This past weekend, I had the privilege to visit Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio in order to speak at the Saint John Bosco Catechetical Conference. It was an amazing experience. The presenters, attendees and staff were definitely in love with the Lord and had a passion for evangelization and catechesis. My talk was around the topic of Evangelization and Catechesis in a Missionary Diocese in light of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in America. Blessed John Paul II released the document in 1999 and it gives to the Catholic Church in America a blueprint for participation in the New Evangelization.
The first of the four pillars of the document concerns an Encounter with the Living Christ. We are able to see this in the time of our Lord especially with the Samaritan woman and Zecchaeus the tax collector. Each in their own way, as they encounter Jesus Christ, become aware of their past sins, change their lives and commit themselves to follow after the Lord. They have a conversion. This is the authentic ‘fruit’ of a genuine encounter with the Living Christ. It is also the second pillar of Ecclesia in America.
“It is time now to wake from sleep, because our salvation is closer than when we first became believers” (Rom 13.3).
An encounter with the living Christ, if we are honest with ourselves, should move us to repentance and conversion of heart. Saint Augustine searched and searched for the truth, but didn’t find it. It was not until he encountered Jesus Christ, who is Truth personified, that in an act of humility he threw “off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Rom 13:12). Ecclesia in America reminds us “in this life, conversion is a goal that is never fully attained”. It is a lifelong process that leads us toward holiness and union with God.
The fruit of conversion is communion. We are called to be in communion first and foremost with the central mystery of our faith, the Most Holy Trinity. This beautiful relationship that God invites us to participate in moves us into communion with each other. This is made possible through Jesus Christ, who is the Head of the Mystical Body of Christ. Our communion with God and each other is strengthened through our worthily reception of Holy Communion. Ecclesia in America reminds us that the “Eucharist is the living and lasting center around which the entire community of the Church gathers”.
The final pillar is solidarity, a word that will be forever linked with Blessed John Paul II. Solidarity calls us into a union with our brothers and sisters throughout the world who are most in need. Jesus said, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt. 25:40). Solidarity is the fruit of communion. Authentic solidarity should find us united to our brothers and sisters in need, and of particular note is the child in the womb. The poor defenseless child in the womb has not voice of his or her own. To speak out and advocate for rights of the unborn is to be in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the womb.
Please pray for the people who offer the summer conferences at Franciscan University of Steubenville. They are doing incredible work all in the name of the Lord. Saint John Bosco, pray for us!