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Catholic Vancouver Jan. 31, 2018

Evangelizing 101: Don't let your past hold you back 

By Agnieszka Ruck

Organizers inspect the Chandos Pattison Auditorium three weeks ahead of the ONE Conference. This year, the annual conference is bringing back speaker Josephine Lombardi to talk about self-knowledge, mercy, and evangelism. (Agnieszka Krawczynski / The B.C. Catholic)

VANCOUVER—Letting go of past regrets and embracing your talents isn’t only good for mental wellbeing. According to theologian, author, and upcoming ONE Conference speaker Josephine Lombardi, it also helps the Church.

“Some people feel they have to earn God’s love” but “Scripture is very clear that God loves us regardless of our sins or our past mistakes,” Lombardi told The B.C. Catholic in anticipation of her keynote speech in Surrey Feb. 10.

“If you don’t know you’re loved, you might fall into the pit of shame and self-loathing.” 

People who know God loves them, no matter what they’ve been through, can build up the body of Christ and attract others to church. “When you know you are loved, you know your identity,” said Lombardi. “That issue of worthiness is very important.”

Evangelizers don't have to have perfect lives. Lombardi said those who have struggled with glaring faults or deep pain and have encountered God’s “unconditional, perfect forgiving, generous, compassionate love” are some of the best ambassadors for the faith.

Just think of Saul, who became St. Paul.

“He is introduced to us as a man of arrogance, all puffed up, full of pride, judgmental, critical, accusatory, threatening,” said Lombardi. Then, the zealous Christian-killer encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus and his entire life was changed. “It was an encounter with God’s mercy that changed him and inspired him to go out and proclaim the Gospel.”

Experiencing mercy and remembering what it feels like to be forgiven can also cultivate empathy for those you’re trying to reach.

“Understanding other people’s crosses and struggles” helps “keep us from judging other people,” said Lombardi. “An encounter with mercy keeps us humble. It’s very important when it comes to evangelization. We want to woo people to Christ. We want to attract them.”

Josephine Lombardi speaks at the ONE Conference in 2014. (BCC file photo)

Lombardi said she’s thrilled to come back to B.C. and speak at the ONE Conference again. Since she spoke at ONE in 2014, she’s written Experts in Humanity, an award-winning book on how knowing yourself and experiencing grace can bring about healing and spiritual refreshment.

“All of us have a unique mission. Some are called to a more public mission, some to more private mission.” While some are called to be public figures for the Church, like St. Paul; others are called to silent prayer, like St. Therese of Lisieux. It comes down to knowing our gifts.

“We need to know ourselves and our life skills,” and that can help us overcome our regrets, embrace our talents, and become better evangelizers and holier people, she said.

More information about Lombardi and the ONE Conference is available here.

 

Common Obstacles to Evangelizing:

Fear of speaking up

Lack of confidence in our gifts

Regret over past decisions

Feelings of shame or unworthiness

Judgment of others or ourselves

Lack of knowledge

Fear of the unknown