The church looks at evangelization as a process. The first goal of this process is to set hearts on fire with the spoken Word. Early Christians called this spoken Word the kerygma (ki-rig-muh). The Holy Spirit gives power to the kerygma or spoken Word through the teaching and preaching that inspires and conforms lives to the Gospel message. The second goal, after this conversion experience, is when the soul realizes a new power within to change and love Christ more deeply. The soul is now ready to learn and gain knowledge of the faith which is called catechesis.
Christ is made known through his teachers to others by these two actions. It is the purpose of this apostolate to bring each soul into communion with Jesus. “Proclamation, witness, teaching, sacraments, love of neighbor; all of these aspects are the means by which the Gospel is transmitted and they constitute the essential elements of evangelization itself.” (General Catechetical Directory, # 46)
The most important aspect of the apostolate of caring for the souls of others is the faith life of the spiritual director and mentor. They must:
- Seek ongoing formation
- Have a habitual prayer life
- Seek every opportunity to receive the sanctifying grace of the sacraments
- Study the faith
- Practice and grow in virtue
If one is devoted to these practices, the efforts with the graces and gifts obtained from the sacraments of baptism and confirmation will be fruitful.
Spiritual directors and mentors must remember this two-fold expectation of Christ who exemplified it perfectly:
- Teach the truth in the context of faith (meaning to accept the teachings of the Catholic Church as truth and not follow a personal course of action).
- Teach with charity.
Jesus Christ not only wants spiritual directors and mentors to teach, but to do so by his example: with patience and compassion for the pupils. As simple as this is to understand, it is very difficult to live out—impossible without the habit of prayer.
St. Frances de Sales taught that we should instruct the avoidance of sin with the firmest of measure, while treating the sinner with the gentlest. This is the way God teaches throughout the Scriptures. He is always firm in his disciplines, but he always mitigates a punishment as a good and loving Father.
Next Issue— The apostolate of caring for the souls of others, part 3