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Episode 2: Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing
11th March 2021 • Encounter Grow Witness • EGW Detroit
00:00:00 00:53:04

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Beth and Fr. Steve discuss the Church’s main mission of evangelization and how ministers can effectively make disciples, be discipled, and keep our work focused on the main thing.

Show notes:

(0:22) Beth and Fr. Steve share a bit about what their prayer lives have been like recently. Beth mentions that she’s been praying for unity on both a small and large scale, and Fr. Steve shares his prayers for trusting in God more and relying on his providence.

(2:33) Fr. Steve and Beth talk about their Lenten resolutions, with Fr. Steve resolving to not go out to eat and to simplify his life, and Beth’s family resolving to eat what they have at home, not buying extra food or groceries when there’s already food in the house.

(5:39) Beth introduces this episode’s topic and how she drew the inspiration for it from Stephen Covey’s quote, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” She and Fr. Steve consider what that “main thing” is for us and why the Church exists. They talk about the importance of pastoral care, but that the Church’s identity and key mission is evangelization.

(9:11) Fr. Steve and Beth reflect on the moniker of the “New Evangelization,” and what that means when evangelism has been part of the Church’s mission even from Jesus’ ascension. Fr. Steve discusses the need to evangelize with our lives, and how in order to have this witness with our lives, we must be authentically converted to Christ first.

(15:09) Beth reflects on what it means to be a disciple, and how we use the word often but we rarely define it. They establish a disciple as a person who has encountered Christ and chosen to surrender and follow him. The two discuss the joy that comes from following Jesus, and that this joy is perfect because we are created for it, but that it’s also different from comfort.

(20:08) Fr. Steve and Beth consider personal discipleship, how we can actually go about keeping the main thing the main thing, and that the key for this is letting our hearts continue to be evangelized. They discuss bringing this into ministry by sharing the work God is doing in our lives. They discuss the power of testimony in increasing the faith of others.

(30:14) Beth and Fr. Steve share some of the ways they’ve tried to keep this main thing the main thing that have fallen flat or been unsuccessful in the past, with Beth sharing an event she’d organized that went awry, and Fr. Steve sharing a personal evangelization attempt that didn’t go as he’d expected.

(36:29) Fr. Steve and Beth discuss practical application of “keeping the main thing the main thing.” Beth suggests that the most effective way is, of course, through prayer, and that taking time to sit with Jesus is the best way to live out the Good News in our hearts. Fr. Steve encourages intentional goal-setting and evaluating the question, “Is there someone in my life I am helping to know Jesus?” Beth also shares the importance of prioritizing relationships with people outside of the Church.

(44:46) The two take questions from the field. One listener asks what our hosts’ go-to prayers are, and Beth shares that hers are the Litany of Trust and the Litany of Humility, and Fr. Steve shares that his favorite is the Memorare. Another listener asks how we can evangelize those who are indifferent or hostile toward the faith, and Beth and Fr. Steve provide insight on what our role in evangelization truly is, and how to set ourselves up for success.

Transcripts

Fr. Steve:

Welcome back to the encounter, grow witness podcast with our rockstar, Beth Spizarny and myself, Fr. Steve Pullis. Beth, how are you?

Beth:

I'm doing well. I'm doing well. Some beautiful weather this week. Really awesome.

Fr. Steve:

The sun is shining. How cool is that?

Beth:

Oh yeah, it helps.

Fr. Steve:

Yeah. Amen. Amen. I'm excited for our topic today and for what we're going to dive into, but before we do that, let's just talk a little bit about like our own prayer lives and what's been going on. So, Beth, what have you been praying for lately?

Beth:

Yeah, I've been praying for unity. I think that just the, I think corporately as a world, as a Church, as a parish as just whatever body you can think of, I just feel like we need more unity right now. So that's just been real prayer on my heart. We're so divided and isolated and alone. So how can we be united? I just find we seem to be getting into sillier conflicts or just missed communications on a small scale, on a large scale. So just really praying for unity.

Fr. Steve:

Yeah, that's great.

Beth:

How about you?

Fr. Steve:

You know, my prayer has been a lot about wanting to trust God more deeply, to trust in his providence more in my own life. And you know, the season of Lent often brings that out for me, just kind of looking at things that I've put trust in or turn to, and inviting the Lord to be the center of that. And so it's just been a prayer of trusting Jesus more deeply. I really love reading the Lives of the Saints and seeing the beautiful way that they are images for us to follow the Lord and see how deeply they trust. And it's often a way that I feel challenged to grow more deeply in my trust in the Lord. So my prayer lately has just been, you know, Jesus, help me to trust in you with every part of my life, but especially for my apostolic work, to go out boldly and to do what I feel like the Lord is asking me to do without this kind of tiptoeing, but to not be reckless, but to be in a certain way kind of bold in what Jesus is asking me to do. So that's been it's been my prayer lately.

Beth:

Beautiful. Divine Providence applies to all particulars, but we just sometimes don't see it in all the particulars.

Fr. Steve:

Is that a quote?

Beth:

Yeah, it is a quote! I can't remember who said it, that's the killer, but yeah.

Fr. Steve:

Said by someone famous. [laughs]

Beth:

Said by someone very holy.

Fr. Steve:

Right. So we're in Lent, this wonderful season and I thought it'd be fun to talk about any particular resolutions we wanted to share. I mean, I'll go first. My — what I've tried to do this Lent is to not go out to eat. I feel like my life is so filled with rushing around that oftentimes I either stop to pick up something or I, you know, kind of go out with friends or family to go out to eat. And my thought is to simplify my life this Lent would be to not do that. So apologies to any restaurant owners who are listening, but not to do takeout, not to go to restaurants, but to just kind of be simpler with either buying groceries or I live here at Sacred Heart seminary, so, you know, it's very easy in lots of ways to have, you know, food prepared for meals. But I thought that was a way I could simplify my life during Lent and it's horrible. I hate it. Which means it's exactly what God wants me to do. [laughs]

Beth:

I have a feeling Easter season you will be supporting a lot of local restaurants, business owners. Easter season's going to be a boom for them.

