Evangelization: If We Just Keep Them, We'll Lose Them

A few years ago, I was asked to write an article about how young people going to college could “keep their faith.” The topic gnawed at me but I could not immediately figure out why. Eventually I realized that it was the inherently negative framing of the idea that was the problem. It was as if “faith” was under siege and the battle was to persevere against hostile forces. In that game of stamina, the odds are stacked against you. It is like holding water in cupped hands and trying desperately not to let any spill out. You fear losing what you already have—or, as is more likely, it is the parents and grandparents and ministers who fear losing the young person they presume to “have” in the faith. They want to “keep” them.

When the goal for evangelization is “getting” and “keeping” people, then we are aiming for too little. This is a bad habit for those of us in the Church, one we need to break. In this short series, I already wrote about the need to break two other habits: first, the habit of offloading the responsibility for parish life, and second, the habit of outsourcing ongoing catechesis. To address this third habit, I train our eyes not on a negative image but a positive one, which presents not a defensive position but a proactive one. It is the icon of what I have come to describe as “evangelization extended.”

The Salvation of Arezzo

The icon of evangelization extended is an episode—one of my favorite stories in the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Bonaventure recounts the episode in his Leganda maior:

It happened once that [Francis] came to Arezzo at a time when the whole city was shaken by civil war and was on the brink of destruction. Given hospitality in the outskirts, he saw over the city devils rejoicing and inflaming the troubled citizens to mutual slaughter. In order to put to flight those seditious spiritual powers, he sent Brother Silvester, a man of dove-like simplicity, before him like a herald, saying, “Go before the gates of the city and on the part of Almighty God command the devils to leave immediately!” This truly obedient man hastened to carry out his father’s order and singing psalms of praise before the face of the Lord (Ps 94:2), he began to shout out forcefully before the gates of the city: “On the part of Almighty God and at the command of his servant Francis, depart far from here, all you devils.” At once the city returned to peace and all the citizens reformed their civil statutes very peacefully. Once the raging pride of the devils, which had surrounded the city like a siege, had been driven out, the wisdom of a poor man, namely the humility of Frances, entered in, brought back peace and saved the city.[1]

This image of peace and reconciliation is striking, but I am especially struck by the fact that Francis himself did not do this work. Silvester did. Francis sent the man he had formed to the gates of sedition, war, and destruction, and standing at those gates Silvester drove out the evil spirits. Silvester was the chosen instrument of peace on that day, having been strengthened through Francis, who had himself been fashioned into an obedient instrument of the Gospel.

To picture Silvester standing before Arezzo is to see one side of the story. The other side requires seeing where the power that came through Silvester was generated. In the fresco of the exorcism of Arezzo in the Basilica in Assisi (see: this essay’s featured image), Giotto alludes to the complete story. The viewer’s right side of the fresco is filled with the city of Arezzo, demons circling above, with a merchant in one of the city’s gates and a peasant in the other. To the left of center stands Silvester, one arm outstretched, eyes fixed on the evil spirits, lips parted for his commands. In the far bottom corner of the fresco—to the viewer’s left—Francis knees in prayer, behind Silvester. The power in Silvester rises from the depths of Francis’s prayer, but those depths are not themselves visible in this scene. Those depths are the other side of the story, and to glimpse them we must move to another episode in the Life of Francis—one which we might not otherwise see as powering the spectacular exorcism at Arezzo.

Bonaventure takes us to those unseen depths to show us what we do not see at Arezzo:

[Francis] had learned in prayer that the presence of the Holy Spirit for which he longed was granted more intimately to those who invoke him, the more the Holy Spirit found them withdrawn from the noise of worldly affairs. Therefore seeking out lonely places, he used to go to deserted areas and abandoned churches to pray at night. There he often endured horrible struggles with devils who fought with him physically, trying to distract him from his commitment to prayer. But armed with heavenly weapons, the more vehemently he was attacked by the enemy, the more courageous he became in practicing virtue and the more fervent in prayer, saying confidently to Christ: “Under the shadow of your wings, protect me from the face of the wicked who have attacked me” (Ps 16:8–9).[2]

This is the other side of the story. The battle with the evil spirits at Arezzo was first Francis’s battle with his own devils. The outward work of Silvester began with the inward work of Francis. Francis knew the evil spirits above the town because he conquered them in his prayer. In the regularity and intensity of his prayer, he relied on Christ’s dominion, and when he sent forth Silvester to do the work of reconciliation, he sent forth a man whom he had formed in that very power. Silvester was formed in Francis’s culture of prayer.

