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Saturday 25 September |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Herman “the Cripple”
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Is every Catholic called to evangelize?

Rev. C. John McCloskey - published on 01/21/13

Perhaps we should firmly establish our right, as well as our duty to bring our friends to Christ’s Church. First, it is his Church, with the successor of St. Peter as the Vicar of Christ. As Bl. John Paul II points out in the encyclical On Commitment to Ecumenism, "the one Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church. The Decree of Ecumenism emphasizes the presence in her of the fullness (plenitudo) of the means of salvation. Full unity will come about when all share in the fullness of the means of salvation entrusted by Christ to his Church… The Catholic Church is conscious that she has preserved the ministry of the Successor of the Apostle Peter, the Bishop of Rome, whom God established as her ‘perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity.’"

If we can put it more succinctly, all who are saved are saved through the Church even if they are not aware of it on earth. Everyone in heaven is a member of the Church. Hillaire Belloc said: "One thing in the world is different from all others. It has a personality and a force. It is recognized and (when recognized) most violently loved or hated. It is the Catholic Church. Within that household the human spirit has roof and hearth. Outside it, it is the night."

Second, there is a mistaken notion that is fairly widespread in our society that the Second Vatican Council was about the role of the lay Catholic in the Church. It was not – it was about the role of the lay Catholic in the world. This role can be summed up in the search for holiness that is our baptismal right and duty and consequently in assuming the right and privilege of extending the kingdom of God here on earth through witnessing to our faith through the Christian example of our family and friendships.

A few words of caution: We are not speaking of proselytism (in the pejorative sense). That is to say our sharing, witnessing, speaking, giving, forming, educating and so on has absolutely nothing to do with coercion or the "freedom of conscience,” particularly as it pertains to our "separated brethren" Christians. Quite the contrary: I am in total agreement with the landmark ecumenical statement from Evangelicals and Catholics Together in 1994, written by Charles Colson and Richard John Neuhaus and co-signed by many other prominent churchmen of both Catholicism and the Evangelical faiths, which says: "It is understandable that Christians who bear witness to the Gospel try to persuade others that their communities and traditions are more fully in accord with the Gospel." We realize that only God’s grace can effect a conversion and that pressure (other than our prayer, sacrifice, good example, and friendship) would be counter productive not only in the long term, but would also fail to respect "the dignity of the human person" so central to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and of Bl. John Paul II.

"Christian witness must always be made in a spirit of love and humility. It must not deny but must readily accord to everyone the full freedom to discern and decide what is God’s will for his life. Witness that is in service to the truth is in service to such freedom. Any form of coercion –physical, psychological, legal, or economic – corrupts Christian witness and is to be unqualifiedly rejected." We are interested only in our personal total "gift of self," which is never more complete than when we act as God’s collaborators in communicating the gift of divine life: God’s grace. Cardinal Newman, the proto-convert of the last two centuries, made it clear that "to believe is to love," and that grace of the fullness of faith is only given to those who are freely seeking it.

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