Fr. Steve:

Watch out everyone. But yeah a way to simplify my life. And I really like that as being part of what I do during Lent. So I know we talked a little bit earlier, but what what's your resolution?

Beth:

Yeah. I was kind of making fun of myself 'cause for my prayer life, I have not taken on a huge, a whole lot. So I was like, I know it was kind of weak sauce. I'm only adding — for prayer I'm adding one decade of the rosary a day. And I know for all you daily rosary prayers, like please don't judge me too harshly. I love praying the rosary. I've got — I'm not going to explain it. It's just a busy season of our lives.

Fr. Steve:

No, no, give us all the excuses!

Beth:

No, no, I don't want to, I'm not going to do that. But what I will tell you is something we are doing as a family for Lent, which I'm pretty excited about. I told the kids at dinner the other night, I said, we are going to be playing the adult version of eat what you have. So I'm always telling my kids, no, you can't have more food eat what you have on your plate. Right. So as a family, we are eating what we have. We have a freezer full of stuff. And so our goal is to cut down our grocery bill. So we're kind of treating it like a game. How few groceries can we buy and still feed everyone. Everyone has food. It's just not the food you'd like to have, but it's what we have. So I'm proud to say we shaved a hundred bucks for week one off our grocery bill, which was tough. So week two might not be quite as impressive.

Fr. Steve:

That's great. Are the kids enjoying this family commitment?

Beth:

So far? Yes. Yes.

Fr. Steve:

Oh, well, that's great. That's great. Beth, why don't you talk to us about what the topic is today? You know, as we were looking at I was really happy. We talked about scripture in our first podcast, and I know I think both of us heard lots of good feedback about how much people appreciated that, especially those working in in the lay ecclesial ministry field, working in churches. And we were thinking like, what would be the next thing to talk about? And you had this great idea, so why don't you introduce it?

Beth:

Yeah. Yeah. So Stephen Covey wrote in his book the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. So it sort of sounds funny, like how do we keep the main thing the main thing a little bit. Yeah, it does a little bit, it's hard to kind of — but the idea basically is like, whatever's the main thing, whatever's the most important thing should be the main thing and the most important thing lived out in our lives. So we were kind of thinking like — I was thinking, especially if, why does the church exist? What does it mean for us as a Church to keep the main thing the main thing? How do we do that? What does that look like? So that's sort of what I was hoping we could chat about.

Fr. Steve:

Yeah. That's great. So what is the main thing?

Beth:

What is the main thing? So why does the Church exist? Why does she exist? She does a lot of amazing things, but why does she exist?

Fr. Steve:

She exists so that I can have a club or a group that I belong to. And no one takes my seat when I go to church, right?

Beth:

Yes. I think that's it. Yes. But you could even create even harder arguments, like maybe the Church exists for the pastoral care of its members. I mean, that's a beautiful, important, important, important thing, right? We wouldn't be a good Church if we weren't doing that, but is that why we exist?

Fr. Steve:

No.

Beth:

No. That's not why we exist, but most of our members would probably see it that way. Most of it — there was some survey that I was listening to the other day that had been, that basically said that pastors understood that the Church exists for the sake of those who don't belong. But those who are in our parishes by and large, see the Church as existing for their, for their own pastoral care. Which is, again, very important. But Pope Paul XI said evangelizing is in fact, the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity, she exists in order to evangelize. She exists in order to evangelize.

Fr. Steve:

So this idea that the Church is — and you phrase it in a much more charitable way than I did, but that the Church exists for her members. Right. We can have that mindset about a club or some other organization, like why do I join the YMCA, or part of the bowling league or whatever, pick your, your group you're a part of. It exists to take care of the people who are a part of it. And some of that is okay, that that's part of the Church's mission is to provide pastoral care. When John Paul II kind of delineates, the parts of the Church's mission, he talks about pastoral care, being an important part of what we do, right? When people come and are part of the Church, the Church is a mother who cares for her members, but the Church has always had this first and primary thrust to speak out to the world.

Fr. Steve:

I love when the Lord kind of goes around and preaching and people want him just to kind of stay. Like, Lord come and just be with us, be our savior, be our kind of in-house counsel to know God. And Jesus says, "To the other towns, I have to go, I have to keep preaching the word of God." And that teaches us as members of the Church, that our mission — so we'll, we'll just talk corporately or collectively, now. The Church exists to evangelize so that the word of God can be proclaimed. When Jesus speaks to his apostles before he ascends to heaven, he says, "Go out," right? "Go out to the ends of the earth and share the Gospel." And that commission, that command, that mission is given to you and to me and to the whole Church still today.

Beth:

Yeah. Yeah. I had a parishioner telling me that he thought it was a mistake that we called it the New Evangelization. Like why would we have some new idea of doing evangelism? And like, it just doesn't make sense. Like why kind of rebrand the Church or change her direction or her trajectory. And I was kind of confused. I was like, no, but, like, Jesus told us in the very beginning go and make disciples of all nations. It's not, it wasn't a new idea, but I was like — then later it was, do you want to know why they call it new? Or like whose idea that was? Yeah. He's like, yeah. I don't know whose idea was that. Like, oh, it was the Pope. John Paul II. He gave us that. He was like, "Oh, well, all right."

