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Without Adoration, There’s No Evangelization

Source: Editorial via National Catholic Register.

Reprinted with permission.

Pope Francis reminded us of an irreplaceable, foundational element that is often overlooked — or even derided — in our implementation of the Great Commission: the need for prayer and, especially, Eucharistic adoration.

The world is in desperate need of the Gospel. And the urgency of this need — underscored by decreasing religiosity and increases in depression, apathy and anger — animates any number of feverish debates about just how to evangelize the culture. What methods should we use? What tone should we strike? And what is the goal we’re seeking?

But this week in Portugal, Pope Francis reminded us of an irreplaceable, foundational element that is often overlooked — or even derided — in our discussion of evangelization: the need for prayer and, especially, Eucharistic adoration.

The Pope’s comments came during a homily to Portuguese clergy, religious, and pastoral workers as part of Francis’ World Youth Day visit. Encouraging those gathered to overcome disappointments in ministry and to faithfully follow Christ’s command to lower their nets into the sea, the Holy Father acknowledged that to do this requires more than words — “a lot of prayer is needed.”

Departing from his prepared remarks, the Pope asked a question to those gathered: How do I pray?

“Like a parrot, ‘blah, blah, blah,’ or napping in front of the tabernacle because I don’t know how to talk to the Lord?” the Pope asked rhetorically.

The Holy Father continued, “Only in adoration, only before the Lord can the taste and passion for evangelization be recovered.” But curiously, “we have lost the prayer of adoration.” Recovering this practice of being in silence before the Lord — so central in the lives of great saints like Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Thérèse of Lisieux, even in times of spiritual desolation — is a requirement for all Catholics, especially those devoted to sharing the Gospel.

This, of course, was not the first time Pope Francis has emphatically and explicitly made the connection between evangelization and Eucharistic adoration. 

In his meeting with the organizers of the National Eucharistic Congress in the United States this past June, the Pope regretted that for too many Catholics today, the Eucharist “is more a symbol than the reality of the Lord’s presence and love.” In response, the Pope said, we must “rediscover the sense of adoration in silence,” precisely because in the Eucharist “we encounter the One who gave everything for us” and, in turn, become capable of sharing that same love with others.

“You go to the celebration of Mass, receive Communion, adore the Lord and then what do you do after?” Francis said. “You go out and evangelize.”

We cannot give what we don’t have. And evangelization — as opposed to how the Pope describes proselytization, which involves manipulation and coercion — is the act of sharing the life of Christ within us with those we encounter. It is not primarily our work, but rather God’s, which he invites us to participate in.

This is a good reminder for Catholics in the U.S., where criticism of the National Eucharistic Revival and Congress often resorts to dismissing adoration as a fundamentally “passive” devotion that comes at the expense of action and outward engagement. But this genre of criticism misses the fundamental link between adoration and evangelization articulated by Pope Francis and falls into what Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard famously described as “the heresy of activism.” 

From this perspective, prayer is, at best, merely a tool to aid in our activistic exploits, rather than the foundation of our entire life. And at worst, adoration and prayer come to be seen as obstacles to action. As a result, even the most holy and noble of apostolates can become corrupted, cut off from the living God who alone can make them fruitful.

This is true for evangelization. We can only be credible witnesses to the Gospel if we’ve received and are animated by the same love we try to share with others. And we can only receive this joyful love by coming before our Eucharistic Lord in silent prayer and adoration.

The Pope went off script in Portugal to make this connection clear. Let’s pray that we all receive his message and put it into action.

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