Catholics hear regular calls to evangelize, to undertake the “New Evangelization,” to share the faith, especially during homilies. And then what?
Don’t worry, it will be back to business as usual in no time. And sadly enough, in many parishes, “business” and “busyness” seem to be the main activities. As staffing has grown, large churches function as small non-profits and bureaucracies full of meetings, planning, staff evaluations, and stewardship (aka fundraising). The customer base is the pool of existing parishioners who are served offerings of volunteer opportunities, youth get-togethers, occasional educational events, in addition to the core work of the Roman Catholic Church which is preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments. Sadly, the last two often seem to get the most perfunctory attention, with budgeting that focuses on bringing in the cheapest music, tiki-torch-like candles, and newsprint missals.
Yes, I know there are exceptions and I’m grateful for them.
But what about the world outside the door (or the parking lot, if you’re out in the burbs)? If you knew nothing about the Catholic Church and wandered in on a Sunday, what would you see and hear? Would it be beautiful? Would it be compelling? Would you know that this faith is the door to the only true happiness and to eternal life? Would it tell you that this is an institution founded by Christ Himself that has perdured through two millennia? What would you see of the splendid art, music, and liturgy that centuries of faith created? Would you want to know more if you came knowing little or nothing at all?
I’m not so sure. How much of our time is spent in the proverbial “preaching to the choir”? Or those who used to be in the choir? While I applaud every outreach to disaffected Catholics, as a convert I think of all the people with whom I’ve worked and performed and studied who won’t give Christianity a first glance, let alone a second look. They’re not going to listen to Catholic radio or watch EWTN. We have to find another door into hearts and minds that have written off the Gospel as irrelevant and probably something that will ruin their lives.
It’s happening, but not inside the closed corporation that many parishes have become. People like Barbara Nicolosi read the signs of the times and bring talent and high production values to their work. As Dostoevsky said, “Beauty will save the world.” He said that in a world where the Russian intelligentsia were happy to follow any ideology as long as it wasn’t Christianity.
It’s time to say it again and to create and show the beauty that cannot fail to find a home in the human heart. Excelsior!