Fr. Steve:

So this work of evangelizing, which exists to evangelize, Church has done that from her earliest days. So we talked about the apostles going out and evangelizing people of every nation, of every background of every kind of class, whether they were rich and emperors, whether they were slaves and kind of the lowest class, the Church went out and proclaimed Jesus Christ as the savior for everyone, for God's gift to humanity, so that we could enter into relationship with God himself. And and so that is, you know, in her very DNA. I love to — just talking about the saints a minute ago, but just to hear about the missionary saints and how they went to every corner of the world to evangelize. Many went to far off lands to, you know, I'm Irish. So my ancestors were evangelized, the kind of wild and crazy Celtic people who were my descendant — or who were my ancestors, you know, shared the Gospel with people for whom it was very foreign. There was no concept of a personal loving God to the Celtic people, but they heard this call. They heard the — not just the words of evangelization, but the witness of the lives of the members of the Church. Right? They saw the continuity of how they were living in the evangelical fervor of their lives. And I think that was part of the power of the Gospel for every century. So talk about what the New Evangelization means now, why this is something new, what does that mean for us to evangelize here and now?

Beth:

s to be new because it's been:

Beth:

Than what I was going to say, yeah. So that's the New Evangelization, new and methods, new in ardor, and new also in focus, we can no longer assume that the Christian nations, if you will, are Christian nations, right? We live now in an apostolic age where the cultural, the surrounding culture is not supportive of Christianity. That's not a given, that people around you are churchgoers and know the Lord Jesus and love him and pray. And all of that is not a given. So then it's incumbent on us to then bring that word of hope, that message of truth to them. Mother Theresa said that evangelism, evangelization is just having Jesus in your heart and carrying him into the hearts of others. Very simple.

Fr. Steve:

Yeah. So when we talk about evangelization it's about — and John Paul II talks about this, and Redemptoris Missio, which we've talked about, you and I, a number of times now — he talks about, you know, the first goal of evangelization or the first action of evangelization has to be the witness of our lives. That we have to be living the Gospel in order to authentically share the Gospel with someone. That, you know, we're not kind of a coach giving advice about something we don't know or something we've read in a book. The Gospel has to be shared heart to heart, and I have to be converted to do that. And so my life has to bear witness to that, but he also goes on to say, and Paul XI wrote this in Evangelii Nuntiandi, that there can't be any real evangelization unless the name of Jesus is spoken.

Fr. Steve:

And so our efforts for evangelization, the main — keeping the main thing the main thing, like, if the Church is going to evangelize, because that's her main mission we have to be authentically converted to Christ ourselves individually. We can talk about that in a minute, what that looks like to be a disciple. But then we have to speak the name of Jesus and share the name of Jesus with people that leads to the point of making a decision, right? The point of conversion. And say the Lord wants your life, and this is what you have to do. St. Peter in his speech at Pentecost, "Repent, and be baptized." You know, it doesn't mean we have to wear a sandwich board that says repent and be baptized or repent and believe in the Gospel.

Beth:

Probably more effective ways to reach people.

Fr. Steve:

Right! But the core message is the same. And this is what the New Evangelization, new in methods, new in ardor, new in expressions, that we have to share the same Gospel, but in ways that modern men and modern women can hear it with modern ears. So what is a disciple? So what does it mean for us to be authentic witnesses of the Gospel? If we're going — if that's the first step to keeping the main thing the main thing, what does it mean for you and me to be a disciple?

Beth:

Yeah. Such a word we use all the time and never define, or kind of accept a watered down version of it. Yeah. I was at a church conference and there was a priest at my table in discussion — I didn't know him — and he said, "I'm not sure I understand what you guys are talking about. What is a disciple anyway? Isn't it just someone who, like, comes to church and, you know, generally knows about the things of Christianity?" And anyway, we had just a great conversation around the table of, like, actually defining terms, what is a disciple? So my favorite definition is a disciple is a person who has had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ and has chosen to surrender and follow. There's a choice to surrender and follow.

Fr. Steve:

And it starts with the encounter with Christ, right? That I have to meet Christ as someone who's not just an ordinary person or an historical figure, but Christ is categorically different than everyone else. And so his demand for my life has to be categorically different. That's why we use those kinds of unique word of encounter. It's not just that I've met Jesus or read about him, but I've encountered him. Because to encounter Christ means to meet the one who makes demands on my life. Maybe that's a little too negative—

Beth:

No, it's good, because there's a joy in it too, which we'll get to. We'll get to the joy.

Fr. Steve:

But the demands are rooted in knowing my identity, right. The mission and identity are together. And so Jesus shows me who I am. And then he shows me what that, what, what that calls forth from me. So it's an encounter with Christ meeting Jesus. Kind of, you know, knocking you on your butt a little bit like St. Paul's encounter. You know, ours might be a little less dramatic, but it should be no less powerful, even if it's internal. So someone who has encountered Christ and then what was the second part?

Beth:

Has chosen to surrender and follow. That deliberate choice. Jesus demands a choice. But I think a lot of us maybe haven't been as cognizant of that choice, choosing to surrender. I think a lot of our people would make, would make the choice if someone explicitly asked them, but maybe they haven't had a chance to do it before. Yeah. We've got to get better at inviting people into that.

Fr. Steve:

I love the paradox of that choosing to surrender you know? This idea — I think of the term active receptivity in my own discipleship, kind of a similar paradox of I can't just like, God doesn't force us. So it's not a surrender where he has kind of taken us over and taken our free will. But it's not something where I choose to follow Jesus on my own terms. And we see the disciples in the Gospel, you know, on their journey, mess that up so many times. Jesus predicts the Passion and Peter hops up in front of him and says, God forbid it, Lord, that this should happen to you. No. Right. And the Lord's like, what are you doing, you fool? Get Back in line. So what — so we talk about a disciple, someone who's chosen to surrender and then to follow the Lord.

