Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Reflection for New Evangelization: Witness of Life

Missionary Cenacle Family - Reflection for New Evangelization:

We know that the primary actor in the New Evangelization is the Holy Spirit, and that in the first place, we must pray for this intention. But we also know that although God could carry out the spread of His Kingdom directly, He has chosen to use each of us baptized faithful as His instruments to spread the Gospel.
Martyrdom is the supreme act of witness, and an old saying tells us that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. There are many stories of the onlookers to the sufferings of the early martyrs being converted. One such story took place in what is now Turkey. Forty Christian Roman soldiers were sentenced to death by exposure on a frozen lake. They prayed that as forty would suffer, there would be forty crowns of victory. As the ordeal dragged on, one of them weakened and went to offer pagan worship. Then one of the non-Christians guarding the group, moved by the courage of his Christian comrades, took the place of the one who left and 40 crowns were earned!

John Paul II reminded us that more Christians were martyred in the 20th century than in all the others combined. Even today there are Christians in many parts of the world being imprisoned, tortured, and even killed for their faith. It is unlikely that any of us will be martyred. But in a society which is growing ever more secular, we can seem old-fashioned and unenlightened, and perhaps suffer social and/or economic discrimination because of our beliefs.
Our Lord Himself told us that we are to be the light of the world (Mt.5:14) and to make sure that our good deeds are done with rectitude of intention. This is a moral obligation related to the 8th commandment. Our way of living, speaking, etc. must be in keeping with the fact that we profess to be Christians.
We do not only need to give witness; we have need to receive the witness of others. Many times we are edified by the virtues of those around us, Christians and even non-Christians. Religious families in the Church serve precisely this purpose: to provide mutual support and good example. We are helped by being a member of a parish, a prayer group, the MCF ...

At Baptism and Confirmation, we are given the name(s) of (a) member(s) of the heavenly "cloud of witnesses" to serve as examples and as intercessors for us. Fr. Judge, Mother Boniface, and Dr. Healy are special witnesses for us as to how we are to live the Spirit of the Cenacle, and the customs and practices we have grew out of the early experiences of Father Judge and the first members. Father Judge said:... Our communities have been trained to be neighborly, to go out of their way to do a service, ... and never to get into any kind of contention, to be peaceful even though they have to suffer a trespass ... Fr. Judge (Archives 12939)

The Catholic Catechism and recent papal documents describe the peculiar characteristics of the witness demanded by contemporary society: people follow witnesses more readily than teachers. In the history of the Church, there have always been situations were the apostolate of witness was the only one feasible. In the early days of the Cenacle in eastern Alabama, where anti-Catholicism was rampant, this was the case. Fr. Judge encouraged the first associates who went South to be involved with enterprises which would put them in contact with people in every day situations, and they even ran a dairy! In the flu pandemic at the end of World War I, the Cenacle members assisted the doctors in caring for the sick, preparing healthy meals, etc. The help extended to the Sisters by neighbors when their motherhouse burnt down, and they literally possessed only the clothes on their backs, shows that the witness of Sisters' charitable lives worked to combat the prejudice they faced.
Each of us has to give this witness in "the providence of one's everyday life". And Paul VI spoke of a situation that is part of the lives of many in the Cenacle family - the immigrant experience. He said that migrants need to be conscious of the witness they bear to their beliefs in their host countries. And we can add that people of host countries need to strive to bear witness by their hospitality, concern for justice for new comers, etc.
Our witness is not that of outsiders in our communities - we need to share in all that is good and noble in our cultures and strive to correct and elevate it when the standards of our societies are not truly Christian, nor even fully human.

As we continue to consider different aspects of the New Evangelization perhaps we can think about and consider in prayer the following questions:
Do I have a good grasp of Catholic doctrine and morals so that I can bear true witness in my own life?

Do I receive the Eucharist frequently and do I make regular use of the sacrament of Reconciliation so that I may have the grace necessary to live an authentically Catholic life?
Do I try to purify my intentions so that my thoughts, words, and actions truly glorify God and edify my neighbors?

As far as I am able, do I try to become familiar with the lives of the founders of the Cenacle family so that I may grow in understanding of the Cenacle spirit and can apply it in the "providence of my every day life"?

Am I familiar with the life/lives and virtues of the special patron(s) given me at Baptism/Confirmation and do I ask for their intercession?

Do I realize that I need the witness given by those around me (as well as ongoing formation), especially those in the MCF? Does this move me to be faithful to Cenacle meetings, retreats, days of reflections, etc.

Do I take an active part in civic, parish, family and cultural life in keeping with the time I have available, the talents, education and training that I have received, and the treasure that I have at my disposal so that I can bear witness - be the leaven - in the society where I live?
Theresa Panzera Ad Hoc Committee for the New Evangelization February 2012 

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