Leader in Catholic media recalls how important it is to see one's work within the whole mosaic of the Church in America.
For more than two decades, Jeff Cavins has been a fixture in Catholic media. The founding host of EWTN’s “Life on the Rock,” Cavins now hosts his own podcast, “The Jeff Cavins Show,” with Ascension Presents.
Cavins is perhaps best known for developing “The Great Adventure” Bible study program, which is used by parishes across the country.
While attending the Convocation of Catholic Leaders in Orlando, Cavins took a moment to speak to Aleteia about his hopes for the conference.
Fr. Aquinas: As the Convocation for Catholic Leaders gets underway, what do you look forward to hearing and seeing?
Cavins: I look forward to hearing from the Church’s leaders their assessment of where we’re at evangelically. I want to hear their thoughts about what’s working and what needs to change. I also look forward to learning more about the shifting demographics in the Church, which will be useful knowledge moving forward in view of communicating the gospel.
Years ago, Cardinal Stafford observed that Jesus was a master communicator. As such, he adjusted his message to the predicament of his time. As evangelizers, we need to know the predicament of our time—what people are facing—so that we can adjust not the gospel but our presentation of it to the needs of the day. Otherwise, the Church and the world will be like two ships passing in the night.
Fr. Aquinas: The term that the conference is using to capture the sense of change that you mention is “missionary discipleship.” What does that term convey to you?
Cavins: A missionary disciple is someone who is first of all a disciple—a talmid, in Hebrew—a disciplined follower of a rabbi. In our case, that rabbi is not just a rabbi but is God, who establishes a spousal relationship with us. Now, the only way to enter into that relationship is to respond to Christ’s invitation—Lech acharai in Hebrew, which means “Come, follow me.” That is the formulaic phrase that a rabbi would have used in ancient Israel. It’s the phrase that Jesus uses. Our response, therefore, is either “yes” or “no.” We don’t make ourselves disciples of Jesus. We become disciples by responding to his invitation. As Jesus said, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you” [Jn 15:16].
Once we say “yes” to the Lord’s invitation, we enter into a period of formation with him. We follow him; we adopt his worldview; we take on his yoke. We learn his teachings, and we begin to put them into practice.
Then, once formed, we go out into the world to offer others the worldview of Jesus—as well as his yoke, his relationship, and his power. This is the missionary aspect of discipleship. The “world” here can be our home, our neighborhood, or our workplace.
When I was growing up, being a missionary meant going to Africa. Now, it means going to Denny’s. It means being aware all the time of who I am, that I am a missionary disciple. Everyday, I need to exercise situational awareness: to look around, read faces, listen to conversations, and look for opportunities to introduce people to the One who loves and died for them.
Fr. Aquinas: You have created Bible study programs that are used in parishes around the country. What role do you see Scripture playing in the life of the missionary disciple?
Cavins: Scripture is the heart of catechesis. As such, Scripture plays many roles in the life of the disciple. First of all, Scripture is a love letter from God to us. It reveals who God is as it relates to us his words and deeds. As Christians, we are obliged to know the heart of our Father and the plan he has for his family. We gain this knowledge through the Scriptures.
Second, Scripture is the foundation upon which we learn all things Catholic. If we don’t know the basic story of God’s creative and salvific work, then we’re going to be at a disadvantage in learning all of the particulars of Catholicism. For example, we want our kids to know about confirmation, about Mary, and about the Eucharist, but if they don’t know the story that binds these mysteries together, they won’t have that which can capture their heart as they learn about the individual mysteries of the faith. They won’t have the foundation upon which to construct what they learn.
Scripture then is critical to being a missionary disciple, in terms of knowing God and knowing the faith.
Fr. Aquinas: You used to host EWTN’s “Life on the Rock.” The rock here appears to be a reference to St. Peter, on whom Christ established the Church. What role does the Church play in the life of the missionary disciple?
Cavins: The Church is the center of the life of the missionary disciple, for it is in the Church that we find the Eucharist. We celebrate the Eucharist as a community; we worship God as a community; we study as a community; we live out the faith as a community. From this community we are sent out as missionary disciples, who are nourished in and equipped by the Church for evangelization.
St. Peter said that no revelation is a private matter [cf. 2 Pt 1:20]. That means that no one receives God’s revelation all alone or by himself. Each believer receives God’s revelation from the Church, which gives the believer’s faith a certitude that comes from the rock of the papacy. Connection to the Successor of Peter—who unites, instructs, and protects the Church—ensures that the faith we have is not our own creation.
Fr. Aquinas: What do you hope to take home from the convocation?
Cavins: Many things. First, a sense of thankfulness to the Lord for the relationships that I have. I am reminded every hour while here just how blessed I am to be part of a great community, and how much I’ve learned from it.
I also hope to go home with a better understanding of where we’re at right now. As we depart on Tuesday and return to our “laboratories,” I hope that our thoughts and dreams and ideas for evangelization will become more relevant.
Lastly, I hope to leave here with a better network of interesting people and ministries. Just walking around I’m meeting new people and learning of new apostolates. I want to spend time hearing their stories and learning what they’re doing. Sometimes we can become so focused on what we’re doing that we fail to notice what others are doing. Our work begins to appear as the most important thing that there is. I want to see my work as the singular piece that it is within the whole mosaic of the Church in America.
For more information on the convocation, visit the convocation website. To follow the weekend’s events on social media, use the hashtag #CatholicConvo.