Fr. Steve:

And you know, one of the things I love talking about with married couples or marriage prep and Beth you're married, so you know this well, to say yes on a wedding day or for me, on my ordination, any vocation is to say yes to, like, the unknown future. Right? In good times, and in bad, in sickness and in health, you know, when I promise to be a priest, I promise success to the Bishop and all of his successors. So it's not like, yeah, I'll say yes now and then I'll reevaluate in three years or in five years. And so the discipleship that the Lord calls us for is somewhat similar. That it's a yes to, we've no idea what Jesus is going to do with our lives. We don't know where he's going to go. So following him is following him wherever he leads us.

Beth:

Yeah. And the joy piece of it is that wherever he leads you will be better than anywhere you could have found on your own. It will be better. It would be better. I was taking my kids for a walk the other day, and it was so cold, and they didn't even care. They didn't care. They were running down, their mittens are soaking wet, and they're having the blast, right? Because to them, they're having an adventure. Is it convenient? No, but it's an adventure. Right. And they were just loving. And I was thinking like, how can we understand more that like following Christ is an adventure. That like, the joy that comes from following him is the joy that we were made for. Right? He knows the path for each one of us because he made us for that path. And whatever else we do outside of his will, it doesn't lead to that kind of joy, maybe something small and fleeting, but not the enduring joy of following him. I think we forget that joy sometimes.

Fr. Steve:

And the joy is different from comfort, right? Like the joy, I love the image you use about kind of the kids being cold and their mittens soaked but they're not worried about it. Like, the joy that comes from following Christ is a joy that gets us out of ourselves, gets us out of just thinking about how can I construct my life to be as comfortable or as a lacking resistance, as much as possible. And it opens our eyes and our world to this whole new horizon that, you know, Jesus says, "Whoever wishes to save his life must lose it." So discipleship is losing my life in Christ. And the paradox of that is when I lose it in him, I find it back in a way that is so much richer and deeper than anything I had before. So let's talk about personal discipleship. How do we keep the main thing, the main thing in our own lives? How do I keep, you know, Archbishop Vigneron's podcast, you know, the second best podcast for the Archdiocese of Detroit, Eyes on Jesus — no offense Archbishop — but like, his motto is, "Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus." And I think this is part of keeping the main thing the main thing. So how do I do that in my own discipleship?

Beth:

Yeah. Yeah. I think we have to let our own hearts be evangelized. I don't know how many times someone has started to tell me something and then said, "Oh, well, I don't need to tell you." And I'm like, Oh, stop right there. Please tell me, tell me, tell me the good news. Tell me about Jesus. Tell me again. We need to, I need to hear it again. I need to hear it every day. So I think letting our hearts be evangelized is so key to keeping the main thing the main thing. Making time to sit with the one who loves us, you know, that, that bit, we've shared a bit about this quote and Evangelii Nuntiandi, "The Church is an evangelizer, but she begins by being evangelized herself. She is the community of believers, the community of hope lived and communicated. She has a constant need of being evangelized if she wishes to retain freshness, vigor, and strength in order to proclaim the Gospel." I just love that. I think that's so challenging.

Fr. Steve:

Yeah. So, so this idea that I've said yes, I've surrendered. I followed the Lord. But man, I mess that up sometimes, right? Like it gets hazy or I get distracted and start to wander off and, or I forget why I'm following the Lord. And so I need to continually be evangelized in my own heart and not think like, Hey, check that box. I'm done. This is just for those outside the Church, you know, I'm good. I've punched my ticket already. So let's talk about evangelization in our ministry, too. How do we keep the main thing the main thing in our ministry? You talk about letting our hearts be evangelized, interiorly. I think the work we do — we have to share the way that God is working in our lives. We have to share stories of God's faithfulness with each other, right? Like we have to share wins with each other. I am so like action-oriented, plan things out, let's get it done. I can forget to celebrate the wins. And I love —

Beth:

I think that's all of us! We just move on to the next thing. It's such a problem.

Fr. Steve:

Yeah. I love having people on my team who are like, Hey Fr. Steve, we need to stop and celebrate this. Okay. That's good. That's very good for me to make sure that we stop and say like, no, we want to honor God's faithfulness and not forget that our life should be in a relationship with him and not just kind of sent out to do a bunch of tasks.

Beth:

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, people who don't have that intimate relationship with Jesus they — some, they don't know that that's possible. A lot of Catholics don't believe that that's possible. Either through like, maybe rationally they think that, or just experientially, they think that, right? So if we don't share the stories with each other about how God is providing and answering prayers and loving us and speaking to our hearts, then how can other people really discover that themselves?

Fr. Steve:

Yeah. I go back to Peter's preaching on Pentecost, you know, he's sharing what Jesus has done and he's sharing the power of the Word. And that starts to stir up in people's hearts. You know, that's the work of the Holy Spirit. And that happens when we proclaim the Gospel. It also happens when we share the way God has worked in our lives, the way God has been faithful. I know when I hear people give testimony, that increases my faith. And I think for our ministry, we have to have eyes to see where God has been working. And we have to be like self confident enough or confident in the Lord enough to share that with others and not feel like, wow, this is a little hokey, or as you said, "I don't need to share that with this group. They're already all on board." I think we need to really look for ways to share that with each other.

Beth:

Sharing those stories and celebrating. And I think maybe it's uniquely a challenge in COVID because we don't like our conversations with each other are so limited. If they take place over Zoom or if they take place over email, even worse, you know? So some of us over here have started just adding a paragraph of small talk before we get to the "and could you please?" part of the email. So like adding in like, where I'm seeing God be faithful, where I'm seeing Jesus speak and celebrating what I'm seeing God do in our ministry and sharing those little stories on these emails, how can that not be a way to evangelize ourselves?

