A monk who professed solemn vows at the Abbey of Gethsemani earlier this month was 30 years old before he encountered Christianity.
Brother Abel met Christ through the writings of St. Augustine and others like him. He supposes that he met Christians in his life before age 30, but he’s not aware of any because no one mentioned it to him.
It’s likely that a majority of the people he encountered in his home state of Ohio were Christian. But “none of them made it known to me,” he said. “So I adopted a cruel caricature of what it must be” to be Christian.
Brother Abel needed what Pope Francis calls missionary disciples.
The Holy Father’s 2013 apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” The Joy of the Gospel, reminds Christians to become missionary disciples.
“In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients,” Pope Francis writes in the exhortation.
“The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love,” he writes.
“Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are ‘disciples’ and ‘missionaries,’ but rather that we are always ‘missionary disciples,’ ” Pope Francis writes.
The document goes on to describe in detail what that means but put simply, it calls on each person who has encountered God’s love to share it — through their example and words.
A group of lay Catholics in the Archdiocese of Louisville are creating pastoral plans in their parishes to foster missionary discipleship.
They intend to invite those who feel left behind into the warm embrace of their parish life.
They hope to share the joy of the Gospel with people on the peripheries — perhaps men like Brother Abel — who are searching and coming up empty.
First, they hope to share God’s love with those they encounter, said Eva Gonzalez, the director of Hispanic Ministry and the facilitator of the effort. The participants are Hispanic and Latino Catholics from about a dozen parishes around the archdiocese.
As Gonzalez explained during an interview with The Record recently, “They will stop and wait for those left behind, to show a welcoming community, a parish that is their home.”
God bless them in their efforts. May we all join them, individually and collectively.