Monday, February 24, 2014

Emotion & Evangelization

I found this article in our local diocesan paper. If you are involved in helping anyone to know or grow or live their faith, this article is a great reminder of the need to connect with the whole person.

Evangelizing in the fields 
by Karen Muensterman
Originally published in The Message on February 21, 2014


Catholics involved in almost any aspect of ministry often spent a lot of time creating environments. We create classroom environments, meeting-room environments, worship environments. Physical environment is important to catechesis, but if we want to evangelize as well as catechize, the emotional environment we create is far more important. For although catechesis can happen in a classroom, a cafeteria, or a church, evangelization always happens in a field – an emotional field.

Think back to the last time you were in a group of people who are experiencing the same emotion. Maybe you were in a crowded sports arena and your team had just pulled back from the brink of defeat for a stunning victory. Strangers suddenly were high-fiving and hugging each other; clapping in unison and chanting the name of the team with one voice.

Or maybe your team had just lost that game. All around you, strangers comforted each other with phrases like, "We'll get 'em next time." Reform tightly knit communities around sports teams because for the events in general emotional fields for people to meet him. We say that we love the game; but more than that, I believe, we love our connection with the team and the other fans – our personal connection to that community.

The Catholic Church is a community. The first mark of the church is unity: the church is "one." But how often do we experience that sense of "oneness" in church that leads to a personal encounter with Christ?

I vividly remember an encounter in my own life. It was a late summer evening at Resurrection Church. One of our young parishioners, a beautiful little girl, was lying in a hospital at the brink of death. A large group gathered in church to support her with 30 minutes of scripture reading, prayer and music. I remember sitting there and sorrow and silence, not wanting to be the first person to move. As I looked around, I realized that no one else was moving either; not even the children.

We were people in different life stages and occupations, dressed in business suits and sports uniforms, Jean shorts and t-shirts, all just sitting silently as if glued to the pews. It suddenly occurred to me that we were connected in such a deep, meaningful and powerful way that we were finding it hard to physically break apart. In that deep unity, we could feel Christ's compassion. Finally leaving the church in clumps, we reluctantly separated at our vehicles.

Gathering people to meet an emotional field is the best way to enable each person to experience the Body of Christ. No matter why or how they get there, that emotional field unites them. Sorrow feels like sorrow to everyone; and my joy always feels like your joy. If we are alerts to all the possibilities, we can create opportunities for emotional unity even unexpected places.

We recently celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation at our parish and when Bishop Thompson met with our nervous candidates and sponsors before the Mass, one of the first things he did was to get them all laughing. By getting the sponsors and candidates to laugh with him, the Bishop gave everyone an opportunity to meet in a field of joy. As anxiety gave way to laughter, our cafeteria suddenly became a place of unity and Good News – a place where you evangelization could happen naturally.

There are many ways to generate emotional fields to categorize in. Just remember – anything that elicits an emotional response from you probably will elicit the same response from the people you hope to evangelize.
By far the most powerful way to attract people to an emotional field is by telling the story from that beautiful, tragic, scary, hilarious masterpiece known as "My Life Experience." We have to express how we felt when the event was happening because although the crowd may not follow the fax, they will always follow our feelings. Then we can leave them to a field where we can meet each other as Jesus once met his disciples – and sorrow and compassion; and hope and anticipation; and laughter and above all, in joy.

For more news from the Diocese of Evansville, check out The Message Online at www.themessageonline.org 

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