Editor’s note: Today we welcome Jean Heimann to our New Evangelizers blogging team.
“Prayer is the gate through which all the graces of God come to us.” ~ St. Teresa of Avila
To be an effective evangelizer, one must be a person of prayer. A person of prayer is not someone who spends all their time on their knees, but someone who is actively engaged in conversation with the Lord throughout the day. A person of prayer has a close relationship with God because they not only converse with Him on a personal level, but they also listen to what He has to say and respond accordingly. It is the Holy Spirit who guides their prayer life and encourages them to persist in prayer.
In evangelization, intercessory prayer is essential for both the person who is being ministered to, as well as the minister. Intercessory prayer softens harden hearts and prepares the soil for the seed to be planted. Prayer for the evangelizer enables that person to follow the promptings of the Spirit and to be strengthened for the task ahead.
When I first began the work of evangelization in the early 1990s, I spent at least one hour in prayer daily, which included 15 minutes of prayer in the morning and fifteen minutes of prayer at night, and daily Mass, which was another thirty minutes. I continue this today, although I have added Eucharistic Adoration to my prayer schedule.
Throughout the day, I pray short prayers to directly to Jesus or ask for the intercession of the Blessed Mother and the saints. For example, “Jesus, Mary, Joseph, I love you. Save souls.” Sometimes just using short and simple words that come from the heart are best, personalizing your prayers for the individuals for whom you are ministering. For example, “Jesus, please open up ___’s heart and help __ be receptive to returning to You. Draw__close to Your Sacred Heart.” While waiting in line for Confession or for an appointment, I pull out my finger rosary and silently pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy or a decade or two of the rosary.
While attending Mass, I pray for those who have fallen away from the Church or those most in need of conversion. Most often I pray for them right after receiving Holy Communion, but I know of others who pray for them during the Consecration of the Mass, lifting up their souls as the Body and Blood of Christ are elevated.
With the advent of the New Evangelization, as Catholics, we are blessed to have so many ways to pray. We can pray the Divine Office, the rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and novenas online. We are also able to join currently existing groups in our parish or to establish new prayer groups to pray for evangelization. In my parish, there is a Marian Mantle group that meets after Mass once a week, specifically to pray for those who have left the Church. They pray the rosary and a Litany, as well as other intercessory prayers.
While evangelizing, I have relied on a number of prayer intercessors to help me in my work. Prayer groups and youth groups in my parish and diocese, as well as online prayer groups have been my support. My strongest support, however, has been from my spouse. The prayers between a husband and wife are powerful due to the sacramental bond they share, which unites them as one in body and spirit.
During the New Evangelization, we need to turn to those saints who offer us inspiration and whom we can imitate in our lives. That cloud of witnesses who once lived on this earth and experienced the same challenges that we face in evangelizing others are now in their Heavenly abode and serve as powerful intercessors for the Faith.
Some of the saints I have asked to help me in the work of evangelization include: St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Francis de Sales, and St. Catherine of Sienna.
As the patroness of missions and advocate of the Little Way, St. Therese knows what it is to pray and offer up the ordinary, everyday trials of life to God in exchange for the salvation of souls. Her gospel-inspired spiritual doctrine of the Little Way encourages us to set time aside to practice contemplative prayer.
St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers and teachers, helps us to spread the message of the written word to ignite lukewarm souls. His simple, clear explanations of Catholic doctrine brought many back to the Roman Catholic Church.
St. Catherine of Siena, a Dominican tertiary, understood that the mission field is frequently found in our own neighborhood. She cared for those whom others avoided – plague-ridden hospital patients and prisoners about to be executed. Her actions spoke volumes to those around her. Because she first loved and cared for others, they listened to what she had to say. She served as spiritual director to clergy, to royalty, and to many who were only lukewarm in their Faith.
While each of us has different responsibilities and assume different roles in this New Evangelization, we can all benefit from the graces that prayer offers us. It is a spiritual boost which knocks us off our easy chairs and motivates us in our mission. It is also a powerful and effective method of drawing souls to the Lord.
Copyright © 2013, Jean Heimann