Do the Work of an Evangelist!
It’s been a sad week for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the nation’s Premier See. I found out midweek that Msgr. Bob Armstrong, former rector of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen and a long time friend of mine, passed away. Then, I woke up Friday morning to the news that the retired Archbishop of Baltimore, Cardinal William Keeler, had passed away as well. Both had been failing in recent years and lived long full lives, but there passing leaves a void. I am always thankful for the example of good holy priests who set an example for men like me and for Catholics everywhere.
I didn’t know Cardinal Keeler well. I had met him many times as a student at The Catholic University of America where he served as a trustee, at Mount St Mary’s Seminary where I studied for the priesthood and where he served as Chancellor, and then as a priest, I had many pleasant albeit passing encounters with him. He was a good priest and a hard working bishop.
When a man becomes a bishop, he chooses an Episcopal motto, typically something from the sacred scripture. When Cardinal Keeler was named a bishop in 1979, he chose as his motto: opus fac evangelistae. That’s Latin for “do the work of an evangelist.” It’s from the second Letter to Timothy 4:5. Bonus points if you can name Bishop Sheridan’s Episcopal motto! (It’s virtus in infirmitate perficitur, [Christ’s] power made perfect in weakness)
So we are to do the work of an evangelist? Sounds like a perfect goal for the world in which we live. I have given many talks in recent months about some of the challenges we have in ministering to youth and young adults. One of my mantras: tell your story! One reason, I believe, we are not connecting with more young people is Catholics are not always very successful at telling our story. We must be able to tell people why we are Catholic, why we love the Sacraments, why we pray, why we care about others, why being Catholic is different than being non-Catholic, why being Catholic is different than being “spiritual,” and so many other things. If we can’t explain these things to others, especially to our friends and family who have fallen away from the faith, why would we expect anyone to join or come back to the Church?
The work of an evangelist can be done in many different ways. It can be done by introverts and extroverts, by the young and the old, by the cradle Catholic and by the neophyte, and it certainly doesn’t require a theology degree or a Roman collar. But it must be done.
If we want the Church to grow and flourish, the work of evangelization is crucial. Pray for Cardinal Keeler and for his family and friends. And Your Eminence, pray for us. It takes courage, zeal, and trust in God to do the work of an evangelist.
And we have a lot of work to do!