We must do better in evangelization than ask questions like “How do we get people to accept the faith?” and “How do you keep the faith?” That is aiming for too little and we need to aim for more. We need Silvesters: the evangelized evangelizers; the healers; the bold and courageous ones. And so we need to ask, “What does it take to form young people like Silvester?”

Silvester is an image of the beginning of true Christian maturity, and if we ask how we form young people to be like him, then we begin to reimagine what the full breadth of the Church’s evangelizing mission is. The complete story of the exorcism of Arezzo requires reading from beyond the left border of the fresco all the way through to the right edge. Well to the left—off scene but signified in Francis kneeling behind Silvester—is the interior renewal in the life of prayer. From the center to the right—where Silvester acts upon and for the town of Arezzo—is the evangelical courage of a young man who stands firm in the power of Christ to heal the wounds and drive out the evil of the world. That movement from the hiddenness of interior renewal to the splendor of evangelical courage is what I call “evangelization extended”—it is the power of the Gospel extended through the work and witness of those formed for Christian maturity.

Interior Renewal: We Have to Start Where We Are

Francis’s early life was lived within the “noise of worldly affairs”—as was Silvester’s (we might reasonably assume). They had to “withdraw” from that noise to “seek out lonely places” where the Spirit would be “granted more intimately.” Submerged in the noise of worldly affairs is where most of us find ourselves today, but it is perhaps especially where our young people reside. That environment is not at all conducive to interior renewal.

Over the past year I have amassed a proverbial mountain of anecdotal evidence about just how familiar the noise of worldly affairs has become to young people and how unfamiliar silence is by contrast. I have been teaching a new course at the undergraduate level called “Discernment: Theology and Practice,” and one of the more practical assignments the students undertake is to spend two hours in recollected silence. They can divvy that period up into no shorter than 30-minute blocks. They must then write a short reflection about their experience of silence. Having taught this course now three times in 11 months, I have gathered reflections from nearly 200 college students. What they write is so eerily similar to each other that I could pull a representative example out of any piece at random. Here are three such examples (shared with the permission of each student):

One student wrote:

I was struggling and focusing on how much I did not appreciate being silent or not necessarily doing anything stimulating. I was just there. I was stuck. … However, as time went on, and I did the third increment, I realized that this silence was needed . . . It is like I finally looked at, faced, and tried to solve problems I have been running away from for so long.

Another wrote: “I realized that generally I have two modes during the day: working efficiently and being distracted or mindlessly looking at my phone or computer.”

And a third wrote:

Being completely disconnected made me feel sort of like a kid again—because even though I grew up in the digital age, I remember a time where I wasn’t so distracted with notifications and technology. I thought about how when I was a kid, being present wasn’t a skill I had to work on or develop, but something that came naturally. Today, being present is really challenging.

Between this assignment and a complementary one where students analyze some of their periods of study, several clear general trends emerged. One is that virtually everyone wanted to stay focused and present, but could not. A second is that no one is pleased with what they recognize as their limited capacity attentiveness. A third is that—by my unscientific methods of tabulation—students reported an average of 15–20 distractions per hour. And a fourth is that preparing an intentional environment where distractions (and sources of distraction) were removed was the most common difference between better and worse periods of quality attention.

All of this makes clear that silence is totally abnormal for the young adults whom I teach and mentor. That leads me to ask, “So what is normal for them?” And when I say “them” I suspect that it is the same for most of “us”.

