One of our Lord’s last commands to his apostles was that they should prepare to go out into the whole world to preach the Gospel, the good news of God’s love for the human family and to teach those who would listen that which Jesus himself had taught the apostles. For the last 2,000 years, the Church has been attempting to do that. Sometimes in some places it has been done with great success. Sometimes the going was tough and often violent and dangerous for the preachers.
The spoken word delivered by believers who arrived by foot is still today an important form of evangelization. The Church has reached out to every other possible media that is formed in the world. Records, books, TV serials, movies – all of these and more have been used as the Church endeavors to carry out that all important directive. In this country for the last 150 years, the greatest single effort was made in the area of Catholic schools. From kindergarten through the university, the Church developed an absolutely extraordinary system. While costs have certainly diminished the number of schools over the last 30 years, the system remains strong and continues to be a major component of the Church’s missionary efforts. While its education ministry is certainly an asset to the Church, it is a tremendous gift to those who are able to attend and to the larger society as well.
Let me mention one other important tool for evangelization and spiritual development. That is a rather recent development. I am referring to the retreat house. Every diocese in Texas now has a retreat house and several of them, like Dallas and Galveston-Houston, have several. I think that one of the reasons that the retreat movement has grown so strong in the last 40 or 50 years is because it has been going on at exactly the same time as our school system has been contracting somewhat. It is an excellent example of how the Church when blocked from advancing in one direction will find a way to move ahead in yet another.
I will mention more about the importance of retreat houses tomorrow.