Don’t Agonize! Just Evangelize!

When I was in 10th Grade my hair was long, down on my shoulders, I listened to hard rock, doubted that God existed, and had devilish “blacklight posters” on my wall that frightened my mother. Today I am a priest.

I have no doubt that I emerged from my agnostic, hippie, rebellious stage as the result of prayer. I know my mother prayed for me. I know my Grandmother prayed for me. They are in the 1963 photo at the right in the front row. My mother lived to see my ordination and enjoy the fruits of her prayer. My grandmother lived to see it to but I don’t know how much she understood by then, her dementia was advancing. I remember standing before her shortly after my ordination and she turned to my mother and said, “Nancy, why is Charlie wearing those black clothes?” She did not seem to understand that the fruit of her prayer was standing before her. But that’s OK,   she does now. Both she and my mother have long since died and I have often reminded God of their prayers for me and requested their happy repose.

Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”  “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them. (Rev 14:13)

You and I have folks that we’re praying for. and it’s easy to despair at time that our prayers are making any difference. But don’t give up. It is my privilege as a priest to receive people at my door who have been away from God for years who are now requesting confession and a return to the Church. Many have been away for decades. But someone prayed for them, witnessed to them, called to them  and didn’t give up. Maybe it took 30 years or more. But now they’re back. Often the person who most prayed for them and desired their return has already died. They had sowed the seeds and I as a priest am reaping the harvest. At moments like these I recall the words of Jesus:

Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’? I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest. The reaper is already receiving his payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work.”  (John 4:34-38)

Sometimes we sow, sometimes we reap. Sometimes too we have to pull weeds, water and feed. The work of evangelizing and shepherding souls is seldom simple or brief. But don’t give up, don’t be discouraged. You just never know how folks will turn out. Pray, work, witness, and trust. Don’t agonize, evangelize!

The following video is not about religious conversion per se but it depicts “losers” who became winners. It shows those who were rejected, who became great leaders. You just never know.


7 Replies to “Don’t Agonize! Just Evangelize!”

  1. I have trouble visualizing you with shoulder-length hair. I think you should post a picture. 😉

  2. I wouldn’t dare post such photos. Thankfully the really long hair lasted only about year and photos are few. The 70s were a very embarrassing time for most of us. I have tried to embargo most photos from that time 🙂

  3. This really touched me. Thank you. I was away for 41 years. Right now I’m praying ceaselessly for several relatives and friends to find their way Home, and to find the peace that I have found.

  4. I’m really grateful for your post, Father.

    My grandmother was an amazing women whose presence I still feel at work in my life. When I was younger, something happened with one of my friends- I can’t remember what exactly it was, but I had been hurt. My grandmother told me she’d pray for the person who hurt me. I remember responding, “Why would you pray for them when I’M the one who was hurt?!” My grandmother explained that when another did something that was unjust, mean or hurtful, though I might be the one dealing with the consequences, the was whose heart had been hardened enough to do the offense in the first place was most definitely in need of prayer.

    Speaking of prayer…
    I go to a weekly women’s AA meeting, and it’s an incredible group. There is one women who comes, then disappears for a few weeks, the comes back, and so on. When she does share, she talks about the problem she has relating to the program and her confusion as to why she keeps wanting to come back. She has issues with the spiritual aspect of recovery and we talk a lot there about a Higher Power (most properly call Him God) and prayer. She says she never grew up with religion, doesn’t think she believes in God and can’t pray.

    I’m always grateful for opportunities to meet people like this! I suggested that, perhaps she had a problem understanding God’s work because she had never been properly introduced. I said, “*****, meet God. He’s at work in this room right now. He works through each of these people, and I think, maybe, what you’re struggling with is His presence in your life.”

    I believe that you can’t run from God. You can try, but he’s always with you and when you actually experience His presence when you don’t expect to, it can be overwhelming- and, for some, confusing. I was glad I read this post before I went to that meeting because it reminded me….. I told her that if she didn’t think she could pray, I’d pray for her- because prayer works that way too!! She took my number an email address after the meeting, so who knows, but I will be praying for her regardless if she contacts me.

  5. I agree with Cynthia – let’s see those photos! We’re doubting Thomases and want to see for ourselves.

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