“Jesus is cheese, or, to be more precise, like mountains of cheese,” artist Salvador Dali once said. Oddly, Dali was known to genuflect before getting into his car. Looking at his surrealistic painting, Christ of St. John of the Cross, I feel Salvador’s ingenuity and explosive passion. Dali may have been weird, but he was also in love with God. His paintings explain to their viewers, it’s okay to be eccentric and evangelize. The Church is one big family full of originals. Plus, evangelizing with today’s tools makes it easy and exciting. After all, like Dali, we’re sharing what we love.
It surprised and comforted me when I discovered Salvador Dali was Catholic. Dali was a master abstract artist, yet he was uninhibited and unusual in his idea presentation. I identify with Dali. Like the artist, I’m a bit odd, quirky, and gravitate toward the mystical. I first became interested in the “new evangelization” during a 1994 trip to see JP II in Denver. Later, when I thought of Dail’s candidness in his creations, I found an example in him to follow.
I like to create work that reveals my identity without reservations. One summer break years later, I started a blog creating personal reflections on the Church’s daily readings. I thought I needed lots of pageviews to make an impact. But when my attention waned to one viewer, I remembered what it says in the Gospel: Many are called, but few are chosen. This nudge taught me the Holy Spirit doesn’t count my following. The Spirit reaches one person at a time.
So, all I had to do was be open to God working through me and compose my words. He’d do everything else. Yet, he had two words of advice. Have fun. And, I did. I generated some catchy blog titles.
‘Looking out for the Underdog,’ ‘Loaves, Fishes, and People’s Dishes,’ and ‘Opposite Day’ were some shining gems. Creating personalized reflections, I found readers dug posts that expressed vulnerability and personality. These blogs, not the funny posts, attracted the most followers. I realized the people who read my posts were longing to feel a connection to authentic Christianity.
I also discovered how much God wanted to speak to me through his Word. He didn’t only reach me through homilies. He wanted to reveal himself to me through our shared reflections. Creating these blogs was like drinking a bowl of chicken soup for my own soul.
Another venue I explored for evangelization was to memorize bible verses. It’s practical when others question your beliefs to know where in Scripture they can go to understand your views. Before I read “The Purpose Driven Life,” I was happy just to say, “In the Bible it says that…” After all, “I’m Catholic” we aren’t taught to memorize Scripture. But when you recite something, “you learn it by heart”. That’s because it becomes a part of you; it’s not easily forgotten. Author Rick Warren challenged Christians to learn these verses with an analogy. And if I was away from home like a prisoner of war, I would sure want to remember the words of comfort from my loved ones. Then, I turned the page and gawked at all the bible verses I needed to master to meet his challenge.
So, I asked the Holy Spirit: How am I going to memorize all those verses to evangelize? I got a sleeve tug. How do I get those locked in my head? Suddenly, it flashed. Oh, duh: flashcards.
Armed with bright markers, watercolors, and an acrylic paint brayer, I began to create.
Excited, I posted these finished Bible verse flashcards on my Facebook page. My Facebook friends and former public school students- would see my faith along with the cute memes, pithy quotes, and hilarious videos. I realized that to share my whole self, talents and flaws, is evangelization. I learned the meat of evangelization is an invitation to see and hear. Because God’s word lives on in the people who share it. They become a live wire to the Holy Spirit.
Drawing pictures helped me get the verse’s gist, but my combining meditation with imagination rocketed me to new heights of understanding.
For instance, I was left in awe capturing the main idea of 1 Peter 2:24, “He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” It talks of Jesus bearing our sins by hanging them on a tree. In my design, the full verse made up the rings of a sawed-off tree stump. In the center of the stump, the last word of the passage stared at me. “Healed.”
Then I found something unexpected as I was putting the flashcards side by side. I saw a set of biblical, “technicolor” quilt squares full of spiritual insights.
Sharing the Gospel in a way that’s authentic to you, no matter how different it might look — that’s the core of evangelization. Each of us sets down our snowflake that will, at sunrise, become the beautiful snowdrift. Consistency is key. Be yourself. God does the rest.