Activism and Grace

FullSizeRenderThursday morning at the University of Utah Heritage Center. It’s a chaotic move-in day, freshmen and their parents are everywhere, pushing carts, carrying stuff, running back and forth. Everywhere but at my table. The big red-lettered CATHOLICS ON CAMPUS banner behind me informs everyone who we are, just in case somebody confuses my Dominican habit with a Buddhist monk outfit. Our campus minister, Julie, and I are sitting here and waiting, armored with St. Catherine’s swag, neatly designed fliers, and free copies of Magnificat – we are here waiting and ready to tell them all – students, parents, and staff – how amazing it is to be Catholic and to live out your faith in our Newman community.  Yet nobody stops by, besides our colleagues from the neighboring Wells Fargo table who also feel somewhat bored with the low traffic.

What else should I do? This desperate question ran through my head more than once that morning. I need to do something! And then it dawned on me how close I was to the worldly notion of activism that Pope Francis criticizes in his exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. Yes, he insists, the Church should go forth actively to the world, and yes, we are all missionary disciples who need to find ever new ways of sharing the joy of our faith, but we must always root our sense of missionary urgency in God’s action. Let me quote his entire argument here:

“The Church is sent by Jesus Christ as the sacrament of the salvation offered by God. Through her evangelizing activity, she cooperates as an instrument of that divine grace which works unceasingly and inscrutably. Benedict XVI put it nicely at the beginning of the Synod’s reflections: It is important always to know that the first word, the true initiative, the true activity comes from God and only by inserting ourselves into the divine initiative, only begging for this divine initiative, shall we too be able to become – with him and in him – evangelizers. This principle of the primacy of grace must be a beacon which constantly illuminates our reflections on evangelization.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 112).

The divine grace which works unceasingly and inscrutably – how challenging to my desire to plan everything, to track down our programs’ successes, and to be in control. But when I follow Benedict’s advice and humbly begin my missionary activities by inserting myself into the divine initiative, I will be able to find peace and joy, and yes, hopefully be even more fruitful in ways I could not myself imagine.

I pray for all of our ministries – all of us called to be evangelizers! – these days as we are planning our Parish Fest and resuming our groups’ activities after the summer break.