Diagnosing What’s Considered “Normal”

What has become normal is “the noise of worldly affairs.” This is an environment filled with distractions, stimuli, tasks, notifications, snippets, and the like. In a book he wrote not about the digital age but the televisual age Neil Postman provides a superb description of what it is like to be in such an environment. For him, it comes down to two words: “Now . . . this”:

“Now . . . this” is commonly used on radio and television newscasts to indicate that what one has just heard or seen has no relevance to what one is about to hear or see, or possibly to anything one is ever likely to hear or see. The phrase is a means of acknowledging the fact that the world as mapped by the speeded up electronic media has no order or meaning and is not to be taken seriously. There is no murder so brutal, no earthquake so devastating, no political blunder so costly—for that matter, no ball score so tantalizing or weather report so threatening—that it cannot be erased from our minds by a newscaster saying, “Now . . . this.” The newscaster means that you have thought long enough on the previous matter (approximately forty-five seconds), that you must not be morbidly preoccupied with it (let us say, for ninety seconds), and that you must now give your attention to another fragment or a commercial.[3]

What once had to be explicitly stated is now just generally assumed: one thing after another in an unending stream is coming our way, and that is completely “normal.” What my students revealed is just how much they have been formed by the “noise of worldly affairs.” It is so familiar that breaking from it feels like an unprecedented crisis, and the urge is to run right back to it.

The effects of this kind of environment are not benign. Those who abide in such environments become incapable of silence and solitude, attention and focus, contemplation and prayer. We become anxious, scattered, irritable, and overreactive. Three pieces of commentary on the effects of dwelling in this oversaturated environment summarize the tale:

First, the constant stream of stimuli dis-integrates our minds. In her book about the science and wonder of reading upon the mind, Maryann Wolf shares that,

As early as 1998, Linda Stone, then . . . at Microsoft, coined the term continuous partial attention to capture the way children attend to their digital devices and then to their environments. Since that time, these devices have multiplied in number and ubiquity, including for the very young.[4]

All the momentum, in other words, is toward not investing concentrated attention in one thing or one person or one place at any given time, but rather toward parceling out one’s attention among multiple things simultaneously.

Second, what becomes most prized in such an environment that demands the splintering of attention is the ability to multitask. Excellence is often equated with the number of things that a person can manage or attend to at once, which we often hear in the “humble-brags” of those of us who are oh-so-busy. But as Daniel Levitin reports, “multi-tasking creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation.”[5] It feels good to fracture your attention. You want to do it more and more, and soon you are dissatisfied with just how limited your ability to spread out your attention is.

Third and finally, the consequences of breaking apart attention and becoming more “skilled” at multitasking are disastrous for personal agency and civic engagement alike. In an NPR interview in 2010, the late Stanford Professor of Communications, Clifford Nass, who studied media behaviors in the digital age, delivered the verdict:

We have scales that allow us to divide up people into people who multitask all the time and people who rarely do, and the differences are remarkable. People who multitask all the time can’t filter out irrelevancy. They can’t manage a working memory. They’re chronically distracted. They initiate much larger parts of their brain that are irrelevant to the task at hand . . . they’re pretty much mental wrecks.[6]

The default mode of formation in the modern world leads to people who are often agitated and rarely discerning. They are incapable of prioritizing, ranking things according to relative importance, and diagnosing what is really going on in a given situation. They react rather than ponder. The interior life is nothing but an echo chamber of the loudest voices.

Francis knew the danger of remaining within the “noise of worldly affairs.” It would shape him and make him into something other than what he wanted to be. He learned, gradually, that to grow in wisdom he had to both detach from the noise outside and confront the noise within. And so he sought out “lonely places… deserted areas and abandoned churches.” He sought out a change of conditions, not unlike Benedict of Nursia centuries before him, or Christ himself who left the crowds for the lonely places (see, e.g., Luke 5:16). Francis taught his follower Silvester to seek these places himself, where he would be formed not by the loudest voices that echo in the cities, but by the steady and intimate voice of the Spirit who makes all things new.

