The forgotten truth of Catholicism: A love story

Reboot! Live! focuses on relational heart of Catholicism

Aaron Lambert

Pope Francis has been quoted as saying that the Church is a love story, and that it’s only in the path of love that it can grow. Reboot! Live!, an evangelization ministry of Chris Stefanick’s Real Life Catholic organization, gives root to this path.

Stefanick has garnered a reputation as one of Catholicism’s most fervent young speakers and authors, traveling all over the country and leading people to Christ with his exuberant and relatable style of preaching the Gospel. According to Real Life Catholic’s website, over 90,000 were brought to closer friendship with God last year as result of his events.

With Reboot! Live!, the goal is as simple as the Gospel message.

“I think we over-strategic plan things sometimes,” Stefanick told the Denver Catholic. “What we do and what’s been so tremendously successful has been very simple: By inviting people back to church, I literally mean invite them. By making them feel welcome at church, I literally mean say the word welcome when they come to church.

“My message is very simple. It’s the initial proclamation of the Gospel: That God loves us, he created us for himself, he calls us to relationship with himself, and I also focus on how to live it out in practical ways every day.”

At first glance, Reboot! Live! most closely resembles an evangelical event, due to its high-energy nature and its emphasis on the relational heart of Christianity. As Catholics, Stefanick said it’s easy to forget that a relationship with Christ is first and foremost what Christianity is all about.

“There’s so much that comes from that relationship – so many beautiful rituals, so much history, so much theology, so many doctrines – that it’s easy for people to get lost in that and forget where it all comes from,” he said.

Stefanick recounted how he’s heard testimonials from people who attended one of his events who had never heard Catholicism described as a relationship before. He said a lot of people don’t often think of Catholics as being the ones to invite people into relationship with Jesus, a problem that Denver’s very own Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila is addressing when speaks about having a personal encounter with Christ.

“How did that happen? This is the message we have to reclaim as a Church,” he said. “There’s this foundational reality about Catholicism that we presume people get, and they don’t. When they get it, the rest of Catholicism makes sense.”

Because evangelization starts primarily in the parishes, Stefanick wanted to make sure that if a parish hosted him, it was as big a win as possible for them.

“Really, what we’re doing is leveraging my ability to convince people of the Gospel and using that as a catalyst for parishes to get more excited about evangelization in general,” he said.

Prior to a parish hosting Stefanick for an event, the Real Life Catholic team works with the parish over a six-month period to teach them how to get as many people as possible back to church. This includes training outreach teams and equipping them for ongoing evangelization efforts, long after the event is over.

“Even in small towns, we’re seeing 1,000 people come out, many of whom don’t usually come to church,” he said.

A typical Reboot! Live! event lasts two and a half hours and consists of two parts. The first part is an unpacking of the Gospel in an inspirational and high-energy way. The second part offers practical ways of applying the Gospel to everyday life.

The Gospel may be 2,000 years old, but its message is as relevant today as it was then, Stefanick said, which is why he believes the proclamation of the Kerygma is as important as ever. 

“This is the message our hearts are made for, and it has the power to change lives,” he said. “It’s the best news ever.”

Is your parish is interested in hosting a Reboot! Live! event? Be sure to visit reallifecatholic.com for details on how to make that happen.

COMING UP: Who is Jesus Christ?

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Who is Jesus Christ?

Alpha takes Christianity back to the basics

Aaron Lambert

As Catholics, it’s so easy to get caught up in the doctrine and dogma and theology of the Church that we often forget the fundamental question of Christianity: Who is Jesus Christ?

Alpha seeks to remedy this. The easiest way to describe Alpha would be to call it an evangelization tool, but as its proponents will say, it’s much more than that. Aimed primarily at people who have no experience with Christianity or the Church, Alpha is an introduction to the Kerygma, a Greek word meaning “teaching” and used to describe the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ, upon which the Christian faith and all of its tenets are founded.denv

Originally started in the Anglican church, Alpha is designed to be used across all Christian denominations. The program is currently used in several parishes in the Archdiocese of Denver, including St. Joseph’s Parish in Golden, Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Northglenn, St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Denver and Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver. The program is endorsed by the Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries as one of three programs for parishes to utilize for evangelization efforts.

Alpha serves as a great starting point for those exploring the Church and many parishes have opted to use it as a supplement to RCIA, which assumes that a person has already taken the first step toward being a Christian—namely, entering and actively pursuing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. While RCIA is intended more as a means of catechesis, Alpha is a simple introduction to the Christian faith that can spark deeper conversion, said Scott Elmer, director of evangelization and family life ministries. However, he noted that the two should not be dependent on one another.

“[Alpha] could help people to make a decision to give themselves to Christ and enter into RCIA, but it shouldn’t be bound by that,” he said.

St. Joseph’s Parish in Golden is currently conducting its second session of Alpha. Andrew McGown, director of faith formation for the parish, implemented the program last year, and some people enjoyed it so much the first time that they’re going through it again. 

“It’s a safe place to come and really informally get a taste of Christianity and build relationships, which are really at the heart of Alpha,” McGown told Denver Catholic.

A typical Alpha night starts off with a free meal, followed by a talk, done either live or in the form of a video, and is capped off with a small group discussion. The casual nature of the program is a big part of its allure, McGown said, and makes it easy to invite people to.

“It’s a totally different atmosphere than any other church program. The three proposition statements of Alpha are: no cost, no pressure and no follow-up,” McGown said. “It’s always free, we’re not going to pressure you into doing anything you don’t want to do, and we’re not going to track you down and guilt you into coming back. It’s safe to try.”

While the program is designed with non-Christians in mind, McGown stressed that practicing Christians should not write the program off as being too basic or below them.

“The great things about Alpha is it’s not so focused on non-Christians that that someone who is coming to Mass couldn’t benefit from it,” he said. “It’s a revisiting of the Kerygma, the most basic proclamation of the Gospel, and we all need that.”

Mid-way through the program, Alpha participants go on a day-long retreat that’s meant to be an introduction to the Holy Spirit. This experience is often very powerful for those in Alpha, and is the “crux of the whole Alpha model,” McGown said. “It’s a chance to pray and be prayed over … and really experience God in a profound and personal way.”

Brandon Young, director of communications for Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish and a Catholic convert of two years, had such an experience on this retreat when he was in Alpha. Young had always had a relationship with God throughout his life, but he had never stepped foot inside a church before entering Alpha. At the time, the program was used as Immaculate Heart of Mary’s RCIA program, and Young entered because he felt like God was calling him to “step it up.”

He couldn’t have predicted the impact Alpha would have on him.

“Still, to this day, the most intense, personal encounter [with Christ] I’ve ever had in my entire life was part of Alpha,” Young said. “When we did the retreat, I felt the Holy Spirit enter me and Jesus talk to me so clearly that I couldn’t keep it together. It was overwhelming.

“After they were done praying over me, I left and went to the sanctuary and just wept. My heart had felt something it had never felt before.”

As a convert, Young said he can be critical of some cradle Catholics who are catechized really well, “but don’t know how to have a one-on-one relationship with Christ.”

[Alpha], for the first time, just let me focus on that, without any external influences,” he said. “It’s not Christianity 101, but it’s, ‘Who is Jesus, and how can I have a loving relationship with him?’ If we’re all called to be disciples, we need to understand Jesus.”

To learn more about Alpha, visit alpha.org. A new Alpha program starts at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish May 1.