The Family: Center of Evangelization
Faith, like charity, begins in the home
By Jason Shanks
My son’s name is Xavier. Contrary to what my brother-in-law thinks, he was not named after Professor Charles Francis Xavier, the comic book superhero and leader of the X-Men, but rather after St. Francis Xavier, the super saint of evangelization and patron of foreign missions. Leading people to Christ and encouraging them to share their faith with others is very important to my wife and me, and thus communicating that to our children through the name of our son became important.
In naming him after St. Francis Xavier, my prayer is that my son (and all my children) would become an ambassador for Christ in our world – leading people to Christ through their actions and words, in an intentional, active way.
At age 2, my son Xavier is on his way! More and more, he and I have been talking about Jesus. In our simple conversations, I repeatedly tell him that he should never be shy about telling others about Christ and his great love for them.
Recently, a visitor came over to our house. In chatting, I noticed that Xavier left the room. When he returned he was holding a crucifix. Looking like he was on a mission, he went right up to the guest, handed her the crucifix, and said, “Jesus.” He would have made his namesake proud! I know he made his dad proud!
This event leads me to better understand the role of family within the new evangelization. Christ communicates his love in and through the family. The marital love between man and wife extends into the world through children. Parents evangelize their children. Children, in their own way, evangelize parents.
The family unit together has a language that speaks to our culture and world regarding the inner, dynamic love of the Trinity. Our bishops said this very thing in the document, Follow the Way of Love, when they wrote, “As a family becomes a community of faith and love, it simultaneously becomes a center of evangelization.”
When I was a boy, I can remember this “center of evangelization” being lived out in my home. Night after night, my father would lie on the couch and read the Bible. As a boy, I wondered what was so important about that book. I became interested because my dad was interested, simple as that. His modeling love and devotion to God’s words in Scripture would ultimately help lead to my conversion to the Catholic faith. As I came to read the Bible, and ultimately love it (like my father), I decided that the best way to protect its contents was only through a divine interpreter, the Church.
My mother expressed her faith best through her charity and love towards others and towards her children. I can remember vividly my sister and I dropping presents on the porch of families at Christmas time and running away so as not to get discovered. She showed that faith must be expressed. Faith and works go hand in hand. She understood faith in action!
So, as the Synod on the New Evangelization begins this coming October, we as fathers and husbands need to reflect on the degree to which our family is a “center of evangelization”:
- In what ways are we imitators of Christ, knowing that our children will imitate us (1 Corinthians 11:1)?
- How are we expressing love to our wives, leading them closer and closer to Christ?
- How does our family as a whole evangelize our communities and world?
- How can we work as a family to put our faith into action both in words and deeds?
Jason Shanks is the Cabinet Secretary of Evangelization and Parish Life for the Diocese of Toledo, which oversees the Office of Marriage and Family Life. He also serves as a pastoral advisor to Image Trinity: Family Become What You Are. He has been married for eight years to his wife, Melissa, and is the proud father of three. You can email him at email@example.com and check out more of his writings.