What, then, is the first pastoral priority for fostering the interior renewal necessary to the mission of evangelization? It is to create spaces for a different “normal.” The temptation is always for the Church and her ministers to engage in the same kind of frenetic activity that every other source of influence perpetuates, but that only fosters greater dis-integration.

A master educator like the art historian Jennifer Roberts at Harvard University recognizes this need for new environments for both the deeper kind of education she hopes to facilitate and the personal wellbeing of her students. She thinks seriously not just about the content of our courses, but indeed the conditions and environments in which she educates. Whether in a traditional classroom or an art gallery, she wants to help shape a different kind of normal:

I want to . . . [create] opportunities for students to engage in deceleration, patience, and immersive attention. I would argue that these are the kind of practices that now most need to be actively engineered by faculty, because they simply are no longer available “in nature”, as it were. Every external pressure, social and technological, is pushing students in the other direction, toward immediacy, rapidity, and spontaneity . . . I want to give them the permission and the structures to slow down.[7]

The default is noise and the common behaviors are shaped by noise, so in order to lead to new behaviors, capacities, and desires, Roberts emphasizes the importance of changing the environment by creating small cultures of attentiveness. In his own way, Thomas Merton touches on the exact same priority:

Though it is true that we must know how to bear with noise to have interior life by exception here and there in midst of confusion . . . yet to resign oneself to a situation in which a community is constantly overwhelmed with activity, noise of machines, etc., is an abuse. What to do? Those who love God should attempt to preserve or create an atmosphere in which He can be found. Christians should have quiet homes . . . Provide people with places where they can go to be quiet—relax minds and hearts in the presence of God—chapels in the country, or in town also.[8]

The work of interior renewal begins “where we are” precisely by changing where and how we spend most of our time (and those we form and educate spend most of their time). Interior renewal demands rebuilding the capacity for attention, and that demands creating environments where attentiveness is more likely. The only way to form people capable of healing a town of Arezzo is to create spaces for them to be formed well outside of a town like that.

Silence Alone Isn’t Enough: Renewed by Whom?

Creating conditions for silence and rebuilding the capacity for attentiveness is hardly even the beginning of evangelization. Yet without doing this, the fruits of evangelization will, at best, be ephemeral and fleeting. If we want to call the work of recovering familiarity with silence “pre-evangelization,” that is quite fine, but we should also remember that when Jesus preached on receiving the Word of God, it was the condition of the soil that made all the difference.

Francis had already begun seeking out lonely places and spending more time away from the crowds when he heard that Gospel verse that changed his life. He had been prepared to recognize his heart’s desire in the words of Jesus: “‘This,’ he said within himself, ‘is what I above all things desire. That is what my whole heart craves.’”[9] He said within himself. The silence in which he immersed himself opened up the silence within.

St. Teresa of Avila discovered the same mystery. She counseled her sisters to detach from the busyness of the world and all the many distractions in order to slowly, steadily, painfully make progress within the interior castle of the soul. But the point was not to be alone with yourself. The point was to be alone with the one whose presence gives rise to the entire soul—he who alone dwells in the innermost chamber: the seventh dwelling place. What began for her with the prayer of recollection—creating quiet outside so as to learn how to be silent inside—became, in the end, the fullness of contemplation. Contemplation meant dwelling with.[10]

For both Francis and Teresa, detachment from the “noise of worldly affairs” was for the sake of seeking an encounter with the Lord. The repeated question from St. John’s Gospel echoed in the silence: “Whom do you seek?” (1:38; 18:4; 20:15).[11] And in order to seek him, Francis prioritized listening to and studying the Gospel, while Teresa stressed the importance of knowing something about the one with whom you seek to dwell.

To prepare especially young people to seek the Lord, we must acquaint them with his ways (which are not our ways). We get in the habit of deploying a thousand banalities to avoid confronting who and how the Lord is. Most of the time, we do not even know we are doing it, and least of all do young people know it. They recycle the soundbites others have said about God, in the absence of being guided or even pushed to tend to him as he is.

