Part 1 – Always be ready to evangelize
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As a sidebar to my presentation of “Sharing Your Faith Story as a Writer” for the March 4-6 Catholic Writers Conference Online, I stress the value of preparing to evangelize by maintaining a spiritual journal.
Writers keep a journal to capture inspirations, observations, story ideas, helpful quotes and random musings. These purposes all relate to our writing vocation, which urges us to express ourselves in writing. Christians have a higher calling. We are anointed at Baptism to become evangelists. How fortunate are Catholic writers to have such a rich heritage of spiritual resources to inspire us. The majesty of the Magisterium, the sanctity of the sacraments and the companionship of the Counselor, are ours.
If we are meant to be evangelists, how do we start? The most effective method of evangelization is our personal witness. Yes, that scary, vulnerable stepping out in faith to share what God has done in our lives.
We can wing it or we can be ready, as our first Pope encourages us in 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence.”
The basics of keeping a journal
Keeping a spiritual journal is crucial in sharing your faith story effectively. A journal helps you
- Know your story,
- Organize it for optimum appeal.
- Clarify it.
- Keep focused on what God does in your life.
- Stay out of the weeds of self-glorification.
- Avoid rambling and losing your audience.
Journal time is not creative writing time, although it provides inspiration and ideas for blogs and stories and books galore!
Do you write Morning Pages — those three pages of longhand scribbled when first awakening that reflect your subconscious thoughts? Morning Pages can flow into your spiritual journal. Both modes of writing reflect what’s going on inside your mind and heart.
Scripture study is a good preparation. Daily Mass is the best. The Adoration Chapel is my favorite place to journal. I can write a conversational letter to the Lord without distractions and interruptions. There, safely in his presence, I can interact with God with prayers, pleadings, rantings and random songs of praise.
My unfavorite place to journal is my computer. But if I have neglected my journal that day, whatever I’m writing sounds like my journal. My heart needs to express what God is doing.
Feedback from a familiar voice
Sometimes I get feedback. I began writing words I sense coming from that inner voice I have learned to recognize as the Holy Spirit. I trust and accept what he says, even though I don’t always act on it enthusiastically. I know he is there by the nudges I get when I have an opportunity to evangelize with my witness. The words flow naturally.
Our spiritual journal is the place to lament about our sins and hurts and let God take those burdens from us. Hurts are as essential to our faith story as blessings. Joy comes in proclaiming his healing. Recording our hurts and healings, sins and forgiveness, fears and comforts reveal how we experience God’s mercy.
The moment may come when someone with a similar hurt needs the encouragement that comes when we share our story. When we are faithful in keeping a spiritual journal, we are always ready for any opportunity to share our faith story.
A brief telling of your conversion, adult commitment, return to the Church, healing or answered prayer gets people interested faster than a long epistle. But choose one of these—not all of them at once!
You can write a summary of your story and put it aside. Hone it later from a collection of your faith experiences that display the pattern of God’s work in your life. Episodes from your collection of faith experiences, written succinctly, will find their place in blogs, speeches and conversations.
Will you wing it or be ready?
(Next month: Part 2 – The long and the short of it)
© 2016 Nancy HC Ward, creator of Sharing Your Faith Story, a three-part seminar for evangelization