The Catholic bishop who has oversight of the work of evangelisation in England and Wales says radical advancement of Church’s mission can only happen if massgoers embrace afresh their own need for conversion, before trying to reach out to people.
In a pre-Lenten reflection, Rt Rev Mark O’Toole (Plymouth), Chair of the Bishops’ Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis, said:
“The forty days of Lent begin on Ash Wednesday with the distribution of ashes. As these are placed on our foreheads we hear one of two sobering phrases, ‘Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,’ or ’Repent, and believe in the Gospel’. Although we are accustomed to hearing these words year-on-year, what impact do they make? They communicate a reality that cuts right to the heart of the Gospel message; namely, that we are all on a journey of life and faith, that during our life we are invited to make radical responses to God’s loving purpose that not only affect ourselves, but also have a bearing on our work of evangelisation.
“We can only successfully labour in the Lord’s vineyard if we ourselves are fully committed to our own conversion of heart. This is not a once and for all event. It is ongoing. If we are not seeking conversion of heart, to nurture and deepen our own relationship with Christ, it will be impossible for us to grow in holiness and to share authentically his message with anyone else.
“Blessed John Henry Newman reminds us in his writings that it is God’s light that we are invited to radiate, his presence within us. Our relationship with the Lord is the starting point for all evangelisation. Relying on our own efforts alone leaves us on rocky ground. Lent offers an opportunity to embrace the call to conversion, not just for our own sakes, but so that we can more effectively, as God wills, witness to the joy of the Gospel message.
“A number of spiritual practices and exercises are encouraged during Lent, not least making time for prayerful reading of the Scriptures, to seek reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) and to practice some forms of self-denial. These are simple and humble ways in which we can nurture holiness. New free small group resources are being offered too for download as part of the Bishops’ Proclaim ’15 initiative this year to support us in our Lenten journey; they can be used by individuals and groups to encourage initial reflection about what it means to be a missionary disciple. Please do use them, adapting them where necessary to suit local need. May Lent renew the hearts of all of us and be indeed life-changing.”
Lent begins on Wednesday 18 February 2015. On this day Catholics are invited to go to Mass and receive ashes on their forehead, made in the Sign of the Cross, as an outward sign of their commitment to ongoing conversion of heart and mind. Everyone is very welcome to attend.
Meanwhile, the Proclaim ’15 initiative aims to support, inspire and encourage new expressions of parish evangelisation with events and resources being offered at intervals throughout this year in partnership with evangelisation co-workers across England and Wales. The small group materials are available at: proclaim15