My eldest son is 17. He has been in the restaurant business since he was 14 and one-half years old, and the middle brother has joined in as well. Youngest brother walks dogs for seminarians on vacation and fills their bird feeders while they are in Spain. He, like the middle brother, sees the elder brother and likes that he’s in the ‘restaurant business’ and says it must be fun.
Each of the children is what has been termed, a ‘relational learner.’ Excellence, loyalty, details–we are all about that as parents. But we have found over the years in teaching and watching them being taught, that the Boys must feel like you are on their side in order to learn something.
Before we were aware of this, we thought the middle child would naturally get failing grades in math. Never mind that my father and my husband’s father both taught math at the college level. Instead, as parents, we had arrived at believing that the middle child perhaps just would not ‘get it.’
Then we changed our approach.
Next geometry test, the child got a 78.
He had never gotten a 78 on anything with a paper full of numbers and symbols on it.
Before the 78 arrived at our house, he had been taught a new view of obedience, a few focus had arrived in front of him. He had been taught that the Amazing Math Teacher and his mother and father were on his side.
I didn’t know this when I was 20 or even 30. It comes with age. A lot of age. We all know that we can be absolutely brilliant at 17 or 27. And a lot of people are. But what kind of wisdom are you sharing at 17 or 27? I think these young men who are my children are marvelous, and I always have, but I was 20 once and since then I’ve had four dogs, been married for nearly 20 years, have had three boys, lost my Scottish terrier, both parents have died. And as a waiter at Publican’s in Manhasset, NY once said about his own life, “All these things contribute to understanding the person in front of you, and secondly, experience is written all over you. You can’t invent stories. They just have to be part of you.”
This brings me to evangelism. When we are teaching the Gospel, whether through living and/or pursuing the Benedictine ethos of Christianity, we find that evangelism is not about cafe standards — is the customer happy? Guests’ health should never be compromised. Maintain the temperature. It may take more than 10 minutes to serve your order. We don’t invent evangelism. It is part of who we are. Evangelism begins with how we have chosen to live in relationship with the Lord.
Recently, I spoke to a parishioner who explained that indeed the church was ill and people were fleeing. But more than that, the church didn’t have anyone inside the doors from which to flee. People, he said, didn’t care about salvation and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They cared about the Packers.
So I said, how about this — we all go after two or three people this year and make a commitment to let them know about Jesus.
He said, that’s not my style. I don’t like evangelism. But that’s a good idea, why don’t you do it? The 17-year-old heard this — remember him? in the restaurant business — and was deeply disheartened. As he should have been.
Zeal is okay, maybe. But it’s not for me.
The eldest child picked up on something. The misunderstanding of the idea of zeal and the word evangelism. Maybe you and he weren’t understanding the same words, he said. Perhaps the amateur restaurateur is correct? Zeal in our culture is now equated with fanaticism. The Greeks understood zeal to be different, having to do with emulation.
Perhaps, we should consider the Venerable Bede’s take on evangelism — in chapter 15 of his History of the English Church and People, Bede stated simply thus:
So great was Edwin’s zeal for the true Faith that he persuaded King Earpwald [not a name one hears very often], son of Redwald, King of the East Angles, to abandon his superstitious idolatry and accept the Faith and Sacraments of Christ with his whole province.
Now, events and choices did not bode well for Earpwald. Apparently, he fell into life with a certain ‘wife and perverse advisers who persuaded him to apostatize from the true Faith. So his last state was worse than the first …’
The Holy Spirit is at work with and in people, we Christians plant the seeds. A zeal for the true Faith is what we share with others in their darkness. So all did not go well for Earpwald and a pagan killed him in battle. But let’s look at the broader picture with our friend Bede.
Apparently, Earpwald had a brother named Sigbert who inherited the throne after Earpwald’s death. Ruling a kingdom keeps one busy, and surely Sigbert was busy as well. Faithfully, he worked to teach the people of their everlasting joy and salvation found alone in Jesus Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the people caught on and Bede noted that Sigbert never seemed to ask anyone to do anything — including evangelism — that he didn’t want to do himself. Let us reach out to two or three, or perhaps a few hundred, in the name of God and all that is holy. Bede wrote that God sent Sigbert a friend to assist in the labors. He happened to be a bishop named Happiness. Okay, his name was Bishop Felix from Burgundy. But it’s lovely to think about a bishop named Happiness. Onward the account goes, and together Sigbert and Felix:
delivered the entire province from its age-old wickedness and infelicity, brought it to the Christian Faith and works of righteousness and — in full accord with the significance of his own name — guided it toward eternal felicity.
Relational learning. Zeal. Generational. Emulation. Seeing someone who loves something and wanting, like younger brother who cares for the bird feeders while the seminarian is in Spain, perhaps this we should consider and prayerfully blaze forth during Advent to pursue.
Rebecca Terhune, ’15