By Mitch Navarsa
I don’t know about you, but every time I check my email, there’s always a new book or program focusing on evangelization. The appeal of these books and programs is that a lot of the heavy lifting is done for us. Training videos, session videos, workbooks, checklists, etc., are provided. One of the best things about them is that we get to hear from some of the best evangelists in our church today!
It is important to know the culture we live in and to learn from contemporary evangelists, but we should never forget the gift of the saints and how they evangelized, especially the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the Queen of All Saints. We know St. Dominic as a great preacher and the one to whom Mary gave the rosary as we know it today. Did you know that for the first few years of St. Dominic’s mission to combat heresy he was extremely unsuccessful? Imagine feeling called by God to do something and failing for years. But St. Dominic did what every saint does. He fell to his knees and prayed for a weapon against the heresy. This is when Our Lady gave him the rosary with all the mysteries, which became the means of evangelizing thousands of souls to Jesus Christ.
As Catholics called to evangelize, by virtue of our baptism, how can we expect to evangelize any differently? Mary gave us the rosary as a fertilizer for our souls and as a weapon for dismantling the lies of the enemy. Many of the rosary’s mysteries reveal to us how Mary is our perfect model for bringing Christ to others.
Mary’s “Fiat,” her “Yes,” was the moment God became Man, but also when Jesus entered into the heart and life of Mary. Before Christ could be shared with the world, the world held its breath waiting for her “Yes.” Our “yes” to allow Jesus to enter our lives and for us to become his disciples, is the first step to bringing Jesus to others.
When Mary visited her pregnant cousin, Elizabeth, St. John the Baptist “leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41). When Christ is the center of our lives, our joy and peace cannot help but be contagious! Mary was not afraid to share her Son with the world. Pray for the courage to share Jesus with your family and friends as Mary did.
Presentation at the temple / carrying the cross / crucifixion
Mary was told that her heart would be pierced by a sword (Luke 2:35), she saw Jesus while he carried the cross, and she was with John at the foot of the cross. The common theme here is suffering, but this time, not the suffering of Jesus; it is the suffering of Mary. Evangelization isn’t just words. Many times, it is presence, especially in moments of suffering. This suffering finds its greatest meaning at the foot of the cross of Jesus, who suffered and died for all. Like Mary did with John, kneel at the foot of the cross with the person who is suffering, for Christ’s “yoke is easy and [his] burden light” (Matthew 11:30).
A famous piece of art depicts the Pentecost event and Mary is in the middle of the painting. I always thought it was just a cute nod to Mary, but when I learned that Mary was the spouse of the Holy Spirit, I realized how powerful her prayer was. What husband would refuse the innocent plea of his wife? I once heard, “The greatest act of charity is prayer.” Why? Through prayer, we access the heart of God and all his graces. There are mountains in the lives of those we are called to evangelize and we definitely do not move them on our own. With prayer and faith in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can move mountains (Matthew 17:20). Pray every day for those you accompany on their journey to holiness. Lift them up to our Mother who will intercede for them as she did for the birth of the church at Pentecost.
Final thoughts. Mary is our example for evangelization but also the one who shares all the graces we need from Jesus to evangelize. From her “Fiat” to her insistence at the Wedding at Cana for a miracle, to her prayer at Pentecost, she perfectly participated in the will of God through the Holy Spirit. If we wish to be evangelizing saints, we will do so with her help, the Queen of All Saints. Buy a rosary or unsheathe yours once again to reflect on her Son’s great mysteries, and go move mountains.
(Mitch Navarsa is pastoral associate of evangelization at St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf.)