Stories are a tool for evangelization

  • February 1, 2024

Spiritus York’s kick-off event of 2024 connected the dots between Narnia and Anime in modern-day evangelization.

Sr. Orianne Pietra René of the Daughters of St. Paul, the event’s keynote speaker, addressed a crowd of almost 100 young Catholics from across the GTA on Jan. 24. The evening’s talk at St. Clare of Assisi parish in Woodbridge, Ont., focused on using popular media, like films and novels, to spread the Gospel as a “cultural missionary.”

“Media is merely a set of tools. What it does or does not do depends on how people use it,” said René.

René, who has nearly 100,000 followers on Instagram, spoke of a “you too moment” with stories. Classics like C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia and the Japanese animation style Anime — because they are so beloved to many people — serve as jumping-off points in fostering connections with others.

“Narnia is a full allegory of the Gospels. This is compared to Anime which is the complete opposite. However, we still have the principles to bring people to Christ. It’s the same principle for all stories: Is this a good story for me to fill my soul with? Is it a good story to build common ground with? Where are the seeds of the Gospel in the story, where am I seeing this person already being touched by a seed of Christ? How can I water those seeds earnestly?” said the Pauline sister.

Spiritus York, a ministry that caters primarily to Catholic young adults aged 19-35 in York Region north of Toronto, coordinated the event with the help of the Office of Catholic Youth (OCY).

Amanda Faria, OCY’s associate director of the Young Adult Ministry, was one of the main event organizers.

In addition to deeming the event a “success,” Faria said the evening’s topic is part of a thematic series.

“This year for Spiritus ministry, we wanted to focus on teaching the fundamentals so that our attendees would desire a strong foundation in their faith and build a relationship with God. When the OCY young adult team was brainstorming our monthly themes, we wanted one of our themes to be Christianity and culture to show young adults our faith is everywhere, in movies, music, TV shows and art.”

Spiritus attendee Calista Butera, 19, has watched the Narnia movies and has recently begun reading the books. She said there is an evident connection between the Gospels and the beloved classic.

“Witnessing Aslan in the story, actually seeing him and hearing him speak, helped me to better understand who Jesus is, and what He’s really like,” said Butera. “Jesus is the strong and righteous Saviour of the world, but Narnia helps me to understand that He’s also gentle and wants a deep, personal relationship with every individual.”

Butera, a second-year digital media student at Toronto’s York University, feels like René’s words have inspired her with the courage to go out and evangelize.

“I now realize the power of stories and how they can reach out and mold someone’s soul. Knowing the stories I love, I hope to embody the good values that they teach and inspire others to do the same. After reading a good story, what’s there to do but go out and share its beauty, right?”

Faria, who has been working at the OCY since 2019, said that many youth were drawn to the event because the “topic caught their eye,” a curiosity being used for a greater purpose.

“God knows how to use the things that interest us to draw us in,” said Faria. “It is so beautiful how God sees and knows us. Our God has made it accessible for anyone to come and encounter Him by providing so many opportunities.

“Many left with missionary hearts.”

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