Fr. Steve:

I know in our ministry, we've talked also about making sure our calendars reflect this priority. So.

Beth:

You mean like my personal calendar, or like our church calendar?

Fr. Steve:

I think church calendars so, you know, talk about the ministry piece of this. If the most important thing is to evangelize, how much of our calendars, our parish calendars, our church calendars are focused around work of evangelization? You know, pastoral care is good and important and we need to do it. But what is the proportion that we are laying out of pastoral care compared with the work of evangelizing, to make people who are not disciples, who haven't encountered the Lord and so actively surrendered and followed him, to give them the opportunity to encounter the Lord in power and to say yes to him. And I think that is such an important part of keeping the main thing, the main thing

Beth:

It's essential. Yeah. We — there was a similar question I think asked at the Parish Day of Renewal a couple of years ago, when we had Sr. Miriam James, and she, I don't know if it was her, was just in the questions that followed. But the question sort of was like, how much of our "busy," how of our Church life is directly related to an encounter with Christ or leads to one? How much of it? And so we were in a couple of different small groups. And so, you know, I read the question off the board and there was kind of some quiet, more quiet, and then people started talking about how they love our concerts and they love these different things. And, you know, I didn't know, really, I don't know, I mean, I'd just kind of gotten to the parish, didn't really have my own assessments. I just read the question again. And I was like, here's the question, and one of our key volunteers finally spoke up kind of in jest and said, "I just think we're too busy to think about that. When do I have time to think about that, do you know how busy we are? We're exhausted." And I just thought, well, that's a problem. How do we have those conversations then?

Fr. Steve:

Yeah, and Bath, that is such a typical response we have when we get caught up in the work of ministry and don't keep the main thing the main thing.

Beth:

And we're doing good things. It's not like we're doing crappy things as the main thing. We're doing good things, but is it the main thing?

Fr. Steve:

Yeah. And when then we, you know, I'll just speak from my own — that happens in my life a lot where I'm like, I'm too busy to do this essential work. And then I ask like, or we get the question, well, why do we need a New Evangelization, or why do we need a renewal of this? And I think this is exactly why, because I get caught up in all of this busy work or all of this work of pastoral care, which again is important and essential has to be part of what we do. But we realize that we get kind of pulled into that. And I know for me, it can happen for a couple of reasons. One, because I'm more comfortable with it because I've been used to doing it. And so it's the it's the work that I'm more comfortable with. And number two, it's easier in some ways, right? It's really hard to proclaim the Gospel at times to people who don't know it or to make that direct ask for a conversion of life. That can be hard work. And so it can get a little more comfortable instead of being out on the adventure of trying to turn non-disciples into disciples.

Beth:

Yeah. Yeah. We had an event this last December — there's like no events ever these days, so it was noteworthy. We were talking about Advent and hope and the hope we have in Christ. And I just had shared a brief reflection, like we are living in difficult times, people accept that as true. And this was back in December and I said like, people around us, how many people around us are living through the same difficulties that we have, you know, COVID and cancer and sick family members and who knows what else, job loss, right? And they're, they're living through that without the hope that we have in Jesus. That should keep us up at night. That should break our hearts. They have a right to know. And they have a right to know, and that means we owe it to them to take the look at our calendar. Take a look at our priorities and how we're living out those priorities.

Fr. Steve:

Yeah. And to enter the discomfort of not knowing how to solve that problem. Right? All these people don't know the Lord and they're suffering through the challenges we have and, praise God, we have the interpretive key of faith of God's eternal plan. How do we help people to know that? I don't know perfectly, but we've got to start to figure it out. I think it can be fun to talk about ways we've tried to do something to keep the main thing the main thing, and kind of done that done that poorly. So

Beth:

Yeah, let's do it. And this is on our agenda as "failure stories," which we're super excited to share. They're awesome, actually.

Fr. Steve:

So why don't you why don't you give us yours.

Beth:

You want me to go first? Okay. I'll totally go first. All right. So a couple of years back, I was at my last parish and we were in a college campus area, and so we decided we were going to have a Welcome Back Sunday. A lot of academics would come back to town and students would come back to town. So we're going to do a Welcome Back Sunday in the fall. So great. We're all set. I had some people lined up to do some greeting and we decided to have coffee and donuts after all the Masses with popcorn — which I realize many of you were like, what a creative idea. This was creative for us. We had no hall attached to the church. So it was just a freestanding church. So to provide this was difficult. But we're like, we can do it. No problem.

Beth:

So I was the plan for "we can do it" and I alone. And so I would go down into the parish kitchen and brew two huge coffee, urns of coffee. I put them on a wheelie cart and I had to push them across the church hall into the elevator, up the stairs, outside and down two city blocks to set them up outside the church, on a table that I also set up with the donuts that I picked up and the what else did I — the popcorn that I picked up, and then have the other people come and do the greeting. Right? So I was on my second, third, third Mass, second back-to-back Mass of doing this action. Right? Which someone on our leadership team had been really passionate about good coffee. Like, it's got to be good coffee.

