By Fr. Bjorn, OES
"Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words." -St. Francis of Assisi
This quote from the first of a long line of Franciscan saints is one of my favorites. It provokes a call to action over talk, making tangible effort the engine of evangelism instead of merely badgering another with carefully crafted arguments and assertions.
One of our novices, Br. Francis just wrote an essay on this very subject. He writes:
"Being a monk has made me definitely more likely to interact with lots of people I wouldn't have before. If I see another monk on the streets or something I'm probably going to say hello and have a chat, it also has made me more inclined to interact with those less fortunate then me, which I have received some criticism for.
The other day there was this elderly gentleman playing harmonica with a little bucket out and I was having a rough morning and it really cheered me up, so I put some money in his bucket. He put his harmonica down and said thank you and told me about his life and how he recently lost his wife and how his life has taken a turn for the worse in recent months. He asked me to include him in my prayers. The fact that I can make a difference in someone's day just by chatting with them makes it worth the criticism I get.
Evangelism is something I think is very good, but it has been greatly mistaken by many people as a way to push their faith into somebody else's face. I evangelize every single day by trying to make a difference to people, not by showing them my religion, just by showing them peace and love not attached to any scripture or church, simple peace and love human to human, this is more powerful than any pamphlet."
As an interfaith community, we have members of widely varied religious paths. Our Rule of life attempts to make our communal monastic practices appropriate for everyone, the most central of which is that everyone must have at least one active ministry, such as work with the sick, poor, or imprisoned, or work for other charitable organizations.
We believe that it is only through our actions that we are evangelists. Showing the peace and joy that our monastic way brings to each of us is our primary way of proving that people of different faith can and should work together for peace. Of course we also engage in dialogue, however it is not enough to simply talk about why we do what we do.
And so, dear friends, the next time you are caught in a conversation about religion, consider how well you evangelize through your actions and not your words. Let this marker guide you in the future and you just might surprise yourself with some change and growth of the heart.
Reflections from the monks and nuns of OES.