirit? Of course, we should be. This is our call.
During this very unusual time in our history and in our Church year, exactly how do we remain evangelists and persons of compassion and hope? At the time of writing this, our churches are closed for all but adoration. Masses and sacraments have been put on hold. Barnabas had the privilege of traveling to Antioch. We, however, are homebound, physically isolated and out of our usual patterns of conduct.
But does that mean that we cannot evangelize? Does it mean we get to take a break from sharing the light of Christ in our world, especially in our local community? Hardly.
Bishop Robert Barron recently stated that the most effective way to evangelize is to simply share the contagious (good word for now!) joy of Jesus Christ. Each of us is called to spread the Word of God, the love of our Lord, prompted by the Holy Spirit.
“Each of us is called to spread the Word of God, the love our Lord, prompted by the Holy Spirit.”
Perhaps we do feel isolated but want to reach out to those sections of our parishes that need support. Doing something for others not only adds joy to our lives, it also spreads the light of Christ.
As we think about the specific populations in our parish families and in our communities that may need a bit of the joy of Christ during this pandemic, we consider those who have waited in great anticipation for the sacraments: our first communicants, confirmation students, RCIA catechumens and candidates and couples planning their weddings. All was put on hold.
Some folks have awaited special new events: the birth of a child, the purchase of a new home or a graduation. Do they celebrate alone or not at all?
As believers, as evangelists, we can lift their spirits and perhaps reignite their faith in our loving God. We can share our hope and joy.
To get us started, here are some suggestions, some things that come to mind, some ideas our parish has done or is considering in the near future. However the Spirit prompts you, take this opportunity to evangelize in a new way:
- Honor the 2020 graduates with a virtual Baccalaureate service — hymns, photos of graduates in their caps and gowns, Scripture readings, homilies, photos of their “faith journey” this far (baptisms, first Communions, youth activities, confirmation) and, of course, a blessing for them.
- Parents of new babies might enjoy receiving a children’s book (e.g. “Jesus Blesses the Children,” Arch Books) and a card saying, “Congratulations on the birth of ______ (name).” Your faith community of (name) looks forward to celebrating the Sacrament of Baptism with (name) and your family.”
- RCIA catechumens and candidates have been anxiously awaiting the sacraments. I dropped off a small basket containing a loaf of crunchy bread and a bunch of grapes, along with a card stating, “Remember, the BEST is yet to come.” Then I included appropriate Scripture verses.
- For our residents in assisted living facilities, we set a tote with missalettes outside the parish office and had volunteers pick them up and drop them off at the facility front door along with a list of parish residents. This way they can follow the liturgical year and its readings.
- Perhaps parishioners have moved into a new home. Send a copy of a house blessing or encourage them to go to https://bit.ly/2yvSmcc.
- Keep in touch with confirmation students with texts containing a Scripture passage and a prayer for them. Also remind them that confirmation will be rescheduled.
- Concerned about couples who had to postpone their weddings? How about a small gift now that can benefit them in this time and into their marriage? Check out “Joined by Grace: A Catholic Prayer Book for Engaged and Newly Married Couples” by John Bosio and Teri Bosio.
- Thinking of the staff at our county jail. I dropped off two containers of cookies at the front desk with a note of appreciation for their work.
Just some ideas! How will you be Church to your community? God’s blessings to all.
RITA CLASEMANN is the retired parish life coordinator of St. Kathryn in Ogilvie and St. Mary in Mora.
pullquote “Each of us is called to spread the Word of God, the love our Lord, prompted by the Holy Spirit.”