Category Archives: Comment

Really New Evangelism. The 3 R’s

Really New Evangelism. The 3 R’s.  The First “R”.

We are all inside of our skin.

We are all inside of our skin.


When we come across good news we long to tell it and to share it. The more it excites us the more urgent is our desire for others to listen, to hear our news. We want to impart, to give.

The reality is that we each live within our own skins.  People think I am always on the move, changing places.  Not at all: I’ve been inside my skin all the time, that’s where the real changes take place for me and for all of us – in our hearts, in our minds and also in this skin which contains each of us.  None of us want this place to be invaded: access should only be by invitation.

The men, after the Mass during the January fiestas in Acehuche, Caceres.
The men, after the Mass during the January fiestas in Acehuche, Caceres.  A cunning evangelical strategy.

Receiving the Word of others.

I have wondered and prayed for many years about how to talk, to know what to say, about God, the Gospel, Jesus, and everything which might make up an “Evangelical package”. I still know my Catechism answers and also accept that how I am in myself, expressed in what I do and say every day, is testimony or witness to God’s love, or so I would like it to be.  Yet words about God, Jesus and the whole bundle of Christian teaching do not flow easily from me.

Quiet places and silent prayer.
Quiet places and silent prayer.

I do tell people that I pray; that I give time to prayer.  Most people I meet on my travels take this as an opening to explain to me that they, too, pray but don’t like the churches or religions or priests. They add their horror stories of insensitive clergymen, sadistic nuns and judgemental neighbours.  Often they put in a good word for Buddhism and re-incarnation while various forms of paganism are held in high esteem for their embracing of Nature.

And who would not want to embrace Nature?
An equinoxal sunrise.                                                                                                                                                    And who would not want to embrace Nature?

Receiving, Receiving, Receiving.

I often wonder why atheists should bother about being Confirmed but I meet quite a few.  Every now and then my logical part is right with them.  Many atheists also pray and, strange as it may seem, are often outwardly loving, generous and Christian folk.  I receive what they say to me about their beliefs as a gift.

My vocation, I now feel, is neither to teach nor to preach.  I practise as best as I can  passive evangelism – a form of contemplation in inaction. I receive and welcome, without either moral or intellectual judgement, the musings, the stories, the beliefs, the angers and fears and joys of those I meet.  It is an easy yoke after all. I am enriched by so many and would be quite struck dumb if I didn’t frequently encounter a strong affinity with others in my deepest core, in the place where  Love has begged to be invited in and has always been hiding.  It’s then that conversation begins and I am  converted: over and over again.  It all happens inside my skin.

Affinity in a chord.
Affinity in a chord.


To be touched, to be moved,  to be silent, to be present, to let be and to love: to be hungry for all of these is to tell the Good News.  Of course there are a fair number of really boring people – that’s the bad news. Some of them even preach in our churches.   That ministry, I think,  is a very special calling.   However, the really Good News for evangelists is that there is no need to preach or teach or mention God, as the second “R” will confirm.

The second “R”  click here



W see, through a glass, darkly. (1 Corinthians 13: 12-13)
We see, through a glass, darkly. (1 Corinthians 13: 12-13)


(the first post in this series is here)

In the context of New Evangelisation I often hear the phrase..”In this de-Christianised world of ours…”  or something similar.  When people say this what are they seeing?  How do they see the world?  Very darkly indeed, I presume.

Maybe they are seeing the sharp decline in church attendance, the changing patterns of lifestyle and relationships and the global rise in consumerism.  Perhaps such things obscure their vision.  The first premise, surely, of all Evangelisation is that God is present here among us now. We are all his children: already.

When I was in teaching I used to say to my teachers, “Your job is not  to teach so much as to recognise and celebrate the learning that you discover in your pupils.”  The challenge to the staff was to offer experiences in which the learning of pupils could be recognised by them and celebrated by all.  To evangelise is to recognise Christ in all people, in each person we meet.

memories for the 79 people who died on the rails below this bridge in Santiago de Compostella, July 24th 2013.
Little recognitions for the 79 people who died on the rails below this bridge in Santiago de Compostella, July 24th 2013.

Recognise God in all things and all of his children.

I struggle with my prejudices.  My skin, like all human skin is transparent and more or less soft but I inhabit another shell which is thick and solid and opaque: it protects me and imprisons me.  It excludes those I distrust because they seem to be different from me and might damage me.  It prevents me from recognising others as my bothers and sisters.