Beth:

'Cause nobody wants to go to church and have, like, bad church coffee. Right? The stale coffee, it's cold, it kind of tastes like water. So he was like, you've got to make fresh coffee for every Mass. It's got to be fresh. I'm like, Oh man, you have no idea what you're asking of me, but okay. So my second Mass back-to-back, I'm carrying back these, these slooshing coffee urns on this cart, down two city blocks, down the elevator into the kitchen to brew another pot. So I'm on my second trip back and I'm trying to get the cart onto the elevator, again alone. That's the key part in this whole story: alone. I'm trying to get it on the elevator. And the wheel gets stuck in the gap and the cart tips over and this entire urn of coffee — 50 cups, 60 cups — goes spilling across the tile, into the carpets by the door. And I'm looking at my clock. I've got 10 minutes to be upstairs with coffee. 'Cause we're welcoming them back. So how is this going to work out, right? So I like was running. I had to serve stale coffee to that Mass from the last Mass, which seemed all right.

Fr. Steve:

And they never came back, right? Those people never came back. [laughs]

Beth:

Nobody. Yes. That's right. They'll never know Jesus. Oh my gosh. So, oh, and then on my way home at the end of this horribly exhausting morning — oh, I also cracked my phone that morning — then on the way home, I got a flat tire. I was like, this is not cool. Not cool. I think for me, yeah. So I'm driving home and I'm like, man, this Good News is crap. This is not good news. But I was not living it as Good News. I was not living it as good news. I was doing it all alone. But I count too, my body counts too, my heart counts. My hot, coffee-burned feet count, all of it counts. So if I am not thriving as well, then the whole of my ministry is not thriving. But we can't, I can't experience that as good news. That was a hard morning. Not a good plan.

Fr. Steve:

Yeah. That sounds like an awful morning, Beth.

Beth:

Yeah, it was a hard morning. [laughs] Yes. That's why it's in the fail category.

Fr. Steve:

Oh, well I want to talk a little bit about a personal attempt to evangelize I had. I was getting my car fixed and it was about an hour to get it fixed, and so I walked over, there was a Bob Evans restaurant — I don't even know if there are Bob Evans restaurants. Yeah. So this was back before I was a priest. I go into this Bob Evans restaurant, and I was already in seminary at the time and I sit down and I was having breakfast, it was in the morning, and there's an older gentleman alone by himself in a booth, like across the way from me. And I just feel the Lord tell me like, "Hey Steve, go talk to him." And so I thought, what? Like, that's a weird thing to do in a Bob Evans by yourself. Right? Look around.

Fr. Steve:

There's like 20 other people, 10 other people in the restaurant. So I work up all my courage. I get up to go over to him, and I walk past him and go into the bathroom. Like, come on, you can do this. You can do — I'm like hyping myself up in the bathroom. And I finally come out, I go back to my booth and I get ready, I get up. And I walk over to his table and I say, "Hey, do you mind if I join you? And the man goes, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. I'm fine. Go back to your table. I'm fine." And everyone in the whole restaurant sees this looks at me like, why is this young guy accosting this innocent, kind, old man? What is your problem?

Beth:

This sweet old man! Bad, Fr. Steve.

Fr. Steve:

I hadn't even like, as I go back to my booth, my food comes, so I can't just get up and leave. I'm sitting there for a bit, I feel like everyone in the restaurant is looking at me in my awful failure to evangelize. And I went home that night and I just felt awful. I felt embarrassed. And I remember going to pray and just, you know, going to the Lord and saying like, "God, I thought you were asking me to do this. What happened? Why did I fail?" And it was very clear. The Lord said to me, "I want you to be faithful. I don't need you to be successful in doing everything you want to do here." And I thought, man, I am such a chicken, and such a coward. Just be faithful to the Lord in what he asks. And I always want it to be my success instead of just saying, God, whatever you ask me to do, I'm willing to do. It doesn't have to turn out the way I want it to turn out. And I should get outside of looking at like my own, you know, understanding of this and make sure that I am just confident that whatever God wants me to do, I'm willing to do that.

Beth:

Yeah. And to celebrate it as a win because you did it.

Fr. Steve:

Yeah. And hopefully I'll never have to see that guy again. Hopefully he doesn't see me like, "This man accosted me in a Bob Evans." All right, Beth. Let's let's talk about some application for how we can personally keep the main thing the main thing. So how do I do that in my personal life?

Beth:

Yeah, I think some keys for doing that in our personal life are like, I mean, this is not creative, but it's just the most important thing. Prayer. We have to be not just praying a little bit. We have to be steeped in prayer. Right? Saint Paul calls us to pray constantly. What does that look like? How can we each do that in whatever season of life we find ourselves in? If it's getting up earlier, if it's coming to Adoration more often, like if we are not taking the time to let our hearts be evangelized by the one who loves us, if we're not taking time to sit with him, then we will not be living out the Good News from our own hearts. And it won't bear fruit either. Because people can see if you don't really think it's good news.

Beth:

If you're saying it is and you don't really think so, people know. So I think prayer is just so, so essential. And I think also it seems silly, but like taking time for that conversation with our coworkers in ministry to share about life and to speak of God's faithfulness. Like if we can't talk to each other, if it's weird for you to tell a coworker in a parish or another leader in ministry that you are praying and you are reading this verse and God really spoke to you in a really particular way at a particular time when you needed to hear it, if that's weird, we should probably be doing it a lot more. Because we're being called to reach out to people who don't know Christ. So if we who love Christ, can't speak to each other about loving him and walking with him, then, then it's going to be pretty hard for us to go to the guys at Bob Evans.

Beth:

We have to talk to each other first. And then I think another one is just having the courage to stop doing things just because we've always done them. And I know that's sort of a corporate thing, but I think it's also really personal because it comes to each one of us to have that courage to let go of something. I was outlining some plans to someone last night and my team was like, "So there's benefit in doing a few things well instead of a lot of things poorly," and I was like, "Yeah, that's fair. So can I cross this thing off my list?" And they're like, "Oh, please do." Thank you for the freedom to do it. So I think that's a personal thing. We have to have the courage to, just to just let some things go.

