Deacon Alex Jones, Sister Catherine Marie of the Sisters of Life and philosopher Peter Kreeft gave the 2,600 people at the Catholic Family Life Conference food for the mind and the soul.
Evangelization is not just apologetics or helping the poor or filling the Church with new converts, says a Detroit-based preacher and evangelist.
"Evangelization is changing the world around us," says Deacon Alex Jones. "It's engaging our society and upsetting the standards that our secular society creates. It's to Gospel-ize our society with the values of peace, of justice and love and morality. That's the goal of evangelization."
Jones, the former charismatic preacher of a thriving black Pentecostal congregation and now a Catholic deacon, spoke on evangelization to more than 2,000 people at the annual Catholic Family Life Conference July 30.
Peter Kreeft, known most notably as a Catholic apologist, author of about 70 books and a professor in Boston and New York, also addressed the conference as did Sister Catherine Marie, a member of the congregation Sisters of Life from Toronto.
Jones said convincing others that the Catholic Church is the right Church or the only Church is an important part of evangelization but not the main goal. "The goal is far greater than just winning souls for Jesus," he said. "We want to make a difference in the world around us."
Our task is to take the Gospel out of our sanctuaries and "bring it where there is darkness, where there is immorality, where there is injustice and where there is suffering," Jones said. "This is the goal of the Church when she speaks of evangelization."
In fact, he said, the Church exists in order to evangelize. "We exist to make a difference in the world around us."
In his last talk, Kreeft said to love and be loved is the meaning of life. "That's what makes you supremely happy and what makes you supremely good and what makes you supremely wise. God is love."
However, to convince others of that truth we have to use apologetics, whose structure is like a 10-step ladder. "If you don't have the first step you can't get to any of the steps."
Kreeft said those who guide people who don't believe in the fullness of the faith should try to figure out at what step their subjects are on in order to address their problems. "It's like a disease. You need to diagnose a disease before you can treat the disease."
The first step to finding any truth at all is not in the head but in the heart. "So if your heart hasn't clicked in, your head is not going to click in."
Kreeft said those who don't want to know the truth won't seek it and therefore won't find it. "In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said seek and you shall find. I don't think he was talking about money or prestige. He was talking about God."
In order to find the truth, the seeker must be honest and have his or her eyes open to the light, Kreeft said.
Sister Catherine Marie, one of three Sisters of Life in Toronto, said the fundamental vocation of all Christians is to love. "Everybody is called to love," she said.
The sister noted that love is sometimes impeded by rationalization and fear. "Don't be afraid," she said, urging her audience to speak up when they see a situation that requires their response or that runs counter to Christian values. "Stop rationalizing so much. God wants us to respond to those initial promptings of love."
Sister Catherine spoke at length about her congregation, describing the Sisters of Life as a contemplative yet active religious community of women founded by the late Cardinal John O'Connor of New York in 1991. Currently, the order has 70 members in the U.S., Canada and New Zealand.
In addition to taking the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, the Sisters of Life also vow to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life.
"So all the work that we do then has to do with protecting and defending people's lives and that largely takes the form of working with women who are pregnant and vulnerable to abortion," the sister said.
The congregation does retreat work and some sisters work with the Archdiocese of New York to promote family and life at the parish level. They also offer post-abortion healing and do speaking tours to share the Good News and the Gospel of life.