Today we observed the optional memorial of Blessed Benedict of Urbino, a Capuchin preacher and founder of shelters for homeless people from the later sixteenth century. Today's memorial of Pope St. Pius V is optional even here in Rome, much to my surprise.
In his Office of Readings we were given the beginning of the ninth chapter of the Capuchin Constitutions of 1536. When I read the first line, L'evangelizzare la Parola di Dio (the modern Italian rendering of the original, lo euágelizare la parola di dio), of course I began to think about evangelization and the 'new evangelization' to which we are called in our time.
As with any ministry or service, the question arises: what might be distinctive about evangelization by Capuchins or Franciscans?
Parallels of that question have been in and out of my reflection for years. I wouldn't say that I've yet come to an actionable answer. Sometimes that helps me believe that the journey of reflection within the imagination of the charism is what really matters, but sometimes I also feel like the very proper but somewhat frustrated girl in my Confirmation prep class at St. Lawrence in West Haven, who said that the way I taught religion, the students ended up knowing less.
Nevertheless, here's the text we are reading today in celebration of Bl. Benedict, from the wonderful translation of Paul Hanbridge (PDF here), towards reflection on Capuchin evangelization:
According to the example of Christ, the teacher of life, the proclamation of the word of God is among the worthiest, most useful, exalted and divine offices in the church of God upon which the salvation of the world mainly depends.
We direct preachers too not to preach idle chatter, flights of fancy, invented stories or other vain, superfluous, novel, useless or even pernicious notions. Rather, after the example of Paul the apostle, they should preach Christ crucified in whom are all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God.
The preachers should quote none other than Christ (whose authority prevails over all persons and the reasoning of the world) and the holy Doctors. Refined, embroidered and pretentious words do not go with the naked and humble Crucified, as do plain, simple, humble and lowly words instead, which are divine and ardent words full of love after the example of Paul, the vessel of election, who did not preach with sublime expressions and human eloquence, but in the power of the Spirit. Therefore we exhort the preachers to imprint Blessed Christ upon their hearts and to give themselves into His serene possession so that through the superabundance of love He may be the one who speaks in them, not only with words but especially through their deeds after the example of Paul, the teacher of the nations. He did not dare preach anything to others unless Christ had first worked it in him. Christ too, the most perfect teacher, taught us not only with doctrine but with works. Great in the kingdom of heaven are those who do first and then teach and preach to others.