Fr. Steve:

I think prayer takes, for me, it takes faith. Because it's time I could be doing something else. And so it's wasting time with the Lord. But it's also, when I think of prayer, it requires an investment of myself because to be authentic prayer to be real prayer, I need to like really expect the Lord to say something. So I have to be listening attentively. I have to be opening up my heart. And I think that's why this is so, so crucial for if I want to keep the main thing the main thing, if I want to be, you know, kind of disposed to evangelize, because as part of the Church that's what we're called to do.

Beth:

I love that phrase.

Fr. Steve:

I have to, that has to come out of a relationship with the Lord that has vulnerability and trust and and is expecting Jesus to actually speak.

Beth:

Yeah, yeah.

Fr. Steve:

I think the way we apply this, you know, one way I try to apply keeping the main thing the main thing in my, in my work and my work of ministry is by setting goals for evangelization. I'm not saying I'm going to evangelize 500 people you know, like, a number goal—

Beth:

That is a measurable number, all right.

Fr. Steve:

But it's having accountability in our plans to evangelize. So to say, what are we going to actually do to try to share Christ with people? You know, one of the things I love to think about, and I think it's such a good phrase I heard from someone else: we're never going to do it well until we do it poorly. You know, like we're not going to know how to do it until we start trying to do it. And if I'm not accountable for doing some activity of evangelization, so some event or some attempt in in my ministry to make Jesus known to people who don't know him already, right? So the audience has to be people who are not disciples. And the goal has to be to introduce them to Christ and to bring about the question to say, you know, do you want it, do you want Jesus to come and be Lord of your life? Do you want to say yes to him? Do you want to be a disciple? And whether that is someone who's not baptized and inviting them to enter the process to be baptized, or whether that's someone who's already baptized, but has not encountered Christ and chosen to live for him. So making plans in my ministry for bringing the Gospel to people who don't know it already, people who are not discipled to get us out, getting myself out of the pastoral care mode.

Fr. Steve:

One other way I would talk about this and this is, I think really helpful is to say in my personal life: is there someone I am helping to know Jesus? Is there one person that I am discipling, right? Someone who I am their go-to person to know the Lord, that can call me, that I'm offering advice to on whether it's books or podcasts like this, or things they can can read or a group they can be a part of. Is there someone I am helping to know the Lord? In Unleash the Gospel we talk about the one sheep, right? Is there one person in my life that I am helping to know the Lord in a way that you know, is regular and ongoing, and then is there someone I can look up to as well? Right? Is there someone, whether it's my pastor, my boss in ministry, a coworker, someone who I feel is farther along the journey who is discipling me? Who I can ask my questions to, who I can be vulnerable with, who I can trust with, "Hey, I'm really struggling with this." Or "I'm having difficulty understanding this part of the faith or why this is so essential right now." Or "I feel like a failure in this area," right? Is there someone who is discipling me further along the path, and is there someone that I'm discipling?

Beth:

It just really cuts into that culture of silence, right? That like, we're not supposed to talk to each other about faith, but we are. Or like, I'm not — you're not responsible for me. Like, I have to be responsible myself. No, you are. As family in baptism, we are responsible for each other. So we do have to be discipling people and be discipled ourselves. We belong to each other.

Fr. Steve:

Yeah. And that's going to help me to do the work I'm, you know, meant to do and you know, this cultural change that we need to have coming out of this great pause of COVID and looking at what you know what the future will be.

Beth:

Yeah. Can I just add one to those ministerial goals? I just — so quick, the idea that, like, we can't do any of those things if we're not prioritizing relationships with people who are outside the Church community. Church people only spend time with Church people. I kept challenging people to invite someone to Alpha at my last parish. And finally, a woman kind of came and she kind of was like being kind, cause like, she's like, "Look, this is what everyone's saying, but like, I'm going to be kind and just say to you, like, who do you think we would invite? Because my friends are here. So they're over there. They just heard you invite us. So like, who do you think I would invite?" And I just thought, boy, we've got to — and we're just, staff workers in church, we're just as guilty of perpetuating this problem. Because we keep asking for more, from our best leaders, our best people, like how do we encourage people? Like, "Hey, maybe don't join this committee. Hey, maybe go coach your kid's soccer team."

Fr. Steve:

Yeah. Go find a pagan. Right?

Beth:

Go find someone who like, who has big questions and wants someone to walk with them. Not a big pagan. What's the matter with — where's your charity, dude?

Fr. Steve:

That's not an uncharitable phrase! [laughs].

Beth:

Are you sure? I'm not sure. Ron's on my side, our produce'rs on my side, I'm sure. If he's going to say something, he'll be with me.

Fr. Steve:

Go find someone who doesn't know the Lord. [laughs]

Beth:

Maybe it was the tone. I think it was your tone.

Fr. Steve:

Okay. Thank you for the tone — please, go find a pagan, who you can share the Gospel with.

Beth:

Thank you much nicer.

Fr. Steve:

Okay. I know we're running a bit long, but let's — a couple of people have asked questions and we promised we'd do questions at the end. So let's just do I know you got one Beth, and I got one as well. So I'll ask mine first, 'cause I think it's a simple, easy one. "What is your go-to prayer?" What's what's the prayer you like to go to that you find easiest to you know, you find yourself drifting towards in prayer?

Beth:

Yeah. Is this a one single answer? I'll give a one single answer if I must. Okay. I would say—

Fr. Steve:

Yeah! I don't want my tone to be wrong here. So—

Beth:

Oh, stop it! [laughs].

