September 28, 2012

Emmaus Walk / Debra Tomaselli

Evangelization 101 and a special delivery with everlasting benefits

Debra TomaselliIt was such a simple gesture, really, but one with infinite implications.

“Stop running,” I shouted at my daughter as she raced through the living room.

“What can we do?” she asked, wrestling her younger sister, Jenna, to the floor. “Can we watch TV?”

“Sure, you can watch cartoons,” I mumbled.

Lynn, 7, flipped on the television set and Jenna, 3, jumped into the bean bag chair.

The baby was napping, and I was relieved that the TV would entertain the girls. I flopped onto the sofa, oblivious to the dirty dishes in the sink, smelly clothes in the hamper and stack of mail accumulating on the table.

Suddenly, there was a knock at my door. I jumped up, wondering who it could be. I ran my fingers through my tangled hair, smoothed my wrinkled shorts and searched for my shoes, surprised that anyone would have stopped by, unannounced, on a Sunday morning.

Certainly it was nobody important. I considered ignoring the caller, but the kids raced for the door and swung it open before I could stop them.

“Hi Deb,” Wendy said. She was standing on my doorstep, surrounded by sunshine and blue skies. The rush of a cool breeze ushered its way in as I stood there, staring at her.

I barely knew Wendy. At least, she had never been to my home before. We met recently while volunteering in our children’s computer classes at St. Mary Magdalen School.

Like me, she has three children, the oldest of whom attended school together. Like me, her husband traveled on business. Like me, she enjoyed chatting after Mass while the children played tag in the grotto.

But she was just an acquaintance. I didn’t really know Wendy well, and I was surprised to see her on my doorstep. I just stood there, speechless.

“I noticed you weren’t at Mass today,” she said, “so I brought you this.” Wendy handed me the weekly bulletin from our parish.

With that, I invited her in. She didn’t stay long, and I don’t even recall what the conversation was about. Perhaps I admitted that I am struggling with grief from the recent death of my younger brother. Maybe I never mentioned it. I don’t remember.

What I do recall is that someone cared enough to show up on my doorstep. Someone, in the name of the Lord, extended a hand to me when I needed it most. Someone stepped out of their comfort zone to bring the Church to me.

I was angry at God when Jim died. I often skipped Sunday Mass. I doubted my faith.

It was a long and perilous journey back. Many glorious moments lit the way but, even now, some 20 years later, Wendy’s simple act of evangelization shines brightly. Her humble gesture provided direction, hope and inspiration during a critical crossroad in my life. I doubt that Wendy had a clue.

This Sunday, they will be distributing bulletins after Mass. Maybe it’s time for me to make a special delivery—one with everlasting benefits.

(Debra Tomaselli lives in Altamonte Springs, Fla. Her column appears in several diocesan newspapers. Her e-mail address is

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