Our Pastor’s Corner – JULY 12, 2015, FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

andy armsImplicit in today’s Gospel is the notion that we need not be intimidated by rejection in our attempts to evangelize. This has certainly been the case for my mother and father. I grew up in a devoutly Catholic home in which I routinely saw newcomers my parents had befriended eventually convert to the Catholic faith. Any time Mom and Dad got to know someone beyond the initial pleasantries it was not long before faith entered the conversation. I do not mean they approached every social interaction in an obnoxiously agenda-driven way. Their faith was simply so integrated with who they were that faith discussions seemed to occur naturally. Not every person showed interest in the topic. And my parents did not appear to need to push their faith on people, nor were they crushed when church-related invitations they extended were politely declined. They simply continued inviting new individuals as opportunities arose.

A gentleman here at St. Dominic’s once remarked to me that he considered my evangelistic vocation to be a form of sales work. At the time I scoffed a little because my “compensation package” did not exactly include stock options and an end-of-year bonus. But in hindsight I admit there are some sales parallels that ring true in this regard. For example, in sales it is usually best to spend the bulk of your time with those at least somewhat open to what you have to offer. The more you believe in your product the better. At the same time, you should try to avoid taking offense when a potential customer goes another way.

CLP-2938stdominicI went through a phase during my mid-twenties in which I was kind of an annoying sales rep for God. I had a tendency to voice my faith as a series of talking-points, rather than a sincere expression of how God had transformed my mind and heart. I had a real faith, but it was quite bound up with an immature ego. At a certain point my family alerted me to how off-putting I had become. And while I did start to mature in my relationship with God afterward, I then switched to the opposite behavioral extreme of nearly never talking about my faith with non-Catholics unless they first asked me to share. It was a request I barely ever received.

Unsurprisingly, people became more curious when I began wearing a Dominican habit in public. But the profoundest improvement to my comfort evangelizing happened last year when my classmate, Brother Thomas Aquinas, invited me to join him for a ministry he had organized called, Street Evangelization. His idea was to walk in-habit through the streets of Berkeley on Saturday mornings and offer free rosaries to strangers as a door to conversing with them about the Catholic faith. After rejecting Brother Thomas initially, I changed my mind. Before the ministry began, some were concerned about the reaction we might provoke in a city like Berkeley so stereotyped as hostile to the Church. All brothers who hit the sidewalks, however, were received amicably by most of the Berkeley pedestrians they encountered. True, plenty of folks we passed politely declined what we offered, but many others were happy to receive rosaries and visit. Once a family responded “no, thank you,” but then the parents changed their minds a minute later and caught up with us at a stoplight to ask for rosaries. The experience reminded me that there was a legitimate middle-ground between being a fanatic and being tightlipped about one’s faith.

Initiating conversations about religion requires prudence but is not necessarily pushy as long as you respect the space of those who signal disinterest. The other brothers and I prayed with several of the individuals we met on the Berkeley streets and were thanked for being publicly present. Lots of people do exist out there who are open to the message of Christ – even in the Bay Area – and it is easier to get to them if you can get past being shot down on occasion. Remember, evangelism is not really like sales. You do not have to worry about your standing with the boss when those rejections happen. All God wants you to do is be as much of the person He made you to be as possible. He, after all, is the only one who can close the deal.

~ Br. Andy Opsahl, O.P.

 

RodrigoMariusWe are excited to welcome back two Dominican Friars here for the month of July. Fr. Rodrigo Hildalgo (pictured left) is a Dominican, from Madrid, Spain, who has ministered the past two summers with Hispanic community and helped to staff the 1:30 p.m. St. Jude Pilgrim Mass on Sunday. Fr. Mariusz Tabaczek (pictured right) is a Polish Dominican, who resides at our Priory in Oakland, and is studying for his Ph.D. at our Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley. His interests include the relationship between faith and science, and he is well published in this area. He is a regular presider at the Pilgrim Mass, and this summer joins us in residence to help out during this time of transition. He will preach at all the English Masses this weekend. Join me in welcoming our brothers as we celebrate the international gift of our Dominican fraternity!

~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.


Comments

Our Pastor’s Corner – JULY 12, 2015, FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME — 1 Comment

  1. Br. Andy,
    Thank you sharing your reflection.
    MS

    “They who sow courtesy reap friendship, and they who plant kindness gather love.”

    St. Basil the Great

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