I struggle with my selective intellect.  My world is defined by what I already know and understand.  My preferred authors are those in whose books I can read what I already think.  I want others to obey the rules of the logic my Scottish, Catholic culture wrote into my cells from their inception.

Seeing the whole picture is not easy.
Seeing the whole picture is not easy.

Though you have eyes, don’t you see: though you have ears don’t you hear?”

I have found the advice of Ignatius Loyola very effective when it comes to dealing with my solid outer crust and love of familiarity and comfort which dulls my vision.  It is simple: to correct an imbalance lean in the other direction. So at table I avoid those I would prefer to sit beside and talk with people to whom I am not attracted or even find distasteful.  Nearly always I see much which I hadn´t seen and hear things I would not normally hear. I begin to recognise Christ’s presence where I would not have chosen to look.

At first sight we do not see the treasures in the other.
At first sight we do not always see the treasures in the other.

Recognise God in all people.

The task is not as much to preach as to recognise and celebrate God’s presence in every person.  If we start with the premise that some people don’t know God and that we do, we are blind.  The challenge to the evangelist is to offer a shared space of communion in which he or she can recognise and celebrate God’s loving presence in the other and in all people.  This happens especially by Receiving the other into our open hearts and open minds.

As noted in The first ¨R¨¨,  ” the really Good News for evangelists is that there is no need to preach or teach or mention God,”  We might even see that  there is a strong correlation between the decline in church attendence and the unprecedented growth in christian values and practice in the past 100 years by people of all faiths and none.   We all accept the decline of church attendence in the USA and Europe – and just Google “Is the world getting better or worse?” to see masses of evidence that as the prayer of the Iona Community affirms, “God’s goodness is planted more deeply than all that is wrong.”

Crude perhaps, but gives thumbs up to goodness.
Crude perhaps, but gives thumbs up to goodness.

Recognising and celebrating such growth is the work of evangelisation.  It is nothing more than “seeing” God’s Love present with us now, as it always has been and will be. This, after all, is the Good News.  Let us shake off the need to have others think like us and believe what we believe.  That, for me, is not evangelisation.  Instead let us recognise and celebrate, without pause, God’s loving presence in every aspect of our lives and in the lives of others.  The third “R” shows how effortless this task is.

Evangelising on the beach.
Evangelising on the beach.

further reading: from  which I recommend highly


The third “R” – click here

The first “R” – clicl here





“Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.”  Mark 4:27

I occasionally feel that some who wish to evangelise don’t trust in God enough to leave Him to get on with His own work.  Evangelists can appear to see their job as sowers of the seed, as in the parable of the sower.   Of course, it is God who is the sower: it is his Word which He scatters.  We are the recipients – the bushes, the weeds, the stones and the earth.  At best we are fertile soil.  That is why the work of evangelism is to Receive and to Recognise the Word as it rains down randomly upon us.

He ploughs the fields and scatters.
He ploughs the fields and scatters.

Relax –  it is not about sales.

God’s love is what is.  We already have it with us, inside our skins.  The Gospel does not need promotion or urgent campaigns  for recruitment.

Receiving and Recognising are about communion and praising God; not about selling what we believe to others. Receiving is an act of communion in which I am the one who is converted, over and over again.  This means that our acts of communion, thanksgiving and eucharist are also acts of inclusion.  Nothing is more scandalous in Christian Churches than when the Eucharist is weilded as a means of exclusion. “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” Mk. 10:14

"Build bridges, not walls." Pope Francis.
“Build bridges, not walls.” Pope Francis.

In schools “praise” is recognition of a person who is learning.  The Gospels exhort us to recognise Christ in all men and women, especially those who are different from us.  Relaxing is about being able to let go and allow God to do his sowing, especially in ourselves.  Our job is to be fertile soil, turned over and over, churned and mixed with the soil around us.  Let Him do the digging, the moving and the furrowing.

An ecumenical landscape.
An ecumenical landscape.

Relax, “Let it be done unto me.”

When I was in rehab, 15 years ago, I accepted that I had no control over my life and my drinking.  When I acquiesced I had no idea just how much I would be clay in the hands of the potter when I said my “Let it be”.  Many people say, “You must have a lot of will-power”.  Actually, no, I have hardly any will-power but I do feel as if I have been worked and worked and worked by a potter.

