On October 11, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed this a Year of Faith, highlighting the need for renewed efforts of evangelization in our world today. In his apostolic letter addressing this theme, he writes:
“Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy.” (Porta Fidei, 7)
As a child, I don’t remember hearing the word evangelization, but my early experiences of faith and family were a lived expression of this quote. My childhood faith was grounded in the midst of a large Polish family that centered on celebrations of life and death: birthdays and baptisms, graduations and weddings, funerals and confirmations. Food and music punctuated both church and family activities. There was no division of secular from sacred activities. Everything was approached from a faith perspective and action was favored over word as teacher. All seven of us children probably knew before we could speak that life was a gift from God – so birthday cakes were just as likely to be topped with a cross as those for baptism. We learned the importance of sacred storytelling when we attended funerals.
In Catholic schools, my faith was nurtured as we celebrated the Feast Days of Saints by wearing their traditional colors: red for St Joseph and green for St Patrick and eating the foods of their countries. Good Friday was a day spent at home with prayers and song and silence from 12-3. It took precedence over the academic calendar for the day. I remember my mom’s joy when she convinced the Sisters at Our Lady of Knock to allow me to clean the convent after school – it was seen as a sacred and honored activity and I still remember the stories the sisters shared. As I look back, all of these moments were infused with God’s grace and allowed me to receive the love of community – they were living examples of evangelization.