Is this the new evangelization?

By Patricia Kasten | The Compass | April 9, 2014

Singing sister is but one example

So you think it’s hard to evangelize? “I wouldn’t know where to start,” you say. “I’d have to have lots of training.”

We might all think that. But we’d be wrong.

For example, Sr. Cristina Scuccia. Take this 25-year-old Italian Ursuline Sister of the Holy Family, add a rap star, a TV music show and an American pop hit. Voilà. You have evangelization.

Late in March, Sr. Cristina appeared on the Italian version of the American contest show: “The Voice.” She sang “No One” by Alicia Keyes, belting out the song with all the rhythm of a Martina McBride in a black and white habit. Fellow members of her community kept time off scene.

Three judges listened, with their backs turned, deciding if they wanted to bid to assist the unseen songstress. All three did, and amazement lit their faces as they turned around to see, well, “a singing nun.” The audience, meanwhile, gave her a standing ovation.

J-Ax, a rapper complete with soul patch, tattoos and knit hat pulled down to his eyebrows, asked if she sang at Sunday Mass. Sr. Cristina replied, “Yes, of course.” J-Ax then declared firmly that her church could pay its taxes with the donations she could raise. (Members of certain Italian churches, including Catholics, pay a church tax.)

When the moderator asked if the Vatican knew about her singing on a TV show, Sr. Cristina pertly answered that she expected a call from Pope Francis soon. “He always says we should go out and evangelize, saying that God doesn’t take anything away from us but will give us more. I am here for this,” she said.

Evangelizing on a TV show? Singing a popular hit? Making devil horn hand signs? Is that evangelization?

In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “In the course of history, this mission (to spread the Gospel) has taken on new forms and employed new strategies according to different places, situations and historical periods. … The first task will always be to make ourselves docile to the freely given action of the Spirit of the Risen One who accompanies all who are heralds of the Gospel and opens the hearts of those who listen” (Ubicumque et Semper).

Well, sister’s singing was quite spirit-filled.

In his apostolic letter on proclaiming the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium), Pope Francis wrote: “(T)here is no greater freedom than that of allowing oneself to be guided by the Holy Spirit, renouncing the attempt to plan and control everything to the last detail, and instead letting him enlighten, guide and direct us, leading us wherever he wills. The Holy Spirit knows well what is needed in every time and place. This is what it means to be mysteriously fruitful!”

Is Sr. Cristina doing that? Was the Spirit moving in her performance? Was it fruitful?

Well, she’s become a phenomenon on the Internet, with blogs and newspapers from The Los Angeles Times to the Belfast Telegraph reporting on her. But what is perhaps most telling is what the rapper J-Ax said to her at that audition: “If I’d met you during Mass when I was a child, I would be the pope today!”

How did this nun from Sicily reply?

“Well, you’ve met me today.”

Touché. The gauntlet dropped. The new evangelization is underway. One wonders where the rapper will be one of these Sundays.

And for the rest of us? Not all of us can carry a tune, but we all can do something. Even if it’s just share a video of a singing nun.

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