The question, I suppose, for evangelists is whether to be like clay or whether we think God’s will for us is that we become potter’s on His behalf.  I suppose it’s a bit of both but the Church seems to have lots of potters around and not a lot of putty.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves 2Cor4:7
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves 2Cor4:7

Receive, Recognise and Relax.

Often I feel that all I need to do is flop down into the sofa of God’s Love; to relax in Him and trust.  This is especially so when life seems threatening or dull, or fraught or useless. This is the very time to receive and recognise Christ in the stranger who will undoubtedly be sent to us. If we are rooted in prayer we may not need to say a word.   “…. do not worry about what to say or how to say it.  At that time you will be given what to say.” Matt. 10.19.

To sum up these mini-blogs on passive Evangelisation, I’m grateful to David Torkington for reminding me of the words attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, “preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”


The Church built on a pun.

The Church built on a pun.


Pope¡s buried in St Peter's Basilica
Popes buried in St Peter’s Basilica

There are many ways of reading a text, any text.  Matthew 16.18 is no exception. However, in the long tradition of Church Doctrine, there is only one, universal, authoritative teaching which can prevail and deliver for all mankind the true meaning of Matthew’s reporting of Jesus’ words, “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church.”  The Catholic Church holds the key.

What speaks to me, today, on the feast of Peter and Paul is not so much the pun as the anachronism that in Jesus’ day the Church had not begun and when it did, after his death, there appear to have been quite a few churches and many different ways of expressing and living out the Good News.  Indeed Matthew is the only gospel to mention “Church”, a term which grew up as the early Christians began to form assemblies.

Indeed, the account in Acts of the first Council of Jerusalem, shows just how different the views were between some groups and the issue of the circumcision of Gentiles was a hot topic, a bit like gay marriage today, I imagine.  It was Paul’s liberal view which won out against Peter, the rock.

I let my imagination go further.  One predominant theme of Matthew’s Gospel is the way in which the Jewish scriptures foretold and point to Jesus as the Saviour of the Jews.  The Gospel is almost bitter about how the Jews have missed out on the Messiah. So would the church in which Matthew’s gospel took shape not, maybe, be a bit put out over the concessions to the gentiles, still smarting from Paul’s persuasiveness?

To me this could explain the text in quite a different light – an ironic pun which attempts to re-establish apostolic authority when the reality was very different.

What was actually happening was that the Holy Spirit, present in the churches, can be seen at work guiding and leading Christians in the most surprising ways through the “apostle” Paul.  Nothing, not even Papal authority, should get in the way of our openness to the Holy Spirit, lest we be like the Jews in Jesus’ day who missed out on their Messiah.

see also


The Eye of the Needle. Jesuit school fundraising and homelessness.

The Eye of the Needle:  Jesuit school fundraising and homelessness.

My wordpress reader presented me with two posts yesterday, one after the other, which left me with some discomfort.

Gotta find a home.
Gotta find a home.

Different approaches to the poor.

I have a long-standing affiliation with the Jesuits. My own education was in a Jesuit College in Glasgow and I feel a strong attraction to Ignatian Spirituality.  This is why I read Jesuit blogs.

I wonder if my discomfort arises from the Jesuit philosophy behind the Preparatory school for which funds were being raised – to give children from poor families a superb and complete education.  There is, perhaps, a hint of elitism in it all: in the easy access to funds as much as in the selection of those young people who will benefit from the school.     However,  the programme in Brooklyn  does help individuals out of the poverty trap.

I then saw this post on the facebook page of my old school:

Just co-incidently my former College was fund-raising on the same day - for a tour to South Africa.
Just co-incidently my former College was fund-raising on the same day – for a tour to South Africa.

There is no denying a smack of elitism in the above.  Although it is a world I have long ago left behind,  I want to be loyal and understanding of the reasons why such Jesuit schools are the best way the Jesuits  can serve the poor.

Yet the contrast with the simplicity and directness of the Gotta find a home blog,  affects me.  Dennis Cardiff  writes stories in his blog about homeless people   He says,

“I can’t do much for these people except to show them love, compassion, an ear to listen, perhaps a breakfast sandwich and a coffee. I want to do more. To know them is to love them. “

I want to see both these approaches to helping the poor as inspirations and a witness to the Gospels.  Perhaps the Jesuits have elected the more difficult Way.