Pope John Paul II used to speak about the New Evangelization -- bringing the good news of Jesus to the modern world. People have taken up this idea in different ways. There have been new Catholic colleges and universities opened, books written, TV stations created, and MANY lectures given about Catholicism -- its teachings and practices and moral ideas. And this is all fine and good.
But, to me, one of the best ways to spread the love of Christ involves a lot of just being quiet. And praying. Not praying in some loud and noticeable way, with the idea that people will see and hear us and so gravitate to our way of thinking. Just quietly praying -- more for our own sorry selves than for the "others" we wish to convert or influence to our way of thinking.
When we are quiet -- in our way of interacting with others and in our manner of prayer -- it allows us to do many things. It allows us to be humble, as we reflect on all the ways we have fallen short in our own lives. It allows us to be grateful -- to see the blessings in our lives, especially the more subtle ones. It allows us to really listen to others -- to their hurts and concerns and thoughts -- thus allowing us to learn compassion. This compassion is especially important when dealing with people who are different than we are. As human beings, we are all prone to jump on other people if we believe they are in the wrong. We want to "fix" them. And, sometimes, maybe we want to "fix" them so that we can feel comfortable with them -- not threatened by them and their ideas and their lifestyles -- more than out of an actual concern for them and their well-being. Being quiet allows us to discern our real motivations and to think about how to behave toward others with real love. And real love always includes an acceptance of an individual just where he or she is right now.
At the beginning of Lent of 2012 (I believe), our pastor gave a really good sermon. He spoke about cultivating the practice of looking for the virtue in others, rather than looking at their faults. This was pretty eye-opening for me. As a "good" Catholic mom, living in our rather turbulent times, I had inadvertently stumbled into doing a lot of judging. I was motivated primarily by wanting to raise my children well -- teaching them the truths of their faith and helping them develop habits which I hoped would help them lead happy lives. And without realizing it, I had become very judgmental. And it occurred to me that my judgmental attitude was coloring the way my young adult children saw the world and all the people in it. I also realized that I was not happy being this narrow-minded crankypants. So, I did a 180. At least that was my goal. I started looking for the good in people -- in their actions, intentions, and ways of viewing the world. I tried to cultivate compassion in my heart, especially for people with whose ideas I did not agree. I decided not to feel threatened by the so-called "far left," primarily by studying their ideas more carefully and quietly reflecting on the truth in those ideas. I started having joy in my relationships with others -- even others who are very different than I. I started taking delight in other people -- without worrying about how their opinions stood up to mine. I became a happier person. And I think my kids became happier, too.
And so I return here to the idea of quiet. In order to cultivate this new joy, I had to start to be quiet. Not just with my mouth -- though that was important -- but inside my head, as well. I had to learn not to react so strongly to ideas with which I disagreed. Instead, I had to look at those ideas with a serene mind and calm heart. I had to look upon others with a smile and a peaceful countenance.
Some people will object here, saying, "But, how are you converting the world to Christ if you are keeping your mouth closed and entertaining ideas which are 'untrue'?"
This is my response:
If you are a Christian, you know that the Lord loves everybody. Unconditionally. And so I just want to ask the Lord to allow me to love people, too. Not with the "goal" of "converting" them. That would not be real love. That would be manipulation. I had a friendship like that -- where I just felt, in the end, that the person had spent time and energy on me basically in order to win me over to her "correct" way of thinking. And this made me feel like crap. I don't want to do it to anyone else. So, I will just attempt to accept and love people -- to see the virtue in them -- and trust the rest to God.
Also, nobody is going to listen to a word you say if you don't hear them -- and I mean truly hear them -- first. And let's face it. There is at least some merit in most people's opinions. You owe it to them to listen before you speak.