Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
April 19, 2010
Evangelize by simple presence and witness: Fr. Thomas Ryan
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Presence, service, prayer, dialogue and proclamation are the five components of evangelization, Paulist Father Thomas Ryan told a recent conference on stewardship.
We evangelize because the Lord Jesus commanded us to and because people must be brought to salvation the Lord Jesus offers in and through the Church, Ryan said. "We also must evangelize because we have experienced the love of Christ and we want to share it with others."
Simple presence and witness are powerful ways to evangelize. "(As St. Francis of Assisi said), preach the Gospel wherever you go and if necessary use words," Ryan said. The way we conduct ourselves as Christians matters "because we are the only Gospel that some people will ever read."
Ryan, a well-known ecumenist, author and director of the Washington, D.C.-based Paulist Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, spoke on evangelization and ecumenism at the April 10 conference at St. Theresa Church.
"Evangelization is a reciprocal reality," he said. "My faith has been challenged and deepened, for example, by simple presence and witness of members of other religious faiths."
Watching Buddhist monks make mindful prostrations in front of the statue of the Buddha has led Ryan to look at his own reverence.
"By their simple presence and witness they have evangelized me to be more attentive to my own gestures of faith."
Orthodox Jews respect the Sabbath challenged the priest "to look at my own practice of keeping the Lord's Day free from becoming just another work day."
MUSLIMS' FASTING CHALLENGES
"When I see Muslims fasting from sunrise to sunset everyday during Ramadan it challenges me to examine that aspect of my own faith practice."
In the early 1980s in southern India the Benedictine priest Ryan was visiting once invited members of a Hindu village to visit his convent and to meditate together.
The surprised Hindus said, "You Christians pray, you meditate! We thought you just run schools and orphanages and soup kitchens."
"How beautiful that they perceive that in us Christians!" Ryan said. "This too is one of the key elements in the Church's evangelizing mission to serve the needs of others. The Christian record of on social action is well known in its own right and is a powerful source of inspiration for members of other religious faiths."
Evangelists and ecumenists today are working more closely together than ever before, said Ryan, who until 2000 directed the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism in Montreal.
"Evangelizers have discovered that whole new spiritual worlds open up in ecumenical dialogue and that these spiritual worlds are inhabited by people who also love the Lord Jesus and who call themselves by names other than Roman Catholic."
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