I recently enjoyed an experience of working with pious and passionate young missionaries who loved the Lord, but did not understand him as well as they had hoped. They wanted to learn how to pray better and to know what it really means to pray. So we did what the first disciples did: we asked Christ to teach us. But in doing so, our education at his hands would be more studious and more involved than they had anticipated. It begins with seeking Christ, not seeking his lesson alone. The Catechism offers this instruction:

To seek to understand [Christ’s] prayer through what his witnesses proclaim to us in the Gospel is to approach the holy Lord Jesus as Moses approached the burning bush: first to contemplate him in prayer, then to hear how he teaches us to pray, in order to know how he hears our prayer (§2598).[12]

For the sake of evangelization, the conditions of silence and the capacity for attentiveness are ordered to dwelling with the Lord Jesus. But to dwell with him, we must know him, and to know him we must learn about him, and to learn about him we must read and study Scripture which presents him to us as the Living Word. We see who he is as the one who prays, then we listen to what he teaches, and then we live into the confidence of ones to whom he himself is attentive. This was the course of study for the missionaries who sought to know him better in order to love him more.

The work of this study yields the fruit of being able to see and hear through the Gospel. It is about recognizing the signs of the Lord’s presence, distinguishing between good and evil spirits, and diagnosing ills and perceiving the heart of the matter. It is about prioritization, filtering out irrelevancy, and treating the urgent things as truly urgent.

When Francis looked toward the town of Arezzo, he saw the evil spirits. When Silvester stood before the town with the merchant in one gate and the peasant in the other, he did not see a choice between factions—what he saw was what Francis saw from a distance: demonic spirits that turned neighbors into enemies. He did not drive out either the merchant or the peasant—he drove out the evil spirits so that enemies could become neighbors again. From the love of God he saw the demands of love of neighbor. Herein lies the essential connection between interior renewal and evangelical activity: learning how to see and hear through the Gospel.

Evangelizers are experts in translation: the Word of God is translated through them. Studying the Word of God is indispensable in learning this skill of translation, but so is adoring and receiving the gift of the Word-made-flesh. In this, Teresa of Calcutta became the master teacher for her Missionaries of Charity, whom she continually schooled in the work of translation from altar to slum and back again. In the first instance, Teresa says,

Without [Christ] we could do nothing. And it is there at the altar that we meet our suffering poor. And in him that we see that suffering can become a means to greater love, and greater generosity.[13]

And then in the second instance, she says,

It is a continual contact with Christ in his work, it is the same contact we have during Mass and in the Blessed Sacrament. But here in the slums, in the broken body, in the children, we see Christ and we touch him.[14]

She and her Missionaries learned to see the poorest of the poor by gazing upon the Blessed Sacrament, and they learned to see who meets them in the Blessed Sacrament by habitually hastening to the poorest of the poor. They themselves are transformed through this continual act of translation: they go from Christ to Christ, seeking him always.

A full and adequate catechesis for evangelization that is bold enough and big enough for the beauty and power of the Gospel requires time spent with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and immersion in the Word in order to learn how to see and hear him. Only in knowing him—in becoming familiar with his ways, in dwelling with him—do the evangelized become evangelizers skilled in the art of interpreting all things through the Gospel.

Courage to Act: We Can’t Do It for Them

Mother Teresa, who taught her Missionaries how to move from dwelling with the Lord to serving the poorest of the poor, was once a young person herself. She rarely spoke of her childhood except to say that she came from a “happy home.” That home was created by her parents: Nikola and Drana.

Nikola was a politically engaged man: a man about town. He regularly gathered people at his home, as you would expect from a politically astute person who desires to forge partnerships and build relationships. But what is unexpected is that he gave the warmest welcome of all to those who could do nothing for him politically: the poor. What he taught his children regarding one elderly and desperate poor woman who came to their door often is representative of how he instructed his children in general: “welcome her warmly, with love . . . never eat a single mouthful unless you are sharing it with others.”[15] Into a happy home, Nikola and his family drew those who were hungry, homeless, and unsupported.

