It is absolutely amazing what you can learn on the internet. You can become competent with many things just by using YouTube. For example, yesterday I did some work on my van and was able to simply pull up a video on how to fix it. You can learn about things from Literature to fishing techniques. Of course, we do often lose something in the process however. Most of the time, what we learn is technique instead of a more foundational understanding. Believe it or not, this seems to be happening a lot in the Church. Sometimes we focus too much on technique, and in doing so, we often leave our foundation behind and inevitably lose something in the process. The foundation for all growth in the Church is holiness.
Let us take a parish apostolate, for example. There are myriad trainings, movements, books and thought-leaders giving us plans and techniques to make parishes “successful”. (I happen to be one of them) Most of these plans take holiness for granted and focus on programs and techniques. When a parish or a pastor comes to me for help in evangelization, the first thing I ask everyone on the leadership team to do is read The Soul of the Apostolateand then start an intercessory prayer group. I cannot tell you how many people desire to skip these steps and “get to the programming aspect” of parish evangelization. For years parishes can limp along in perceived success or failure. Then there are parishes that have no technique, no flash, and maybe even no plan but are churning out disciples left and right. In this case, even before encountering the parish, I always know what is happening. I know there must be a saint there. There must be some real holiness, even if it is just in one person. Why? Because there is always organic fruit from holiness. There are things that naturally happen when people truly strive for holiness. Like spiritual radiation, everyone around them gets warmed by grace, even when there is not great “technique”. Take, for example, the parish in Ars, France of St. John Vianney. At the height of his ministry, it was possible to wait several weeks to a month in line to go to confession to St. John. The parish was a holiness factory, and they never put on a program or had greeters at the doors. Now I am not saying that these things are bad. Certainly, being greeted while coming into the house of the Lord is a good thing, but technique should build on a foundation of holiness. Only then will there be real growth.
This is not only the case for parishes. The organic fruit of holiness can affect all of our lives and all of our apostolates. In most cases, simply striving for holiness is the most efficacious route. I love flashy websites, exciting programs and friendly greeters. I like to learn techniques and strategies but these cannot take the place of holiness. Strive for holiness and see the fruit growing organically all around you. When in doubt be a Saint.
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Dave VanVickle is a Catholic speaker and writer focusing on the Universal Call to Holiness and Authentic Catholic Spirituality. He is currently employed as the Director of Evangelization for the parishes of the Catholic Community of Wexford, PA.