Beth:

Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate the freedom. Okay. So I appreciate the Litany of Trust. I find it just to be such a beautiful, freeing prayer. There's so many just huge bits of wisdom in that prayer that are great reminders for me throughout the day. I also conversely like the Litany of Humility, which someone gave to me years ago and I felt like when I received it initially I did not receive it as Good News. I thought this is a dreadful prayer. "From the desire of being loved, deliver me, Jesus." Like what a horrible, like sad thing, you know? But now I see so much freedom in it. The freedom to just be as little as God actually made me to be and trust that like that's enough. I love that prayer, the Litany of Humility. So those are sort of my two.

Fr. Steve:

I love the Litany of Humility. That's a really great prayer. My go-to is the Memorare. I just, I love that prayer. I love asking Our Lady her help. And I love, in fact, a little secret here, Ron hates — I wear my chain my Consecration to Our Lady chain and I'm always getting flack from Ron 'cause it hits the table when I gesticulate wildly with my arms. So I'm always hearing from Ron about the background noise from my Consecration chain to Our Lady. But I love the Memorare. I think it's such a beautiful prayer of confidence in her intercession. "Never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection implored, they help or sought thy intercession was left unaided." And I thought that was — I just love that phrase and it it's very confidence-inducing to me. Yeah. So you got a question as well.

Beth:

Yeah. How can we evangelize those who are indifferent or hostile towards the faith?

Fr. Steve:

Okay. I won't use any inappropriate language to define who those people are. [laughs]

Beth:

Stop it. [laughs].

Fr. Steve:

You know, Our Lord in his evangelization, his sharing the Gospel ran into people who didn't want to receive the faith. So the first thing to remember is, like, there's nothing we're going to do that is going to be ultimately decisive if someone doesn't want to hear the Gospel, right? Our job is to propose the Good News of the Gospel, to know that grace is working, the Holy Spirit is on our side. But ultimately it has to be received freely. That if there were people who Jesus couldn't convince to accept the Good News, like, we should just make sure that we're not kind of either setting ourselves up for failure with the wrong kind of expectation, or we're thinking this is a merely human persuasion. That it's the conviction of the Holy Spirit that works. I think the first thing we do, I love your advice to build relationships with people who are not not in the Church. So we have to do that. And I think we have to witness by our lives. You know, it can sound like a cop out because eventually we do have to speak the name of Jesus, Paul XI said, but we do have to start with the witness of our lives and to build relationships with people to work through those thresholds that Sherry Woodells talks about so that we can have a hearing to share the Gospel. What advice would you give?

Beth:

Yeah, no, I think that's so good. I, this bit from Redemptoris Missio that, "In proclaiming Christ to non-Christians the missionary is convinced that through the working of the Spirit, there already exists in peoples an expectation of knowing the truth about God and man." So just this idea that like, when we, even when we encounter people who are hostile, we have to remember that even though they're demonstrating a hostility, in their hearts they desire to know the truth. They desire to encounter Christ himself. They long for it because we were made by him. So I think it's just helpful for me to remember that when I encounter it to remember that and also to think about, there must be some hurt here. There must be some hurt, either a personal wound or something that they've experienced that makes, that's brought on that hostility. So I think also keeping that in mind enables me to just maintain kindness and charity. Yeah.

Fr. Steve:

And oftentimes that hurt kind of manifests itself in attacks against the faith or personal attacks, right? And so that charity is so important to remember so that we don't lash out in kind, but we receive as the Lord received.

Beth:

Yeah. I think the best evangelistic tool we've got these days are questions. Just asking questions. If someone was indifferent or hostile, I would just start asking them questions, not even leading questions, but like I'm not, I'm not asking questions so that I can then speak. I just mean asking questions. Just to listen, just to understand where they're at, because if you really listen to people, then you understand.

Fr. Steve:

Yeah. And it shows you care about them. Right? Like you're not just asking a question to wait until you get to talk, but it shows, like, you actually are taking this person's thoughts and feelings and worldview seriously. Yeah. Okay, the last question I want to ask you, Beth: March is National Foreign Language Month. If you could have any language downloaded into your brain, no effort, no work, just boom: you can speak it and understand it. What language would you want?

Beth:

I would go with Chinese. It's very hard to learn. And there are a lot of great Chinese people in our world. So I would like to learn Chinese. And then walk all through China and just surprise people with my excellent pronunciation.

Fr. Steve:

Oh, that's great. Yeah, I like the fact that you went with one that's hard to learn because you can learn other ones. But the fact that I might not actually do the work to learn these other languages, my weak-sauce answer would be Spanish. I love Spanish. I know a little bit, I think it is incredibly important for our culture, our world right now, at least in the United States. And I know just a little bit, and I'd love to be able to speak it fluently. I didn't think about not having an accent, that I could do it like, like with perfect pronunciation. I liked that that's part of this this download is perfect pronunciation.

Beth:

Well, if it's not, it's not a very useful trick.

Fr. Steve:

Well you can have a little bit of —.

Beth:

I can speak French, but they're going to make fun of me. So I'd rather not

Fr. Steve:

Well, tres bien. [laughs]

Speaker 3:

Yeah. Lovely. Very impressive. [laughs]

Fr. Steve:

No hint of an accent there. Right? Well, this was great. So our reminder is to keep the main thing the main thing. Make sure we are praying and being related in relationship with the Lord, taking time to talk about the Lord with each other, that there's someone discipling you, someone you can look to, and that you — no matter who you are listening — if you are a disciple of Jesus, if you've said yes to him, you should have someone in your life who can turn to you. And so one way to do that is by making sure we are reaching out to people who are not already fully into the fold and having people who need to know the Lord more fully in our lives. So keep the main thing the main thing, especially in March.

Beth:

That's right. Be sure to like, and subscribe to this great monthly podcast on Spotify, Apple, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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