For her part, Drana raised her children in regular prayer at home and in “errands of mercy” outside the home. On a weekly basis, Drana went to feed and clean the home of a widow whose family had abandoned her. She also regularly bathed and tended to an alcoholic woman covered in sores. She took over the maternal care for six children orphaned when their parents died in succession. Out of a happy home, Drana led her own children towards those who were suffering, neglected, dirty, sick, and lonely.[16]

As a young person, what did Teresa learn? From her father, she learned how to bring the poor into a happy home. From her mother, she learned how to go out of a happy home toward the poor. Like inhaling and exhaling, she learned how to move in mercy. To look then to Teresa’s mature witness, what do we see?—innovation upon this basic pattern. Amid the poverty and desperation that she stood before, she created a happy home for those who had none (lepers, orphans, the dying) and she went out of the happy home she created in order to serve those who lived in the “dark holes.”[17] Her parents created the culture that formed her in the basic movements; she was the one who extended the pattern. Nikola and Drana’s little girl became the woman who “stood at the gates.” Hers were gates of abandonment, dejection, indifference. She made them into gates of compassion.

We dare not forget that it was not Francis but Silvester who “began to shout out forcefully before the gates of the city.” Francis had formed Silvester away from the crowds to silence the demons within by welcoming the Spirit of God. Francis’s prayer remained behind Silvester as Silvester went forth. But it was Silvester who stood at the gates of sedition, enmity, and hatred. Silvester is the one who was not swayed by the propaganda and factionalism but saw through it to banish the evils spirits and return neighbors to one another. He made those gates into gates of communion.

The end of Christian formation is the courage of those who have been formed. Evangelization does not terminate with just bringing others into the fold or trying to “keep them”—evangelization extends to building others up to become the healers, reconcilers, and instruments of the Word. And for that, there is a great duty of restraint: those of us who form other Christians cannot do all the hard work for them. They must take the risk to stand at the gates.

I think of David: educated in a Catholic college and the beneficiary of several years of seminary formation, who is now in his late-20s discerning the state of life for his vocation. A chef and baker by trade, he is working with his brother in his small, rural hometown to provide locally sourced food for those in his area. While doing this, he also recognized that other young adults like him have not enjoyed the same intellectual or spiritual formation he has, and so he initiated a Catholic study group for other twenty- and thirty-somethings, where they grow together in the knowledge, understanding, and practice of the faith. Standing at the gates of unmet needs, David brings sustenance.

I think of Molly: a student whom I taught as a senior in spring 2021, who joined the Catholic missionary group Consolatio upon graduation and is presently preparing to live among and minister to the poor in India. Deeply grateful for the theological education she received, she told me that she knows the more important part of her education is now to witness to and practice the radical love of neighbor she learned about. She is plunging into a regular and intense life of prayer, to sustain and support a primary ministry of presence. She did not seek out any particular placement or type of work; rather, she made herself available with a willingness to go where there is need. Standing at the gates of neglect, Molly brings consolation.

I think of Stephanie: a beneficiary of a Jesuit and Holy Cross education, who was also formed for pastoral ministry as a college student and later as a Catholic educator. In summer 2020, her mother died after suffering from a protracted and debilitating illness. The grief Stephanie and her family have been experiencing is intense, but out of that pain Stephanie is testifying to both her faith and her heartache—she does so for the benefit of others who grieve. Most of all, she is witnessing to the irreplaceable importance of her mother’s life, which is tied up in the reality of both her soul and her body. Stephanie feels and now speaks to her hope for the resurrection of the body—a hope that she has long professed but which now she feels in her depths. It is a hope to be with her mother again someday, to embrace and be embraced by the one she loves. In her own flesh and through her own experience, Stephanie is becoming a living witness of what Christ promises. Standing at the gates of grief, she brings hope.

