Is Evangelization More Than a Word? Finding a Door to the Heart

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!




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About Mary Jane Ballou

Mary Jane Ballou’s life in sacred music began in a children’s choir at the age of three. Instrumental music waited until her piano lessons started in primary school. And her music life remains a joyous pairing of sacred vocal music and the instrumental repertoire of Spain, Ireland, and Scotland.

2 thoughts on “Is Evangelization More Than a Word? Finding a Door to the Heart

  1. Rebecca Kragnes

    As one of the pianists in my parish, I have taken exception to some of the pot shots you have taken at church music in your last few blog posts. You seem to be suggesting that if it’s not some traditional hymn or classical piece, it’s garbage and should be thrown out. Of course there’s value in hymns and classical works, but contemporary music touches some hearts, too. You reference EWTN as an example of good liturgical music, but I believe their extreme traditional approach only reaches some people. What music is chosen and even how it is played knock on diverse hearts’ doors. Not all contemporary music is heard as raucus, and not all classical pieces are perceived as beautiful. Because we are hoping to reach the hearts of multiple generations, a mixture within the liturgy is healthy.

  2. MJBallou Post author

    That’s the reason there are comment boxes – agree, take exception, as long as everyone’s polite.

    Just as a point of correction, I didn’t reference EWTN as an example of good liturgical music. I was talking about the network as a form of media outreach that only reaches a particular audience. Trust me, I have nothing against the piano because I’m a conservatory-trained pianist. I also perform and program contemporary liturgical music with my ensemble and on my radio program. Remember, my post was about the people outside the church, not those already in the pews.

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