Where are the gates that need Silvesters? They are gates of abandonment, dejection, and indifference, and they are gates of sedition, enmity, and hatred. They are gates of grief, sorrow, and callousness, and they are gates of indignity, distrust, and selfishness. These are all gates within which evil spirits dwell; to those gates must come the spirit of peace and reconciliation, of understanding and fortitude, of compassion and new life. That spirit is only carried in those who are formed to carry it. But they have to carry it. This is the risk of Christian formation: entrusting others with the mission of the Gospel.


In full, evangelization requires interior renewal and evangelical courage. Interior renewal is not possible when submerged in “the noise of worldly affairs.” The first priority for rekindling evangelization is to create the spaces and conditions for restoring silence and the skills for attentiveness.

Silence and attentiveness are only the beginning because entering into communion with the Lord is where renewal happens. But to seek him, we must come to know him and grow in knowledge of him, and so the second priority is to embrace the studious nature of catechesis by which he who is not familiar becomes familiar. Knowing him is not the same as being with him, and the better part is being with him. Yet one does not replace the other: it matters to know who he is and then to move from him and back to him.

And yet, the Lord is not content to share his life with those whom he claims as his own. He desires for those whom he claims to become sources of his life for others. This is the radical nature of Christ’s gift: to dignify and glorify his beloved by making them agents of his own mission. The work of salvation becomes cooperative so that the fruit of salvation is actively willing one another’s good.

The point of evangelization, then, is not to comfort ourselves with more members, trying to get them in and keep them close. Fear of loss leads to loss. The point of evangelization is to form and free people willing to risk standing before the wounds and sins and violence of this world, to be the healers. If we just try to “keep them,” we will lose them. If we seek to prepare them and challenge them and then trust them to innovate upon the good formation we give them, they will become the Silvesters before the gates, and “keeping them” will seem a silly concern. The end of evangelization is the kind of people the evangelized become. They extend the Gospel through their own courage and sacrifice.

[1] Bonaventure, “The Life of Saint Francis (Legenda Maior),” in Bonaventure (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 1978), VI.9.

[2] Ibid., X.3.

[3] Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, 20th Anniversary Edition (New York: Penguin, 2005), 99–100.

[4] Maryanne Wolf, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World (New York: Harper, 2019), 71.

[5] Daniel J. Levitin, The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload (New York: Dutton, 2015), 96.

[6] Quoted in Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (New York: Grand Central, 2016), 158.

[8] From the Sign of Jonas, quoted in Robert Cardinal Sarah, The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2017), 31–32.

[9] Bonaventure, The Life of St. Francis of Assisi, ed. Henry Edward Manning (Charlotte, North Carolina: TAN, 2010), 15 [III.1].

[10] Saint Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection, ed. E. Allison Peers (Mineola, N.Y: Dover Publications, 2012), 135 [19.2]; Saint Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle, trans. Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez (New York: Paulist Press, 1979), Book VII; cf. Sarah, The Power of Silence, 51, 83–84.

[11] See my A God Who Questions (Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 2019), 19–23 and 121–125.

[12] This is the basis of my book Into the Heart of the Father: Learning from and Giving Yourself through Christ in Prayer (Frederick, Maryland: Word Among Us, 2021).

[13] Malcolm Muggeridge, Something Beautiful for God: The Classic Account of Mother Teresa’s Journey Into Compassion (New York: HarperOne, 1971), 108.

[14] Ibid., 114.

[15] Kathryn Spink, Mother Teresa: An Authorized Biography (New York: HarperOne, 2011), 6.

[16] This paragraph comes from one of my earlier CLJ essays, “Mother Teresa and the Pain of Joy,” Church Life Journal.

[17] See Saint Teresa of Calcutta, Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta” (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 42–43, 66, 104–121, 168–169.

Featured Image: Giotto, The Exorcism of Arezzo, 1297; Source: Wikimedia Commons, PD-Old-100. 


Leonard J. DeLorenzo

Leonard J. DeLorenzo, Ph.D. serves in the McGrath Institute for Church Life and teaches theology at Notre Dame. His book on death, desire, and the communion of saints is Work of Love: A Theological Reconstruction of the Communion of Saints.

Read more by Leonard J. DeLorenzo